I just received my latest water bill through the post. I had been eagerly awaiting it because I have been doing a little experiment.
For the past six months or so (which is the length of the billing period) I’ve been flushing my toilet with recycled water, or rather, it is recycled by the time I flush my toilet with it.
It’s pretty straightforward. Since I handwash my laundry in the bathroom sink, I decant the used water into a (approx.) 5 litre tub, collected after each wash and rinse ‘cycle’, and then save it until my next constitutional when I lift off the lid of my toilet’s cistern, press the lever to flush the loo, and then carefully pour in my used water once it starts filling up again.
In doing this I was keen to see how much water/money I could save.
The figures aren’t definite since the meter-reading-days can vary but my bills from Welsh Water conveniently include a usage graph, comparing three prior billing periods with the one being billed for, and there was a definite drop in usage:
That’s right, my average usage went down 0.01m3 per day during the first six months of 2018.
It’s a shame the graph’s scale doesn’t really do my ‘low’ figures justice, but reading through the more detailed figures the actual amount is 5m3 for that period compared to 8, 7 and 9 for the previous ones. My previous lowest figure was actually a 6m3 back in 2015, so I’m chuffed I set a new personal record (I was a little dubious about my water-saving-efforts making any difference.)
The concerning thing about these figures though, since I’m not wasteful with my water anyway, and I’m only one person, is that 5m3 still equates to 5,000 litres, which is 28 litres a day. That’s a lot of water for one person, and a 5-litre-a-day loo flush (est.) doesn’t make as huge a dent in my average daily usage as I thought it would (this is something I had figured out a couple of years ago when I looked into water saving). Of course such figures are relative and I’m thinking of these figures in terms of being someone in the UK; if I consider my usage as someone in a drought-ridden country without water on tap, my usage seems horrific. What’s to do?
Also, flushing my toilet in the manner as I have been of late obviously involves a few extra steps compared to just flushing the loo normally (as one typically does in the West) and walking away, but less hassle than collecting the water from outside and lugging it in ready for my next flush, and I have considered this also; I tried it a couple of times but the novelty of that wore off quickly. Instead, the collecting of waste laundry water has become a normal routine. But is it worth it?
My latest water bill comes in at £8 less than the previous one, which about an hour’s wage. But the saving spread out over the course of a month equates to £1.34 per month, 31p per week, or 4p/pee.
Included in these amounts is the service charge which, like with electricity and broadband, is something that annoys me since it can make up the bulk of a bill; even if you don’t use a service in a day you’re still paying for the privileged so it can be disheartening when you’re making an effort to use something less. It can be difficult to get out of a “I must get my monies’-worth out of this…” mentality and using something for the sake of it, like cars or mobile phones.
Collecting laundry water hasn’t been my only approach to using waste water to flush my loo.
I also collect some waste shower water, but not all of it*. Since, I have discovered, my shower will flush through about 2 litres of cold water before turning hot, and has a ‘nice’ habit of doing the same mid-way through the shower, usually once, but sometimes twice if I’m dilly-dallying, I therefore aim the shower into my collecting tub until it has relieved itself, thus providing me with a ‘free’ toilet flush the next time around.
*I did experiment with saving all shower water in the bath and decanting it out, but the amount was too little.
Since I don’t shower every day (nor do a round of laundry every day) or, at this time of year I might brave a cold shower (I can only do this after a run or sweaty bike ride) I don’t always have water to save (although a cold shower saves me the water heating money). I rarely have a bath, but when I have, and saved all of that water in the bathtub, I was able to flush my toilet for “free” for a whole week, easily. There are downsides to this though, including, explaining to visitors why I haven’t let my bath water out, and, leaving the water in the bath for a whole week leads to damp(er) walls.
I have considered collecting rain water in a water butt, and using this to flush my toilet, but, unless I can obtain such a receptacle for free, I can’t justify the cost, plus, as per my previous attempts at collecting water from outside, it was a faff. To do the job properly would involve plumming the water butt into my toilet’s plumming so the cistern fills itself up from this source (when there is rainwater available), but I’m not a plummer. Therefore, while I would be saving water, which is supposedly good for the planet, it would take me years to recover the cost.
All this when we’re apparently experiencing a heat wave here in the UK, or rather, temperatures are said to reach 25oc outside this week where I am.