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Precious Water

A highly respected scholar and academic
here in Australia - Dr. Barry Jones,
when questioned in a TV interview
a short while ago, replied to the question
with this remark (not verbatim) :
"You are worried about oil and it's price?  In a very short time, oil won't be the premium
and most costly requisite in this world -
it will be water." 


n almost every second news broadcast in Australia, some reference is made to global warming, and the state of various dams and catchment areas on which we rely for Water.   And we rely on water for life itself.   At the moment in Victoria, our catchments for all water use  is down to 40% of total capacity – across the board.   Not good.


At first I was very sceptical about global warming as apparently are many others in the world.   But it is hard to argue with scientific evidence, although most of what is said are projections for the future.   What is happening now – in the present in this country and in many others, is a worry.   We have been drought stricken for 11 years now – with consistently lower than average rainfalls generally, all over the country.   Some areas have been spared that but most haven’t.   


This applies currently also to the United States of America who have seen the worst of bush fires in the latest of summer time in California, drought so bad in one or two of the southern states that drinking water was and maybe still is compromised, and in other countries extreme conditions prevail, killing people and making others homeless through cyclones, floods, severe heat and other odd weather phenomena.    Of course, one could argue that we – the world, have been through all this before – time after time over the centuries and milleniums.   And we have indeed.


One small comfort for me personally, while we suffer extreme heat in Victoria at present (mid November 2007 as I write) interspersed with thunderstorms and a little rain, is the fact that when end of year exams in my High School days were held, we did them in a pre-fabricated no air conditioning school room on searing days of heat and that was 50 years ago.   Of course air-conditioning did not exist then.   But the extreme heat certainly did.   It was not conducive to putting the best foot forward for an exam.     So I am hopeful that not as much might have changed as has been suggested by the scientific world.   That may be wishful thinking on my part of course, and I do not wish to enter any debates on the subject.  


It’s best to be safe, not sorry in today’s world and with that in mind I have selected some water saving tips from an online site, and add some of my own and some of the ideas of friends and relatives.    After all, even if we had non-stop rain for 6 months (extremely unlikely), it’s still comforting to know that we have done everything we possibly can to conserve water.  


There are some ingenious plans out there for the conservation of water, so here goes.






Many decades ago before our infra-structure was put in place for urban water, rain-water tanks were to be found everywhere.   They were banned in the heady years of good even weather patterns when dams were consistently full, but have since made a re-entry into the market and bans on them have been lifted – indeed some State Governments are offering a rebate on the installation of them in private suburban homes.   Where possible and affordable, the installation of a good sized tank is highly recommended. 


Tanks however are expensive, but there are other ways of catching overflow from the occasional downpours we do have.


1.  Buckets are about $2.00 each at the bargain stores.  Not aesthetic admittedly to see buckets lined up around areas that overflow from house guttering, but necessary just the same.   Something has to catch that precious water.  Here in Mahony Street, quite a few people have resorted to the bucket system, and  when full they are kept until the rain has stopped for days, used on the garden or pot plants, or (in our case) mostly decanted into 8 black 60 Litre bins.   This has far outweighed our expectations.   It is no big deal to take a large watering can, dip it into the bins, and water specific plants and pot plants.   And think of the exercise you get while walking back and forth to collect the water !!


2.  Grey water -  this is collected in a variety of ways.   Through a pipe designed and produced to go over the outlet hose of most washing machines, which is then placed through a door or window on the day of washing – to be collected in a large bin or container to be used later on the garden.   Using domestic phosphate free, eco friendly washing liquids or powders is best in the washing machine for safer grey water – although we have not lost one plant to the use of grey water and I haven’t heard of anyone else doing so. 


3.  More Grey Water   Although it is desirable to cut your shower time in half at least these days, you might be very surprised at how much water you can catch in a small bucket or container from your own shower.   This can be used again on the garden or even for washing a few hand washed items.   After all you have worn them – and you have washed in the water to clean them so there’s nothing gross about using that saved water for hand washing.


