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"Save water. Shower with a friend" - it was a great bumper sticker and not a bad idea.
But these days, saving water around the home has become a far more serious business. More than a bit of soapy fun, it's about changing ingrained behaviour patterns; it's a commitment to using water efficient appliances and devices; and for renovators and home builders it can mean an investment in water tanks, plumbing and recycling systems that capture water and 'mine' the sewers.
The cheapest way to dry up your water demand at home is to change your behaviour. The trouble is, changing behaviour is not always as easy as it sounds. There's a curious disconnect between what people think they do, and what they actually do.
Geoff Cumming, a psychology professor at La Trobe University in Melbourne, says "Attitude is only indicative of people's behaviour. The relationship in practice is often more complex."
Often people say they might be good at doing something; but long ago that behaviour had lapsed, or they are too embarrassed to admit even to themselves that it's not strictly true, he says.
So take a long hard look at yourself and be honest: are you really doing it? Or do you just think you are?
According to Maxwell Maltz, an American author of self-help books, a good way to learn new habits is to consciously carry out the behaviour for 21 days in a row; by the end of the month, it should be on its way to becoming part of you.
Around the house, there are many little jobs that can be knocked off in a weekend to help stop our most precious commodity from going down the gurgler.
- Low-flow shower-heads save lots of water (and electricity) and are a cinch to install.
- Ask yourself: is there a leak in the house? It can waste dozens of litres of water a day, so you need to track it down.
- Read water meters and bills regularly to identify sudden increases.
- A 'night flow' test can provide some good clues too. Water use should be nil while everyone is asleep, so if your water meter inches up overnight, someone has either left a tap running or you've got a leak.