We already know we live in a water-stressed country, which has been exacerbated by the recent heat wave conditions and very little rain this summer. John Graham from HouseCheck lists 25 DIY tips to save water and pocket money.
- Check taps and pipes for leaks: A small drip from a worn washer can waste 90 litres of water per day.
- Check your water meter for leaks in water pipes: Read the house water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak. Call a plumber.
- Install water-saving shower heads: Inexpensive water-saving, low-flow shower heads or restrictors are easy to install. “Low-flow” means it uses less than 10 litres of water per minute.
- Shower – don’t bath: A short shower generally uses less water than a bath.
- Don’t use the toilet as a trash disposal system: Every time you flush a tissue, a cigarette or other small bit of rubbish, up to 25 litres of water is wasted.
- Check your toilets for leaks: Put a splash of food colouring in your toilet cistern. If, without flushing, the colour begins to appear in the bowl within 30 minutes, you have a leak that should be repaired. Most toilet cistern parts are inexpensive and easy to install.
- Put plastic bottles or a float booster in your toilet cistern: To cut down on water waste, put a little inside each of two 500ml plastic bottles to weigh them down. Fill the bottles with water, screw the lids on, and put them in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanisms. This will save 1 litre per flush. Test that there is still sufficient water in the tank to flush efficiently.
- Don’t flush your toilet unless absolutely necessary: Good advice during water restrictions is: “if it’s brown flush it down; if it’s yellow let it mellow”.
- Insulate your hot water pipes: It’s easy and inexpensive to insulate your water pipes with pre-slit foam pipe insulation. You’ll get hot water faster and you also avoid wasting water while it heats up.
- Check your geyser overflow pipes occasionally: Your hot water geyser should have three overflow pipes discharging to the exterior of the home – probably onto the roof or into a gutter. There should be a 12mm plastic pipe from the cold water pressure balancing valve, a 50mm plastic pipe from the drip tray and a 20mm metal pipe from the temperature and pressure control valve. It is normal for the 12mm plastic pipe to drip occasionally; but a steady drip not only wastes water, it indicates a problem with the valve. Water discharging from the two other pipes is also cause to call a plumber.
- Use your dishwasher and clothes washer only for full loads: Automatic dishwashers and clothes washers should be fully loaded for optimum water conservation. Cut out the pre-rinse cycle.
- When washing dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running for rinsing: If you have a double-basin, fill one with soapy water and the other with rinse water. If you have a single-basin sink, gather washed dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a spray device or a panful of hot water. If using a dishwasher, there is usually no need to pre-rinse the dishes.
- Keep a bottle of drinking water in the fridge: Running tap water to cool it down for drinking water is wasteful. Store drinking water in the fridge in a safe drinking bottle.
- Plant drought-resistant lawns, shrubs and plants: Your local nursery will advise you on water-wise indigenous and other plants which are suitable for the dry South African climate.
- Catch water runoff: Plant sloping areas of your garden with plants that will retain water and help reduce runoff.
- Mulch around trees and plants: Regular application on compos, or bark, will also slow evaporation. Press the mulch down around the dripline of each plant to form a slight depression which will prevent or minimise water runoff.
- Deep-soak your lawn: When watering the lawn, do it long enough for the moisture to soak down to the roots where it will do the most good. A light sprinkling can evaporate quickly and tends to encourage shallow root systems. Put an empty tuna can on your lawn – when it’s full, you’ve watered about the right amount.
- Water during the early parts of the day; avoid watering when it’s windy: Early morning is generally better than dusk since it helps prevent the growth of fungus. Early watering, and late watering, also reduce water loss to evaporation. Try not to water when it’s windy – wind can blow sprinklers off target and speed evaporation.
- Don’t run the hose while washing your car: Clean the car using a bucket of soapy water. Use the hose only for rinsing. This simple practice can save as much as 900 litres when washing a car.
- Don’t water the paving: Position your sprinklers so water lands on the lawn or garden, not on paved areas. Also, avoid watering on windy days.
- Don’t spray down paved areas: Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and paving.
- Consider installing rain water tanks: If you have the space, buying a tank to catch the water from your gutters gives you an additional water source for when it does rain.
- Consider installing a grey-water system to water your garden: This involves installing a tank and a pump so that you can use the water from your bathroom, kitchen and laundry to water your garden.
- Consider “going off the grid” temporarily: In some South African towns homeowners are already subject to periodic water cuts – often lasting several days. Consider installing a couple of big water tanks and linking these to your household water pipes using a pump and filtration system. Then, when the municipal water is on you can fill your tanks and when the municipality cannot supply you can survive off the grid.
- Drill a borehole or well-point: This is an expensive solution – especially if the water table is deep down. The pay-back period may be several years. Also in Gauteng and North West Province the quality of the water could be a concern due to pollution. In coastal areas the borehole water may be brak (salty).
Who is John Graham?
John Graham is a South African who has spent more than 30 years in the property industry. He has hands-on experience as a developer, investor, estate agent, home builder and property inspector. John is the founder and CEO of HouseCheck (www.housecheck.co.za) and the principal of the SA Home Inspection Training Academy (www.sahita.co.za). He is the author of a number of popular eBooks including: The South African Home Buyer’s Guide; Quality Control for South African Home Building and The Complete Guide to South African Home Inspection.