Whilst the temperatures have cooled slightly and we even have some rain, we are still officially in a period of drought, possibly for several more months. Here are things to do at home that can reduce your water use which will help the environment.
Like much of the UK, The Living Coast region has received much lower rainfall than average this year, meaning we are now officially in a period of drought. The majority of our drinking water in the region comes from our ground water aquifer – a kind of natural underground reservoir. The water is pumped out of the aquifer before being treated and piped into households across the region. The ground water in the aquifer also helps to naturally maintain water flow to our fresh water streams and rivers too. Some water used locally is also taken directly from rivers. The lower than average rainfall means that the aquifer and rivers have much lower stores of water in them than normal which has a serious impact on our local wildlife and natural environment. Low flows in rivers and streams – especially when combined with high air temperatures – mean the water temperature quickly rises beyond that in which most fish and amphibians can survive.
Saving water at home benefits the environment
Reducing water consumption at home means less water needing to be pumped from the ground water aquifer and our local rivers. This directly benefits the natural environment – as well as saving householders money on water bills. It also helps reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with water abstraction and treatment.
You can easily save water at home by taking the following actions:
- Brushing your teeth – turning the tap off whilst you brush your teeth can save over 8000 litres of water a year and is a great way of engaging small children with water saving behaviours.
- Put a bowl in your sink – keeping a bowl in your sink to capture water when you wash fruit and vegetables, wash up or wash your hands means you can use this water to flush your toilet. Flushing a toilet takes 6 litres of water on average so the savings quickly add up. If you use environmentally friendly soaps and detergents it would also be safe to use this water in your garden, as long as it is not too greasy.
- Check for leaking taps and toilets at home – leaking toilets can waste up to 300 litres of water a day. Sometimes it is tricky to tell if your loo is leaking or not, especially with dual flush toilets. A top tip for checking if your loo is leaking is to wait 15 minutes after the last toilet flush, then dry the back of the toilet pan with toilet tissue. Place a dry sheet of toilet tissue at the back of the pan. Wash your hands and leave for three hours, if possible, without using the toilet. When you return, check the condition of the tissue. If the toilet tissue stays dry – good news, you don’t have a leak. If the toilet tissue is a little crooked or wet – you may have a small leak. Use this process regularly to check that it is not getting any worse (and not wasting more water). If the toilet tissue has broken up and has moved in the water below – you have a significant leak and will need to get this fixed by a plumber.
- Shower over a bucket – again the water you capture can be used to flush a loo or water the garden, if you use environmentally friendly shower products.
- Keep a jug of drinking water in the fridge – having cool water in the fridge means there is no need to let the cold tap run until the water is sufficiently cool to drink.
- Take a break from chores! – put off doing non-essential chores such as washing a car or your windows until we’re out of the drought.
- Flushing the loo – only flush when you need to and learn from our neighbours in hotter climes with the rhyme ‘if its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down’. Modern toilets use around 6 litres of water every flush and older toilets can use up to 13 litres each flush.
- Brown grass is still healthy grass – Going brown is the natural survival mechanism for grass. When water is in short supply the grass responds by shutting down and going brown – showing that it has stopped growing. Grass is incredibly resilient and much will recover completely when more favourable conditions return. You can help your grass to be more resilient to drought by leaving it longer. Longer grass has deeper roots and creates more shade from higher temperatures. It is also better for wildlife. You can also apply a light mulch of compost to your grass which helps retain moisture and will help improve the soil.
- Use a watering can – avoid watering plants unless it is essential and use a water can and recycled water from sinks etc. when you do. Watering in very early morning or later evening with a can pointed directly at a plants roots is much more effective and healthy for plants. Soaking the roots once or twice a week is also better for plants than lightly watering more frequently.
- Fit water butts – whilst it is not raining much currently water butts capture whatever rainfull there is for later use. They can also help reduce the risk of flash flooding in a downpour by reducing the amount going into the general drainage system. Rain water is much healthier for plants too.
- Mulch your garden – mulching your garden and round the roots of plants with compost, straw or wood chip, reduces evaporation from the soil and helps improve the organic matter in your soil, feeding your plants in the longer term.
- Use a broom – brush away leaves, dirt and debris from your patio instead of washing it down with water.
To learn more about our regions ground water aquifer and some of the work that goes on to protect it visit The Aquifer Partnership’s website.
To find more tips about saving water at home and in the garden visit Southern Water’s website.
You can also watch a 30 minute video from Ben Earl, Head of Water Efficiency at Southern Water that gives more information on planning our water resources for the future on our YouTube channel.