Is saving water worth the effort?

I have just started reading a brilliant book, Living the good life by Linda Cockburn. It is about a family in Australia who try to live without money for six months. I would recommend it for the read as much as any information you glean and I think I will glean a lot. What I particularly like is that this is a living story, one where theory is put into practice and the reader can assess for themselves if the experiment is worth it.

However, this post is not about Living the good life. Before we get there (in any sense of the phrase), there is an issue I would like to raise from another book I’ve just read about living well on less money and in doing so hopefully having a more sustainable lifestyle. On the whole, there were some interesting pieces of advice but……

I was really taken aback to read the author suggesting that saving water was not worth the effort (except that plants preferred it to tap water) as in Britain we generally had plenty.

This year, until it rained in June, parts of England were actually in drought. Where I live the organic farm, along with domestic premises, had been banned from watering their vegetables (!!). Saved rainwater was allowed (phew) but what if they hadn’t stored any and the heat plus lack of rain had continued?

Last year, in parts of the country, the situation was critical. Where my parents live, it was so dry that the birds tore the leaves off every plant they could get at, stripped them bare. While it did nothing for their garden, I suspect the long term impact on the bird population was even worse. And farmers were losing their crops or having poor crops, which can hardly be considered advantageous.

Of course, it would be difficult for farmers to save enough water to see them through a drought. However, if the domestic population made an effort to reduce the amount of water it consumed, there would be more for pastures where milk cows graze, wheat fields, etc etc etc. Seems like a no-brainer to me!

I think the main tenet of the aforementioned book’s argument against saving water was that it would not have much of an impact on the household’s bill. Starting from the premise that the author is correct, even if the impact is only a reduction of Β£5 a year, that is five pounds for me instead of the water company. I can think of a lot of things that I could do with that five pounds πŸ™‚

However, I think that the impact could be much bigger than that. I try as far as possible to give the water I take from the tap a second use. For example, after washing up the pots I use the water in the bowl to soak any pans/dishes which have food burnt or stuck on. Before I started doing this, I used to fill the relevant pan or dish with water straight from the tap, which over the course of a year would have been many hundreds of litres (up to the equivalent of half a toilet cistern of water each time).

Then there is the use that collected rainfall can be put to if it isn’t needed in the garden. So far, having run out of storage, I have used this water to flush the toilet. Only occasionally but if altogether that has saved me 100 litres, at a guess, multiplied across the country that would be quite a reduction in consumption. Anyway, I’m also thinking of using the rainwater to wash my car… when I eventually get round to washing my car. And I am sure there are many other uses I will think of as time goes by, where it isn’t necessary to have bacteria-free water and I don’t need to feed it through my plumbing to be able to use it.

NB The poll is anonymous.

About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
This entry was posted in Gardening, Good for the environment, Health, In the kitchen and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Is saving water worth the effort?

  1. mybrightlife says:

    The issue for me is two-fold. Like you I can think of better things to do with five quid than give it to the water company but I also strongly believe that we have to start behaving differently. It doesn’t matter what the extent of the saving is, it is about living in a different way and thinking differently about how we approach life and living and how we understand all the resources around us. I think you and I are on the same page in this regard. The book sounds interesting. Will take a look.

  2. Hi there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is truly informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I’ll appreciate if you continue this in future. A lot of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  3. streepie says:

    We lived in the Western Cape of South Africa for more than 10 years (and before that, in Namibia). So we used to save water where we could, and the inhabitants of the Western Cape faced water restrictions nearly every summer. I remember one year where the water storage dams were down to 20% level, and everyone was hoping for rain.
    Some areas of France had severe droughts as well last year, but this year, it is much wetter than usual. I don’t need to water the vegetables at all, but some of the water saving measures I learned in the Cape I still take here.

    I do agree – a mind shift is needed.

    • Are there any tips you could pass on here?

      • streepie says:

        Like you already mentioned, I use the water from washing vegetables to water the potted plants.
        In the vegetable garden in South Africa, we had installed drip irrigation (very little water is used to directly water the roots of the plant). We only watered the plants during the cooler hours of the day – mainly in the evenings, so as little as possible would evaporate. And then every thing was mulched on a regular basis, which keeps the soil moist. The lawn was never watered – I just let it go brown during summer.
        We dig in plastic water bottles (with the bottoms cut off) next to the Tomatoes – this way, the water also goes directly to the roots of the plants.
        Other water saving measures – only take showers, no baths allowed, and install a water saving flush in your toilet. Also install an aerator in your kitchen tap.
        In Namibia, there were two much more stringent rules – only flush the toilet when really necessary (if it’s yellow, let it mellow, when it’s brown, flush it down), and no shower was to be longer than 5 minutes. And the water was to be turned off when you are shampooing your hair or soaping up.

  4. I also reuse dish water for soaking pans. I think the best thing I could do personally is get my diy rain barrels going. I have been feeling a bit guilty every time I water the plants!

  5. I like your post, I agree that we don’t always NEED to save water but it rains so much that our two water butts are always in use. I water my veg plants and seedlings every day and it feels nice not to have to rely on the hose. I like the sound of the first book you mentioned too.

    • I’ve only read a few pages of the book so far but it may be one that features again in my posts. I know what you mean about not having to rely on mains water for the garden. Two summers ago my water bill was definitely a few pounds more for the quarter because I didn’t use any rainwater.

  6. pzdesigns says:

    Having lived in countries where water either had to be delivered by tanker or collected, I think it is so easily taken for granted. The same would apply to all our natural resources… They seem to be in bountiful & infinite supply, but every so often we realise how precious they are…
    Really interesting post & also comments from other readers like me ^_^

    • Yes, it is easy to take water for granted. When I lived in China there were parts which really did have no water before the rain season started. We were staying in Northern Sichuan and were given a flask of water for all our needs. No flushing toilets and no water out the taps. Glad you found my post and others’ comments interesting.

  7. Thanks very much for visiting my blog. I finally found yours. This is very interesting topic. I’m living in California, San Francisco Bay Area where we don’t get a lot of rain, so waiting for rain water doesn’t seem so practical. We did have a water shortage problem about 3 years ago when people were not allowed to water their lawns at certain time during the day. I do recycle my water for the garden if it is not contaminated with soap.

    • Thank you for visiting my blog, too! This is only my third year of gardening but it is the first where we’ve had at least enough rainfall (in my part of the country). Hopefully, your situation doesn’t deteriorate….

I love to read about your own experiences and any other feedback you have, so look forward to your comments below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.