Since the drought started, at least since 2001, we have been on water restrictions. Currently we are on restriction 3A, which means no car washing, no lawn watering, garden beds can be watered two days a week between the hours of 6-8am. This makes owning a large vegetable patch a bit of a problem as the water demand is quite high. I sometimes have to water at least 4 times a week in summer and that is even with a thick layer of mulch.
So I knew that saving water was something we had to concentrate on. About the same time winter 2007 arrived, I ordered a water tank, and wouldn’t you believe from the time I ordered it to the time it was installed, it rained constantly for three weeks. It wasn’t drought breaking rain, but it would have been enough to fill my 2300 litre tank to the brim. It was installed just after the rain and took another four months to fill up. However, Kim came up with a fantastic idea on how to increase the capture area flowing into the tank. She suggested that I block the downpipes on the east side of the house in such a way that if the gutters got too full, they would simply flow over the barrier and go down the drain pipe. The beauty of her plan was that because the guttering was connected to the same gutter as the tank inflow, we effectively doubled the catchment area for the tank and all for two $6 downpipe pieces at Bunnings. Well done darling, you are very clever! During the next downpour the tank filled up to the top. I use the tank water to ensure that the vegetable patch remains moist but not flooded. I also use the water to fill up our 50,000 litre swimming pool when it gets a bit low during periods of very hot and dry weather. You really begin to appreciate the value of water when you harvest your own!
To curb water usage in the house, I installed water efficient shower heads with a flow rate of 7 litres per minute and have placed a shower timer in the shower cubicle. Everyone has 4 minute showers with no exception. I figured that the old shower heads used 20 litres per minute so the saving over the week is 7224 litres for showering for the six of us. That works out to be 375,648 litres a year or 7.5 of my swimming pool full! Pretty good for two $12 shower heads and a $15 timer!
We also now use our dishwasher once a day, and only when it is full. The dishwasher is only connected to the hot water tap, and as we have solar hot water it is more efficient than letting the dishwasher heat it up with electricity. Both of our toilets are dual flush, and most of the time we use half flush. We have flow regulators on the more frequently used taps, and use the eco mode on our washing machine in the laundry. I also have run a hose from the washing machine and it now waters our side garden beds most days. Make sure that you don’t use grey water to water edible plants, it is not safe for health reasons an it is against health regulations in most Australian states. Also if you do use grey water to irrigate gardens, make sure you change your laundry detergent to a no phosphorous and low sodium brand. We use Aware laundry detergent, and the plants love it. If there is too much sodium it increases the pH of the soil and stops nutrients from being absorbed by your plants.
The only other large use of water is the swimming pool. We installed a pool cover to cut down evaporation, and as the tank remains full most of the time, I divert the water out of our first flush diverter into the swimming pool every time it rains. It doesn’t take long to connect the hose and plonk it into the pool. It stays topped up all year around without using mains water. Last summer we were topping the pool up at least every three weeks, so at 2000 litres a top up we must have saved about 10,000 litres this summer so far.
Overall, I believe that we have reduced our water consumption by at least 50% and are now able to grow our own fruit and vegetables with our increasing our water consumption. All on a sub $2000 investment. In the future, I would like to install another tanks and plumb it to one of the toilets and to the washing machine. It will have a mains backup if the tank goes dry. I will have to save up for it, however the state government subsidy is very generous for rainwater tanks and having them plumbed to your house.
I will leave you with this quote for the day.
“Man has always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much…the wheel, New York, wars and so on…while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man…for precisely the same reason.”