By Rob Paddock
Rob_PaddockIf you live in a sectional title scheme, you can give yourself a pat on the back. By choosing to live at a higher density, nine times out of ten you waste far less water per person than your average home in the suburbs. Why? Because suburban gardens consume as much as 40% to 60% of all the water used in a home. This is treated, drinkable water that costs ratepayers money to purify. We need to think carefully about using it to water the garden.

Owners with gardens (or the scheme’s communal garden maintenance staff) can be more efficient by watering during the coolest part of the day, using a drip irrigation system, composting regularly and adding mulch to the garden beds. Where a hosepipe is used to water a garden, a controlling device, such as a sprayer, should be attached to the hose end.Some indigenous plants do not require watering at all, except during the plant’s establishment. The more “water wise” owners make their gardens from the start, the easier and cheaper it will be to keep them beautiful in the long run. Chat to your local nursery salesperson to find out which plants in your area are the most water wise.

If your scheme has a lawn, it is advisable to replace the more common Kikuyu grass with the drought-resistant Buffalo grass. This grass requires half the amount of water and is very low maintenance. The lawns at Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town (which consist of indigenous grass species) are only watered once a week at night for three months of the year, in summer. Otherwise, these lawns rely on rain to survive and they manage exceptionally well.

The other big waster – toilets

The amount of water used by your toilet can easily be reduced with good maintenance and simple water-saving initiatives. Older toilet cisterns with a siphon flushing system hold between 9 litres and 12 litres of water. Modern toilet cisterns hold about 6 litres of water. Converting your toilet to a multi-flush (which flushes for as long as the handle is held down) or dual-flush system (long and short flush) can result in savings of up to 20% on your water bill. You can also reduce your cistern volume by placing a bottle or bag that displaces water into your cistern.

Dual flush: To install a dual-flush system, a new dual-flush toilet cistern must be installed. This costs about R1500 for the entire system. Dual flush systems require higher levels of maintenance than the multi-flush system.

Multi flush (interruptible flush): This is a simple system that lets you control the flush volume. As soon as you let go of the toilet handle, it will stop flushing. This can save you more than 50% of your flushing volume. An existing toilet can be retrofitted with a multi-flush system. The approximate cost is between R60 and R450.

Testing for toilet leaks

A leaking toilet can waste up to 100 000 litres of water in one year. These leaks raise your water consumption, waste a huge amount of water and end up pushing you into a higher water tariff bracket.

Here are three simple tests to help you find out if your toilet is leaking. Be sure to wait 20 minutes before you do these tests if you have just flushed the toilet.

  1. Listen for water trickling into the toilet bowl.
  2. Press a piece of toilet paper against the inside back surface of the bowl. If it gets wet, you probably have a leak.
  3. Put 15 drops of food colouring into the toilet cistern. If the water in the toilet bowl colours after 15 minutes, there is a leak.

If any of these three tests are positive, it is advisable to contact a qualified plumber to inspect your cistern further and take the appropriate steps to fix the leak.

Article reference: Volume 5, Issue 4, Page 4

This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution license.