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Queenscliffe Herald Article - September 2006

Saving Water Helps Our Environment

By Bob Fuller

"Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink." That well-known line from Coleridge's poem might serve to remind us that although we are surrounded by water, it's not the kind we can drink or put on our gardens. Unfortunately in recent times, the rain we rely on to fill our dams and water our gardens has just not been falling regularly and in the quantities we have come to expect. Long term records indicate that the mean annual rainfall for Queenscliff is over 600 mm (or about 24 inches). The data also shows that historically one out of every two days during the winter months has been a 'rainday'. For whatever reasons, we certainly have not been experiencing this kind of rainfall in recent times. The Geelong region water storage systems are now less than 30% of their capacity and Barwon Water has recently been compelled to introduce Stage 1 Water Restrictions to ensure that supply in coming months can be maintained adequately.

These days we use a lot of water in and around our houses. Apparently in Victoria we each use about 280 litres of water every day for domestic purposes and Australians are among the highest per capita users of water in the OECD countries. But there are many things we can do as individuals to reduce our daily water consumption. For instance, we can install all kinds of water-saving technologies. These include dual flush toilets, which now use as little as 3 or 6 litres, depending on the operation. Since toilets consume about 20% of daily water use, it makes sense to make changes in areas that will produce the biggest savings. Water efficient showerheads with a AAA rating can also have a big impact because about 25-30% of our water is consumed for personal hygiene purposes. The cost of installing many of the water saving technologies can be currently reduced through the State Government Rebate Scheme.

But we can also reduce our water usage by simply changing our behaviour. For example, cleaning your teeth under a continuously running tap for one minute can use about 1.5 litres of water. Half filling a beaker with 200 ml of water before you start brushing reduces water usage by nearly 90%. Since we perform this simple act at least twice a day, the savings are significant.

The biggest percentage of our daily household water use is actually outside the house, namely in gardens and washing cars. These tasks can safely be done with rainwater, and capturing all or some of the water that falls on our roofs can have a big impact on our daily water use. As a rough guide, every one hundred square metres of roof area (measured horizontally) have the potential to capture 5000 litres per month, assuming our long-term monthly average rainfall. The rebate scheme also applies to rainwater tank installation, which can be organised through Barwon Water. Rainwater can also be pumped into the house for use in toilets and washing machines.

Taking steps ourselves to reduce water consumption and capture rainwater will reduce the pressure to build more dams or force authorities to take other steps, all of which have negative environmental consequences. So it makes sense to be water-wise!

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