The one in which I am saving water
Out of all the water in the world, only a tiny proportion of it is fresh and available for human consumption. Some parts of the world have low rainfall and an obvious need to conserve water, but in countries like the UK unexpectedly low water levels put pressure on ecosystems in rivers, lakes and wetlands.
Another reason would be the massive energy cost of treating the water and then moving it around the system.
Jug by the sink for collecting dregs of water and the end of the coffee pot for plant watering. I put the coffee dregs on the blueberries which may or may not make the soil more acidic...
We all know about turning the tap off when brushing your teeth (or when trying to remove the ice lolly mould from your homemade lolly in our house) and I water the plants with boiled egg water and we have a shower timer, and water butts in the garden to catch rainwater but I've been wondering if we really need all this drinking quality water? Water doesn't need to be that clean to flush the toilet but what about washing floors and windows, laundry, washing the car (my husband thinks this is more important than I do) and even bathing or showering? (Although websites are keen to point out that we delicate Brits are so used to immersing ourselves in cleaned water bathing in rain water may be too much for us. Having seen the puddles and streams my children spent their early years sitting in, I think we'll be fine in this house.)
Unsurprisingly a quick google search for using less treated water throws up mostly Australian sites. We're so accustomed to having too much water here that having to ration it is a bit of a novelty. People still talk about the last serious drought and that was in 1976. I remember my dad storing demijohns of water in the bath.
So as a rainwater harvesting system is, sadly, out of the question, so what can I do? Installing our water butts after we moved house 3 years ago has taken a while but there are 2 1/2 attached to downpipes now and I'm working on the others. The ones on the greenhouse get used for the vegetable garden and duck pond and the one on the decking gets used for the vegetables I squeezed into what is ostensibly the more ornamental area near the house.
Old olive containers re-purposed as water butts
I need to get one attached to a downpipe on the front of the house for plants in the front garden and car washing. On the rare occasion we wash the outside windows we could use that water too. (I've just read that some professional window cleaners buy filtered rainwater because it's less likely to streak! So there you go. Added incentive not to use tap water.) If I attach the foot of one of my youngest's old school tights over the diverter that attaches the drain pipe to the barrel that should stop any grit entering the water butt because I know husband will be concerned that the car paintwork will get scratched...
I think I can also fit a water butt by the back door where I can easily get water for more plant watering plus floor washing and hand washing clothes. I'm as lazy as the next person and would rather not lug buckets of water up and down the garden to do a chore I'm more than happy to put off anyway.
All this water can go back onto the garden as long as we haven't used any chemicals in it. I wash windows with vinegar, so that's okay. Car washing water would have to go down the drain.
We have a bucket in the bath/shower upstairs to catch warm-up water and then to flush the loo with but the downstairs loo has a sealed cistern lid and is too tiny for a bucket of rainwater even if I could talk the rest of the family into doing it. We already do the 'if it's yellow' thing, so I think I will put my energies into planning a composting toilet in the back garden.
This book is a very interesting read. It was printed in the early 2000's and it claims that 1.4 million pounds of nitrogen a year is flushed away by the British public. That's possibly enough to fertilise more than 2 million acres of maize. As it is, much of it probably remains in the waste water after it is treated leading to overgrowth of algae in water ways which suffocates water life. At the same time, the farming industry spends millions (billions?) on buying artificial nitrogen fertilisers manufactured using fossil fuels. Some countries have made the connection and closed the loop; I believe some areas in Scandinavia are trialing collections of urine for large scale plant feed. Whilst I'm waiting for my local farmers to set up a scheme for that though, I've been doing it in my garden. I think it warrants a separate post (and I'd like to do a bit of a trial and comparison) but it's easy to get the male members of the family to pee on the compost heap, there is a bucket in a discreet corner (don't want to scare the neighbours!) for me and no need to flush afterwards.