In this long hot dry spell, it feels like a good time to write about how we use water, and how we can use less of it. Especially those of us who have gardens and plants in pots, and tender plants we want to nurture.
For me this is mostly about squeezing the best use I can out of whatever water I use. Here are the simple things I already do. I’m sure there are more things you can suggest – please do share!
- Try not to waste water. This means when we do use it, trying to use it as efficiently as possible. We have a long pipe run between the hot water tank and the kitchen sink. Using a bowl in the sink is key: I capture the cold and lukewarm water that comes before the hot water in a bowl in the sink, and transfer it to the watering can I keep ready outside the kitchen door.
- Reduce use. Better still, let’s not use water. When we’ve needed to replace appliances, we’ve been careful to include use of water in our decision making (eg dishwasher; washing machine; toilets). No doubt when we finally need to replace our existing appliances we’ll find that current ones are even more efficient. We try to find a balance between keeping the toilets clean, and refraining from flushing them. I’m experimenting (sometimes) with weeing in a bucket and using the contents on my compost heap* – a tried and tested method, which simply returns a source of fertility to the soil – a great permaculture approach that transforms waste (a ‘problem’) into an asset (a ‘solution’). I can and should do more of this, it just takes a bit more organisation on my part.
- Whenever possible, use water twice. I have a number of plants in post in the garden. In dry spells all the water I use to hand-wash dishes and clothes is poured into a watering can, allowed to cool, then used on the pots. This helps conserve the rain water in the butts. I use mild products, and I’ve never found that plants suffer at all from this. On the contrary, it means I can water them more frequently (or more copiously) than might otherwise be the case (another example of transforming waste into an asset).
- Capture the rain – last year I installed another large water butt in the garden to replace a smaller one. I now have two large water butts in the garden. I could probably do with another one, as we seem to be having more of these long dry spells – maybe a task for later this year. I also installed another water butt in the allotment and added the smaller one from the garden, making a total of three. One is in the hens’ pen, and that is where all their water comes from. I also use that to water the summer plants that go in a fenced-off corner of their pen. This means I can water plants when I need to, but I very rarely need to use tap water. In fact, I can’t remember the last time.
- Mulch – the allotment beds where I’ve spread lots of muck over the years hold the moisture so much better than the beds in the garden, where I haven’t mulched at all. So – clearly this autumn and winter’s job will be copious mulching in the garden. I bought in another trailer-load of farm muck last month, which should have rotted down nicely by then, and I also have several bags full of leaf mould made from leaves swept up in the garden two years ago (another example of ‘waste’ being transformed into a useful asset).
If like ours your water is metered, there’s the added bonus that the less you use, the less you pay. It also means that you can check on the volume of water you’ve used, to provide a reality check – I may think I’ve used less, but have I really?
What else can I do? I’m sure there are many things, and I’m hoping you’ll inspire me to do more by sharing your experience.
In the meantime, I’m challenging myself to
- flush the toilet less often
- capture more water from the bathroom for toilet flushing (a small bowl in the basin; a bucket for alternative flushing, maybe with rainwater in the wet season?
I’ll tell you how I get on. And in the meantime, I’m trying to keep my cool by drinking chilled minted tap water straight from the fridge.
* this may sound a bit ‘hard core’ to you, but truly it’s not a bit disgusting. And a lot less hard core than the bloggers I read who substitute washable cloths for toilet paper (lets just say I’m thinking about it); and those who despite living in the city have set up their own version of composting toilet. It’s a journey….