Taking the Pressure Off Your Water Use

Water conservation is a fantastic way to reduce your ‘water footprint’. It has a positive impact on waste, reduces the need to pump water over long distances and protects against water shortages.

CAT recommends connection to mains sewerage where possible because it provides an efficient way of disposing of material that is difficult to treat on a small scale. However, you can still easily reduce your water usage using these tips:

 

Use less!

Mains water provides a clean and safe supply of drinking water but it is vital that we all reduce the waste. Using less of this resource is a better option than trying to find more of it so consider simple methods of water conservation in your home. By replacing washers and installing flow control valves you can use less water.

Many properties already use a simple rainwater butt to save water for watering the garden. This can save significant amounts of water if you’re not doing this already.

The energy used to heat water has a bigger impact than the delivery of mains water so only boil as much water as you need. Using less hot water has a large positive impact on your energy efficiency.

 

Recycle your greywater for the garden!

Greywater is any household waste water that has not been produced from the toilet. As summer approaches, you can easily recycle your greywater for the garden and reclaim some of the nutrients you might currently flush away.

You can’t store greywater because it contains fats, bacteria and other pathogens. However, a simple way to filter your water whilst reclaiming nutrients for composting is to use a straw trap. This is a basket of straw inserted into your kitchen drain. It will filter large debris and some fat from your waste water. Routinely empty the contents of the trap into your compost and replace with fresh straw.

After filtering, greywater for the garden can be left untreated, but only if biodegradable, non-toxic household cleaning and toiletry products are used in the water system. Make sure to apply the dirty water onto the soil, not the plants.

 

Compost Toilets

The average person uses 50 litres each day to flush the toilet! Recycling water for flushing toilets can save domestic water but requires treatment such as filtering and disinfectant to remove biological material and bacteria. This will probably increase your environmental impact. Installing a low flush device is much more effective. The EA has a very useful guide on re-using and harvesting water.

Another option is a dry or compost toilet. These don’t use water to flush the sewage away and composts the waste instead. A range of choices are available, either to buy or DIY. Adding the right amount of carbon-typical materials gives good decomposition and creates perfect compost for the garden. You can use sawdust, straw & earth to this effect.

Keeping urine separate is key to a successful composting toilet, otherwise they can become anaerobic and smelly. CAT runs a one-day course on composting toilets, which serves as the perfect introduction to dry toilet systems.

 

Check out CAT’s information service for more tips!

You can find loads more info about sustainable living on our website. As well as our short courses, CAT offers a free information service on all aspects of rainwater harvesting & domestic water efficiency. You can contact us by phone at 01654 705989.

There are a number of great books available. Judith Thornton’s book, Choosing Ecological Water Supply and Treatment, is a fully revised new edition of CAT’s previous publication The Water Book. Choosing Ecological Sewage Treatments is also a great resource for anyone considering off-mains treatment systems.

  • Wendy Howard

    I really don’t understand why you recommend connection to mains sewerage where possible. Not only is this responsible for polluting vast amounts of drinking-quality water and necessitating the addition of chemicals to ‘clean’ it up again, but it’s wasting an incredibly valuable resource for the soil which is desperately needed to rebuild our progressively impoverished and dying soils.

    Dry composting toilets are ridiculously simple to install if you follow Joe Jenkins’ ‘The Humanure Handbook’ methods (http://humanurehandbook.com/). No special equipment, no special buildings, no urine separators, no silly flush-toilet lookalikes that are a nightmare to clean out … Anyone can build themselves a Jenkins-style composting toilet. It’s the perfect illustration of the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle in operation. We’ve been following his methods for 4 years now with total success and our vegetable garden is starting to really reap the benefits. The only hurdle you have to overcome is the idea of dealing with your own sh*t. (Now there’s a novel concept … perhaps humanity would be less prone to littering up the planet if we took that one on board to its fullest extent.)

    And if you absolutely can’t face the idea of a dry toilet, then Anna Edey’s wastewater management methods (http://www.solviva.com/wastewater_management.htm) offer an acceptable and well-tested scaleable solution.