After a week up to our knees in the sublimated version of the wet stuff (okay, it was snow), being careful with water might not seem a major issue.
But how we use it has big impacts. So, this week’s challenge is to reduce the amount flowing into, and from, our homes.
The Challenge: Cut your domestic water consumption as much as possible with a few new habits and, perhaps, a couple of purchases.
Motivation: Daily water use in Toronto averages 253 litres per person. The city’s goal is a 15 per cent cut by 2011. Unless your home is one of those in the inner city still paying a flat rate, using less will save you money. It could also cut greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation. It takes one kilowatt-hour of electricity for each cubic metre of water drawn from Lake Ontario, purified, pumped to consumers, removed, run through a sewage treatment plant. That costs only eight cents, but Toronto used 374 million cubic metres last year. Toronto Water's Lou Di Gironimo also points out conservation's biggest benefit is that it lets the city provide water to more people with less infrastructure. what we don't require, we don't need to build.
Process: First, change a few habits: Turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth, shave, or wash vegetables. If you have a dishwasher, don’t pre-wash under the tap. If you hand wash, use the second sink or a bowl, rather than running water, for the rinse. Next, install a low-flow showerhead and faucets: If you’re more ambitious, get a low-flow toilet. Unhandy as I am, I did it recently and, apart from issues related to the fact I live in an old, jury-rigged house, the installation was easy and it does what it’s supposed to.
Beyond these few challenge items, the list of potential water-saving tips goes on and on and on and on. Again, they range from further no-cost changes in habits to the relatively expensive purchase of a water-efficient clothes washer. Mostly, though, it's a matter of viewing water as a precious resource, not just something that's there in an endless supply that we don't have to think about.
Cost: The city sells water efficiency kits for $15. Toilets cost $100 to $400, but you get a $60 rebate from Toronto Water. There’s also $60 back if you buy an efficient washer. Again, I’ve done both and the cheques do arrive in the mail.
Savings: The city charges about $1.81 for each 1,000 litres of water. Your actual payback depends on how much you reduce. For some changes, the calculation is obvious: Switching from a conventional to low-flow toilet cuts consumption by seven litres per flush. It would take about 150 flushes to save around $2, but they add up fast. Other results aren’t so immediately clear and you’ll likely need to wait for your next water bill to see them.
Let us know how you do.