Your last four days of free water: how should you spend it?

image (4)Water charges begin on October 1st. So wash that filthy car, use up the last of those bath salts and get browsing for water butts

One in 10 of us plans to cut down on the amount of water we use for personal hygiene once charges come in, on Wednesday, according to a survey by Hotpoint. With just four days until we have to begin sacrificing cleanliness, and possibly friendships, in exchange for low water bills, it’s time to start thinking of ways to take advantage of the free water we have left.

SPLURGE

Scrub yourself up

Make the most of a relaxing bubble bath while you can. A full bath holds about 80 litres of water, which is more than half the average person’s usage for a day. Standing under the shower until your Sunday-morning hangover washes away will also be a luxury you can’t afford next weekend, so savour it tomorrow. A daily seven-minute shower will cost you €87 a year in a normal electric shower, increasing to €312 under a power shower.

Get the kids outside

If personal hygiene is becoming a luxury, paddling pools and water fights will likely be confined to rare sweltering summer days. Lest your children complain in the future that they were deprived as young kids, get the blow-up pool and plastic guns out one last time, and let them drench each other and everything around them.

Get your garden in order

A garden hose spews out 38 litres, or 19c, of water a minute. Get your power hose out before the charges begin and hope it tides you over until next summer. Give the car a wash while you’re outside. If everyone else has the same idea, you don’t want to be the only filthy car left on the road.

SAVE

Get clever about showering

Long showers don’t have to cost the earth. Scout out showers in your workplace, gym or pool, or even by a local blue-flag beach.

Ask a plumber for tips

There are plenty of ways to limit the amount of water you can use, so if you know a plumber, squeeze him for details. Aerators can be fitted to your taps; they regulate the flow by mixing air with the water, to save water without affecting your water pressure.

Toilets make up a third of the average family’s water use, but you can reduce your usage without flushing less often. Installing a dual-flush toilet can save you up to nine litres a flush, and if you’re really savvy, you can put a displacement device (or rock) in your cistern, so that it needs less water to fill up again after each flush.

Get your dripping taps checked

A tap that drips once a second all day uses about 20 litres of water a day. For similar reasons, checking for leaks should be on your list of priorities. Irish Water has promised to fix your first leak free, but this applies only to exterior leaks.

General good practice

It takes 21 days to develop a habit, so you may as well get going now. Boiling a filled kettle four times a day will cost you €15 a year, so getting to know your kettle and marking one-cup and two-cup points will help you avoid wasting water.

Only put on the dishwasher and washing machine when they’re full: a dishwasher uses 23 litres per cycle; a washing machine will eat up 65 litres a go.

Putting a water butt in your garden means you can water your plants with the rainwater it collects rather than using the hose.

Abandon all hope

If this all sounds too complicated, you can always throw caution to the wind and embrace a much smellier lifestyle. On the plus side, you’ll likely save on your social life as well as your water use, as you find the invitations to go out dry right up.

Originally published in the Irish Times Weekend Review on September 27th 2014.

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