4.  In the Kitchen  -   This is a personal one from me.   When deciding to hand wash the dishes, and I do so when there are pots to be washed, I do not fill the sink to do the dishes.   Instead I use any or all of the pots, provided of course they are not burnt or have anything nasty sticking to the sides, like the remains of porridge – that’s out.   But a pot that has used only water for whatever reason (pasta ?), or has been used as a steamer is perfect to wash smaller pieces in.   This saves a heap of water.   The only water from the hot tap in other use here, is the other smaller sink filled, if you have a second sink.     If you don’t, a very quick rinse under the hot water tap, turned on and off on each occasion.   The beauty of this is that while you clean the smaller pieces (cups, glasses, cutlery, saucers and small plates etc.) you are in fact doing a good job of cleaning the pot itself.    Needless to say a reasonable sized pot – the larger the better, is needed for this exercise.   But even 1   to 2 litre pots work well.


5.  In the kitchen again   Water efficient taps and tap aerators save on water use.   Note if a tap begins to drip – change the washers in the tap immediately.  One leaking tap can waste more than 2,000 litres in a month. 


6.  In the Garden -  a good way of watering pot plants, is to have one of those buckets of water, full preferably, on your patio or wherever you keep your potted plants.   Immersing the held pot into the bucket for a few moments or until bubbles have stopped rising to the surface of the potted plant, then allowing the run off from beneath to re-enter the bucket, saves a lot on watering.   This of course is for smaller potted plants.   The big one’s don’t fit !! lol.



By now you might be saying to yourselves – why go to all that bother.   It seems fruitless, a whole lot of work and why ?    Well believe me – it is worth it’s weight in gold, as here in Victoria and in other States in Australia, by a majority of people trying to save water, consumption has fallen.   Which means we maintain at least a bit of the little we have left in our dams.   The same applies to other countries who have heat wave conditions, or lowered dam capacities, so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.    It also has a side benefit of making a person feel good that they are doing their bit to help overall.   Nice feeling.


Below are a few pieces I have taken from an Australian water conservation site.




Washing fruit and vegies in a half-filled sink instead of under running water is a great way to cut back on water wastage.


        Installing one of the latest 3 star/AAA rating showerheads can give you a great shower and save you around 10 litres of water a minute. They also save you energy costs, as you'll use less hot water.


        There's no need to leave the tap running while you brush your teeth. Simply wet your toothbrush before you begin and use a glass of water to rinse your mouth.


              Paths, patios and driveways must never be hosed. Use a broom, rake or outdoor blower or vacuum instead.


       When washing your car, park it on the lawn and use a bucket for washing and rinsing. This way you can save water, as well as fertilise and water your lawn - car shampoos use phosphates that are similar to many fertilisers.


Using rainwater appropriately (and in conjunction with water efficient devices like dual flush toilets, showerheads with at least a 3 star/AAA rating, tap aerators and trigger nozzles) can save you money on water bills and help the environment by:

        conserving our valuable drinking water and reducing the demand on our water supply (conserving water also reduces the chemical and energy requirements for treating and transporting water to your home via the mains supply)


        Reducing the amount of stormwater leaving your property by minimising flooding (using your rainwater for day-to-day purposes like toilet flushing helps create space in your tank for more water the next time it rains).


Water Crystals - add water crystals to soil

to enhance water retention by up to 40%.-



Footnote :   At present – here in Victoria, we are only permitted to hand hose our gardens twice a week, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. on the two given days to even or odd numbered houses everywhere.   Our days are Tuesdays and Saturdays.    It wasn’t long before everyone who could, went out and purchased  a trigger nozzle for their hoses.   These are marvelous pieces of equipment, with a variety of choices for whatever strength of water or type of flow you want.   I most always use the ‘shower’ selection.   The water only flows when a trigger handle is depressed, and once you release the handle, the water stops.    Brilliant and I will never again be without one. 


I trust some of this information is of help.   Most likely you know most of the tricks associated with water saving, but there may be a few here that you hadn’t thought of.    In any case I feel it is a timely reminder to us all, as without water we are finished.   


Desalination plants are in the planning and begun stages around Australia.      Ironic that what is melting ice into the oceans, might well turn out to be a blessing for the life of the planet through the use of ocean water through desalination.


I shall leave it at that.   

Anne Byam.