To reflect this, some Canadian municipalities have a sliding scale for water billing; in Kelowna, B.C., for instance, the more water you use, the higher the per-cubic-metre cost. Becoming mindful about conserving water, then, is good for your bank balance as well as the planet.
And North Americans use a lot of water on the global scale: 350 litres per capita per day, according to worldwatercouncil.org, compared to 200 litres in Europe and just 10 to 20 litres in sub-Saharan Africa. Ready to cut back and save money? Here are 13 ways to start conserving water in your home.
1. Renovating the kitchen, bathroom or powder room? Choose low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucets. Check with your municipality or ask at the hardware store about possible government rebates and incentives to help you save money. Not renovating? Place a brick or something similar in the toilet tank to displace some of the water.
2. Sounds fussy, but turning the water off between rinses while brushing teeth or shaving really does save more than a drop in the bucket.
3. Choose baths versus showers wisely. Relative water usage really depends on how long you linger under the running water and whether the showerhead is regular or low flow.
According to consumerenergycenter.org, a regular (or older model) showerhead will pour 20 gallons (75 litres) in four minutes; a new, low-flow model, only 10 gallons (38 litres).
An average bathtub requires 30 to 50 gallons (114 to 189 litres) to fill. So if you're in the mood for a long, relaxing shower lasting more than 10 minutes, taking a bath may actually be a better option for conserving water.
4. Don't water the lawn. In fact, if possible, don't have a lawn at all: grass sucks up tons of expensive potable water. Consider planting a drought-tolerant ground cover instead of grass (ask at your garden centre for suggestions that are best for your region's climate).
If you do have a lawn to water, make sure to do it early in the morning or in the evening. When you water during the day, the sun evaporates much of the water you're pouring on the lawn -- and you pay for that.
5. Get a rain barrel and disconnect those downspouts. In many municipalities it's the law already, or it will be very soon. The rain you collect is perfect for the lawn and garden, even for hosing down the car or lawn furniture.
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6. Install a water meter so you don't pay for more than you actually use. Many homes' water consumption is not individually metered, so your city just estimates your use and bills you accordingly. But why should you pay for more than you use?
A personal meter means you'll only ever pay for actual consumption. It's also a great way to really see how much water you use. Check with your municipality about installation.
7. Don't wash your dishes under running water -- fill the sink instead. If you have a dishwasher, use the water-saving cycle.
8. Save water and spice up your love life, too, by sharing the shower. The couple that bathes together saves together.
9. As the kids are still OK with it, plop 'em all in the bath at once. Makes your job easier, too.
10. Stop buying bottled water. Instead, if you're not happy drinking straight tap water, install a water filter under the kitchen sink or purchase one of several designs, sizes and makes of water filter jug. Get a few reusable bottles and get in the habit of packing water with you.
11. This is really eco: Some visionaries are installing gray-water (household waste water) capture and recycling systems. The systems are new and expensive, but it's something to think about. Prices are bound to come down as the technology becomes more common and available. Find more information at oasisdesign.net.
12. Don't run the dishwasher or laundry machine for just a couple of items -- wait until you have a full load.
13. Don't use precious potable water to wash your driveway and sidewalk -- sweep them.
According to the City of Toronto, the average price of water in Canada is about 86 cents for 1,000 litres -- that's less than a penny a litre, though when we're talking about everyday saving, every penny counts.
But we can't expect that unrealistic bargain to last forever. In fact, a recent report by the Conference Board of Canada suggests that it's only a matter of time before we're all paying much more for water.
In most towns across Canada, the water meter reader still comes by and reports your home's consumption -- if you even have a meter -- but, in some municipalities, that's about to change.
Toronto, for example, is looking at “Smart Meter” technology, which will automatically record and transmit usage -- every drop will be accounted for. Add to that an aging water infrastructure that needs to be upgraded (we'll be footing the bill) and it's clear that getting into some water-saving habits now is a very good idea.
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