"It rains all the time in England, doesn't it? Our climate's notoriously damp. Surely we don't need to worry about water! It's not like we live in Australia!" Familiar words if you start bringing up the topic of saving water. However, because of the need for clean, treated water and the population levels in Britain's cities, water is indeed shorter than you would think and conserving water is necessary.
So what do you do?
Have short showers rather than hot baths for a daily wash – or even just give your face and hair a quick freshen up in the basin. This uses much less water than a bath. If you're really keen, you can put a bucket in the shower to catch water while you're waiting for the water to heat up. You can then use the water for whatever you fancy – watering the plants, cooking (providing the bucket was clean to start with)... However, you probably want a long hot bath every once in a while (maybe once a week) for relaxation and distressing purposes. In this case, consider trying one of the following to save water:
1: Share the bath with someone else who wants to relax and de-stress (yes – obviously, you'll have to be on intimate terms with the person in question. This isn't quite so practical if you want to have a bit of time out on your own in the bath to do spa-type things like put on a face mask or if you want to soak with a cheap paperback).
2: Leave the water in the bath. If the bath is in the same room as the lavatory, then use the bathwater to flush the loo – just keep a bucket handy. Alternatively, if you have a bathroom upstairs, put a hosepipe into the bath through the window and siphon the water out and down into the garden.
3: Don't fill the bath right to the top. You can relax perfectly well with enough water to cover you, and you'll avoid splashing all over the place.
4: Invest in a sauna – an expensive and luxurious option, but it does use less water and allows you to have a really good deep cleansing session spa-style.
Put a brick in the toilet tank, or else one of the proper "hippos" to reduce the amount of water that comes out when you flush the loo. The modern toilets that have a half flush for less substantial waste use much less water than the old type that just has a one-size-fits-all flush.
Several of these methods involve saving water by catching water in a bucket and using it to flush the loo. If you are trying these methods, you don't need to tip the water into the tank of the toilet from a bucket. It is possible to get a loo to flush by dumping water into the toilet bowl directly. Raise the lid and invert the bucket quickly into the bowl. If your aim is good, semi-throw the water into the bowl as well as tipping it in. It's the force that pushes the waste around the S-bend and down into the sewers. Pour the water from a reasonable height and don't pussy-foot around letting the water trickle in slowly – this won't work and could overflow.
This is one of the more unpleasant ways of saving water, but when it comes to flushing the toilet, you could follow the old Australian dictum: "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." I'll stick with the half-flush option and using the bucket.
Other places you can catch water in a bucket for flushing loos is the waste water pipe from the washing machine. While you'd need oodles of buckets to catch every bit of waste water that comes out of the machine as well as being very strong and fast (hmmm... that's an idea for a workout session), even if you catch only a few buckets, you can save a bit of water. Soapy water is fit only for flushing loos, but first rinse water can go on the garden or can be used for washing cars, and second rinse water can be poured back into them machine and used for washing another load. Some washing machines have a sud-saver option that saves rinse water for using in the next wash load.
If you are boiling vegetables, use less water. This helps the water get to the boil more quickly – there's less water to heat. Also consider putting a steamer above another saucepan double-boiler style to cook two menu items for one amount of water. Don't forget other low-water methods such as microwaving, poaching, frying, baking and roasting.
Catch rainwater with a tank, tub or big bucket under the down-pipe. Water that has gurgled through the gutters and pattered onto your roof is probably not the best to use for cooking and drinking – you've probably had birds perching on the roof – but it is fine for flushing loos, watering the garden, window cleaning or general house cleaning .