Thursday, September 16, 2010

Difference # 6

Saving Water & Water Restrictions

Australia has a long history of drought. Because of the lack of available fresh water and the dependency on catchments/reservoirs there are water restrictions and huge media campaigns focused on saving water.

Depending on where you live will depend on how strict the restrictions are. Right now, metropolitan Melbourne is on Stage 2. Around Easter we eased from 3A restrictions to 3 because of the amount of water in the catchments and then while I was away we went to stage 2. When we were here in 2007 there was talk of some towns going as far as checking on each home's usage and if it was over a certain amount, the water flow to the home would be turned down to a point where you wouldn't really be able to use any water in your home (I heard around 2L/min when the typical is 9L/min I think?).
Because of these restrictions, there's no such thing as water fights/slip 'n slides/running through the sprinkler. It's something that "older" Australians (Glen's age and older) talk about with sadness and whimsy to the younger generation (ie: Glen's niece and nephew's age - 5 and 12 - have never had a water fight or used a slip and slide).

People are doing all sorts of things to try to save water and a lot of people (or at least the people I know) keep a close eye on how much water they're using. There's an initiative called Target 155 which has people aim to keep their daily water usage to under 155L/day.
Glen's parents for example have containers in their sink and buckets in their shower and tub. When you wash your hands you let the water flow into the little tub and when that gets full it gets emptied into one of the larger buckets. Once the larger buckets are full, the water either gets used to water plants or (more often) it gets poured into the back of the toilet and the main water to the toilet gets shut off. Another thing a lot of people do is direct the hose for their washing machine out into the garden and water the plants with the washing machine water (it seems most washing machines empty into a laundry sink rather than being permanently hooked up to the main plumbing). A lot of the detergents (all of them?) are marked as being grey water safe

On the news, they have regular catchment updates (especially after any large amount of rain). In June the catchments were up to 35% vs the 26.8% it was in June last year. When we were here in 2007 the catchments were around 17% and there was a serious concern about whether or not we would run out of water (at 17% that was approx. 2 weeks of water).
It seems the water storages are at 45% now and some parts of the state are experiencing flooding. Some catchments in NSW are actually full and overflowing!

It's one interesting thing to think about and something you definitely take for granted in a place like Canada.

Picture from our window of a crazy rainstorm we had in March.

Temperature: +11C
Sunrise: 6:20am
Sunset: 6:11pm


knittingcapricorn said...

That's really interesting. So the detergents are safe to use on plants? I guess it takes some time to get used to the bucket system, but it seems like a good idea. Thanks for the perspective!

Megan said...

Yup, I'm pretty sure most of them say "grey water safe".
The bucket system is pretty interesting and once you have everything set up it's pretty easy to use (the sinks and shower have their own so you don't have to go running through the house to find one). I'm sure it saves a lot of water especially when you're using it in the back of the toilet.

knittingcapricorn said...

I was thinking about this a little more and thought about all the regions in Europe that experience drought regularly (Britain, for example). Yet I've never read about detergents like that. On the other hand, I don't live in a drought-prone area, but this sounds like such a good idea.

The water use in toilets is a big problem, but I've noticed that most toilets in Austria and Switzerland now have the two-button system for big and small flushes and the old ones have at least a handle to make it stop flushing. It always unnerved me in the UK and the US (and Canada) to flush the toilet and use up all the water without being able to stop it (maybe I just didn't know the secret).

Megan said...

You're right actually - most toilets in N. America use A LOT of water (and basically, once you flush, you can't stop it easily). There are little tricks you can do to make your standard toilet use less water - like putting a plastic 1L bottle full of water in the back of the toilet.
Glen was shocked at how much water our toilet in Canada used - there's even a lot in the bowl and there's comparatively less over here.

Most places here have dual flush toilets - even public washrooms, no automatic flush which took a bit to get used to. We don't have a dual flush toilet which is a bit of a bother. I think our apartment is the first place I've been without one.