Clever ways to reduce your water bill

Flushing money down the toilet? Kya deLongchamps shows us some clever meter beaters to drain those imminent water bills.

WE’VE waded around the issue for years, but water charges for domestic households without a private supply are inevitable this October. Irish Water still has not spilled the final cost per cubic metre (1,000 litres of water) and, lashed by waves of political pressure, the Commission for Energy Regulation remains tight-lipped until the autumn.

But there is still time to stick a finger in the leaky dike of domestic wastage before those meters roll over into billable flow.

Most adults are using an indulgent 50,000l of water per year (estimates vary and this is more likely to be 55,000l). It’s unlikely that we can dip below the expected allowance of 30,000l per year per adult and 38,000l per child.

If you have an 80l bath every day, make it a candle and champagne affair, because that’s your entire water allowance for the year.

One of the remaining problems is that of this 150l or so of water sloshed into the sewers per day per person, we use the same water in the kitchen that we use to flush our waste in the bathroom. Building regulations will move towards rainwater harvesting that we can use to flush and to irrigate the garden from next year but only for new housing. For the rest of us, it’s time to swallow some unwelcome truths. We changed our ways in the past and after nationwide moaning fully embraced the rigours of re-cycling. We can beat the meter to a civilised sip of charges with a determined change of habits at home.

Toilet techniques

A total of 26%-30% of your water usage is likely to be going down the pan. However uncomfortable it’s time to talk about the loo.

A modern toilet has a dual flush facility to spirit away liquid waste with less water than is used for solids. If you don’t have a dual flush consider installing a Cistern Saver. Attaching to the standard siphon valve in just about every loo it takes five minutes of DIY attention, and introduces a vacuum that cuts a full flush of up to 13 litres by about 30%. It can be supplied by water saving champion Martin Lane and his Cork team at Water Save for €32.99. www.watersave.ie.

A cistern displacement device is quite simply a stout balloon of water that gets in the way of the water stored in the tank, reducing the volume. Prices for the best known brandn Hippo, start around €4.20 for a 3l bag. A single dripping leak can add up to 15l of water a day. Ensure your cistern is not trickling water down to the pan by stealth using a dye kit, again from the Water Save team, and part of their highly recommended Household Water Conservation Kit, €29.99.

Showered in savings

At around 12% of our water usage, a power shower can fill a bath in five minutes, wasting not only water but energy to heat that tropical rainstorm. It’s possible to shower in as little as 5l per water per minute, but in truth 8-10l will feel more comfortable.

All showers should be timed. There are dedicated inexpensive devices in witty digital and hour-glass forms to remind teenagers and adults alike to keep moving in that deluge. Set everything you need to perform the shower close at hand and develop a routine of 3-4 minutes to suit your showering style, of body, hair, rinse etc. The hour glass timer costs €4.50 from www.watersavingproducts.ie.

The feed to any shower can be limited with a simple regulating valve screwed on before or after the shower hose. If you have any doubts about fit, or have a complex power shower arrangement, consult a registered plumber for advice.

Having limited the feed fatten the remaining flow with the addition of air to provide a delicious bubbling stream that does not feel mean. An aerating shower head replaces your existing shower head, acting as a limiter where needed, and streaming air into the feed. EcoCamel Jetstorm has proven to pay for itself in UK showers in as little as 8 weeks, reducing hot water usage by 60%. Ensure you choose a model to fit a hose, electric or gravity and a fixed shower set up. Stockists include Purchase.ie from €33.95.

If you have a lovely deep bath during summer months, treat the plants too. Bucket that barely dirty water and washing up water out to the garden and throw it on the beds. Buy a tooth mug and use it for washing your teeth. It’s a two minute run of water otherwise you’ll use up to 15l of water per scrub.

Kitchen

Taps and water hungry appliances are a constant drain on our precious resource. Shore up the waste.

Take aerating technology to the kitchen and bathroom taps with screw-on aerators on every faucet. It’s a simple DIY job and if you want a direct able tap end, there’s room for even more detailing. Aim to reduce your usage to 3l of water per minute from the standard 5-10l.

Don’t neglect leaks once they are detected. Often a half screw with your hand, a replacement washer or a little plumber’s tape is all it takes.

Wash and peel vegetables in a bowl, not under a running tap. Throw the water on the garden.

Fill a jug of water and leave it to chill in the fridge. Brita offers water filtering systems for even better tasting water from the tap — it costs €26.49 for the Aluna XL at Argos.

Reconfigure your thinking. If you have a half glass of drinking water, put it in the dog’s bowl or gift it to the houseplants.

It takes around 7-21 litres of hot water to wash 12 settings in a dishwasher. Run full loads on eco-programs. Wipe pieces with a cloth before stacking, don’t rinse and stack by the sizing pattern on the drawer.

At around 65-100l per load, most washing machines use 10 litres per kilogramme of cottons washed at 40C. The eco-cycle on most machines will reduce water usage but only for a load of at least 80% capacity. Once you muck around with dedicated settings or run at less than capacity, savings dwindle.

Less greedy gardening

Micro-manage that rainwater and choose where you dump out those precious litres.

The hose, and more serious still a power-hose, is a highly efficient way to waste hundreds of litres of water in an afternoon. Use them directionally, with minute to minute purpose and respect. Get a trigger attachment today.

In a single year, you could collect as much as 85,000 litres just from the roof of the house in rain barrels. Kept clean with a lid, the water is suited to washing cars, paths and topping up ponds. A generous barrel starts at around 190l for something like the Rainsaver from the Eco-store.ie (reduced to €59.95).

Link two or more barrels to fill in sequence. Woodies offer linking kits from €14.89 and diverters from the downpipes for €9.99.

Raise the blades or set your mower to mulch, not store your clippings.

Leave them on the lawn to nourish grass and retain moisture in the drier months. Give up sprinklers entirely.

Use a bucket to wash the car and save the hose with a trigger attachment for a final rinse. Don’t use this lightly soapy water from the house on edible crops.

Gravel gardens can preserve moisture in the ground and support drought tolerant planting.

Mulch borders will retain water for longer and water in the early morning or evening where it won’t be evaporated away.

WHERE ARE WE WITH CHARGES?

There’s speculation that if Irish Water is faced with determined water savings by its customers, Com-Reg may allow a rise in the tariff if the company has sealed every leak under every sod of earth in the country.

Hardly seems fair does it? It is estimated that servicing each and every home will cost in the area of €560 per year (if the outstanding €1 billion per year needed to run the project indicated by the EU Water Framework Directive is believed).

If we are charged €240 for an average household where is the shortfall of €320 per household to come from?

It’s not hard to imagine that water prices will rise as politicians settle into their seats next year.

Where meters are not yet working or unworkable, flat rate water charges will start from October based on occupancy and the size of the property. Average bills for combined water and sewerage in the UK are between £333 (€408) and £495 (€608) depending on area. The last rise in prices was well below the rate of inflation. If you want to take a look at charges across the UK, which are not a bad indicator of where we may be going, log onto: http://www.water.org.uk/home/news/press-releases/bills-2014-15/forecast-average-household-bills-2014-15.pdfv

Cathy Mannion, director of Water at Com-Reg, says that the Regulator may release a consultation paper shortly.

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