Using less water

Green Lifestyle magazine

The highest level of water restrictions imposes a limit of 140 litres of water per person per day. We put the not-so-waterwise Katie Adema to the test to see if she could curb her water use to these constraints for one week.


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I don’t have much water wisdom. When asked to do this story I sat down and did some calculations and found that I use an average of 230 L of water per day (please don’t come after me for this!). To get my usage under 140 L (I’m actually aiming for 100 L for a bit of buffer room), I’m going to have to make some drastic changes. Here we go…

Day 1: Shower time

As soon as I start my week of brutal water cutting I develop the sort of flu that makes you want to stand in the shower for two hours with your head against the wall. This, coupled with my rather bad self-control when it comes to the shower, meant I only managed to turn off the taps at the six-and-a-half-minute mark, falling quite short of my four-minute goal. Even after all that, I still hadn’t been able to wash all of the conditioner out of my hair and I had to resort to wearing a headscarf.

What I learned: Practice makes perfect – it takes a bit of time to get the routine down pat.

Day 2: Take a load off

To cut down on my clothes washing, I’ve taken to walking around in gym clothes on my days off. I’ve even noticed that being in gym gear more regularly has got me feeling motivated to actually do exercise – win-win! Now, my regular load of washing has been chopped in half, down to just 70 L per week.

What I learned: It’s good to get into the habit of slipping into your comfy house clothes when you get home – taking your day clothes off means less wear and tear, and less washing.

Day 3: The ladies’ room

I remember laughing at a movie that mentioned the idea ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down’, but I’m hoping that taking this on might make up the lost litres. Apologies to my sister, with whom I share a bathroom, but this is for the greater good. I also make sure to use the half flush, and do the old 600 ml bottle of water in the cistern trick to decrease the amount of water used with each flush.

What I learned: When following the ‘mellow’ plan, be frank with the people you’re sharing a bathroom with, and make sure they’re fine with it.

Day 4: Just eat it

Saving on dishwashing water by reducing the amount of dishes and cutlery I used while cooking and eating was quite a fun aspect of doing this challenge. One-pan wonders made making dinner easier than cooking meals that require four different pans, and I felt as if I was going back to my childhood days; eating juicy fruit on the back stairs rather than cutting it into pieces and eating it off a plate.

What I learned: Our dishwasher (when full) actually uses less water than washing up by hand (bonus!), and that using as few pans and utensils as possible when cooking meant running the dishwasher a few less times per week.

Day 5: Green thumb

Luckily, I was spared using any of my daily quota of water on my garden since it got completely drenched during some wild weather. However, having parked my car under a tree, cleaning all the leaves and tree gunk off it was unavoidable. I carefully measured out exactly 8 L of water, but scrubbing a car using a sponge and a bucket of water filled with little bits of leaves and dirt really doesn’t make it much cleaner at all. I should have thought this process through a little more by spreading the water between two buckets.

What I learned: Separating cleaning water between a few buckets means the whole lot won’t get dirty at once.

Day 6: Domestic goddess

The dreaded weekly clean of the bathroom. Instead of whipping out the mop and a bucket of water, I’ve decided a bit of spot cleaning with vinegar will surely do the trick. I’ve also decided to give the shower a quick scrub while I’m in there. However, cleaning the shower left me with only enough time
to quickly run a bit of soap over myself.

What I learned: To give the shower a quick clean while I’m in there once a week or so, but to turn the tap off while I do!

Day 7: Shower time (round two)

After failing terribly at my first attempt to cut my usual 10-minute shower by more than half, during the rest of the week I fared much better. My major breakthrough was cutting down the number of times a week I washed my hair, instead hiding ‘third-day hair’ by braiding my hair up. And then I stumbled on a marvellous solution after a suggestion to try dry shampoo. I wasn’t keen on using the not-so-eco-friendly aerosol versions, so tried shaking in and brushing out a small amount of rice flour (the main ingredient in the commercial aerosols). I’ll admit I was a little hesitant about this, but I tried it and, would you believe it, it worked!

What I learned: Even the most ingrained love for a lovely, hot, 10-minute shower can be retrained. And that homemade dry shampoo is amazing.