March 22 is World Water Day, and it’s an opportunity to reflect on the life-giving resource that many of us in the developed world take for granted. Coordinated by UN-Water, this day of observance reminds us that 2.1 billion people still don’t have safe water at home.
We can’t solve the global water crisis, but we can take steps to reduce wastage at home and at the cottage. Try these five ideas to minimize how much H2O goes down the drain:
1. Change your shower head.
Showering accounts for a fifth of residential indoor water usage, making it second only to toilets (which use almost a quarter). Switch your shower head to a high-efficiency model that uses 5.6 litres per minute rather than the conventional 9.5 litres. According to the Canadian Institute of Plumbing & Heating, you’ll save 200 litres during a 10-minute shower, without a noticeable difference in performance.
To check the flow rate of your current shower head, hold a bucket beneath it, turn the faucet on, and collect the water for 10 seconds. Measure the volume and multiply by six—that’s your water flow per minute.
2. Fix leaky faucets.
The steady drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet is not only annoying, but it wastes an enormous amount of water: one drop per second equals nearly 12,000 litres a year. (For different drip rates and added faucets, use this handy drip calculator.) Repair the faucet or call in a plumber. While you’re at it, install an inexpensive tap aerator, which restricts water flow by up to 50 per cent without reducing pressure.
3. Install a low-flow toilet.
Older-model toilets guzzle as much as 18 to 20 litres per flush. Install a toilet dam inside the tank to reduce the amount of water per flush, or replace the toilet: a low-flow model uses six litres per flush, and a dual-flush model uses either three or six litres per flush. To save even more water, you can follow this tried-and-true cottage policy: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”
A leaky toilet can waste up to 20,000 litres a day. To check your toilet for leaks, add a few drops of food colouring to the toilet tank. Wait 15 minutes. If you see colour in the toilet bowl, there’s a leak (the culprit is often a worn-out flapper). Bonus: How to fix a running toilet.
4. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth.
This tiny effort leads to big savings, considering that a running tap uses six litres per minute and the Canadian Dental Association recommends brushing for two to three minutes.
5. Water your garden wisely.
To help your plants or lawn get the most benefit from watering, do it thoroughly once a week, preferably in the early morning, instead of several times a week. Watering slowly allows for a deeper soak and longer-lasting moisture.
You can also cut back on watering by making strategic landscaping choices. Pick native, drought-resistant ground covers, grasses, shrubs, and trees, which will need less water once they’ve become established.