Temperatures are heating up across Canada and with the drought in California now in its fourth consecutive year, special attention is being paid to water use in North America.
In April, California governor Jerry Brown ordered a 25 per cent reduction to water usage compared to 2013 levels — the first time the state has resorted to mandatory water restrictions.
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The Region of Waterloo is the largest municipality in Ontario, and one of the largest in North America, to rely as heavily as it does on groundwater.
“Approximately three quarters of all the region’s drinking water comes from the over one hundred municipal wells, many of which tap into rich aquifers sustained by the Waterloo Moraine. The remaining quarter of the region’s drinking-water is drawn from the Grand River,” details a section on source water protection in the region’s official plan.
In order to indefinitely postpone the prospect of running a pipeline to Lake Erie to meet its water demands, the regional government has launched what it’s calling a WET challenge. It want residents to reduce how much water they use on a daily basis, from an average of 200 L to 165 L per person, per day by 2025.
Curious how much water you use in your home? Take this self-audit.It takes you through every room of your house, taking into consideration how often you shower, what kind of washing machine you use, and so on. At the end you’ll get a full report on your estimated water use and carbon footprint.
We’ve compiled six tips to help you meet your goal, and cut down on water use inside the home.
- Consider a front-load washer: In many homes, washing laundry accounts for nearly 25 per cent of indoor water use. When it’s time to replace your washing machine look for a high-efficiency front-load washing machine. “Front-load machines use 60 per cent less energy, and 40 per cent less water than top loading machines. With a horizontal drum, you’re not filling the water right up to the top, and the clothes roll through the water. It’s gentler on clothing and you need less soap,” explains Steve Gombos, manager of water efficiency for Region of Waterloo. You can also save water by using the proper load size setting on your washing machine.
- Don’t feel guilty about using your dishwasher: New EnergySTAR dishwashers use less than 20.6L of water per load. That’s more efficient than washing that same load of dishes in the sink, by hand.
- Keep a bucket next to the sink or bath tub, and slip it under the faucet as you wait for water to get hot or cold. Use it to water your plants. Also, keep a container full of water in the fridge so you don’t have to run the faucet until it’s cold enough to drink.
- For the advanced and ambitious water watchers: Take the bucket in the bath tub to the next level by funnelling greywater to your toilet. Grey water is shower water that can be reused, whereas black water is toilet water that must go through the sewer system. “There are systems out there that people can install that collect the water in a tank and you can then run lines to your toilet to flush the toilet with it,” said Gombos.
- Keep an eye on your water softener: Softeners on average account for five to seven per cent of water use in the average home, but if a leak has developed, it can be much higher. The Region of Waterloo suggests listening for water running at the softener when it is not recharging; there should not be water running at that time. When it is time to replace your softener, look into a demand initiated regeneration (or DIR) softener. These only regenerate when needed, not after a set number of days. Also worth noting: while not adding salt to a softener prevents the production of soft water, it will still continue to regenerate and waste water.
- Toilets are the number one user of water in the home: Monitor the water level and check for leaks every three months and replace old and worn out parts. Leaking or running toilets in a single-family home can waste as much as 1,800l of water every day. When it’s time to replace it, new WaterSense-labeled toilets use 4.8 L or less per flush and are designed to remove waste more efficiently. That can save up to 35,000 L of water each per year compared to toilets manufactured before 1995.