Water bills are coming – are you ready?

Win a watering can with your water-saving suggestion. We have two to be won. Photo – Michael Jeans.

With the first mock bills coming out to Cambridge residents next month, Claire Castle sat down with Smart Water coordinator Cath Battersby and Waipa District Council demand management officer Renée Coutts to talk turkey about trimming water usage.

First up, I need to say that I have been quietly panicking about the advent of water bills, with the first of two mock bills coming out next month.  I have terrible water pressure, and one look at some examples of corroded galvanised pipes full of holes at the council office was enough to convince me that I have pipes like these and that they are leaking like a sieve. Galvanised pipes made way for high density alkathene, early high-density polythene, copper or PVC in the 1980s, after my house was built.  I bit the bullet and looked at the meter.  I didn’t have to take a reading and come back later, it was actually moving before my eyes, despite there being no water-using appliances at work inside.

I’m looking into getting that fixed, but in the meantime, I was also keen to find out how I can reduce my water usage without taking dust baths or washing my clothes while I’m in the shower.  I’m keen, but there are limits.

Cath and Renée kindly came over to my house for a chat about all things water, and both were quick to point out that saving water doesn’t have to be a difficult and depressing task. A good place for everyone to start, they said, was by trimming showers down to 4 minutes with the help of a shower hourglass or the timer on a phone. Or one song on Spotify.

Figures from council show that if everyone in Cambridge reduced their time in the shower by just two minutes, it would save an average of 360m3 of water per household, every day.  Which is a lot. Based on an average flow rate of 12 litres per minute, that is the equivalent of filling 13 buses every day, 4.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools each month and 53 of those same pools every year.  And with no discernible suffering.  As an added bonus, given that hot water normally accounts for around 30 per cent of a household’s power bill, shortening time spent in the shower will also save you money there, too.

As for the age-old shower versus bath debate, Cath said that it all depends on how long you spend in the shower.  “If you’re spending more than 10 minutes in the shower, you’re better to have a bath,” she explained.

And there are also ways of retrofitting exiting tapware to save water, such as aerators that screw onto taps and showers.  To find out if your shower could take an aerator, put a bucket in the shower and if it fills up in under a minute then it’s a good candidate.  Otherwise your pressure might be too low.  Talking about how to save water and changing my mindset that water is free has certainly got me thinking.  If electricity was on a flat rate, I’m sure we would be leaving lights on all over the show, but it’s not and so we don’t.  Same thing with water.  I have even taken to tipping water bottles and half-drunk glasses of water into a watering can to go onto the garden.  Because before long, I’ll be paying for every drop.

For more information on how you can save water, head along to www.smartwater.org.nz.

Cambridge News has two nifty watering cans and shower hourglasses to give away – just email your top tip for saving water to [email protected] and we’ll pick the two we like the best.  Competition closes February 26.

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