I always advise families, new and old, across Ireland to scrutinise their water habits and encourage children, in particular, to play a major part in the drive to minimise waste. As we head into the Christmas season, perhaps we can give a thought on economising with water – after all, the money will come in handy in other areas!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote the Rime of the Ancient Mariner in 1797 and was somewhat prophetic when writing "Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink."

Just over 70% of the Earth is covered by water but only 1% is usable. It is the new gold and we in Ireland are now experiencing just how precious it is when like most of the western world we are now paying for it.

Wastage is one of the critical issues that must be addressed. More water evaporates in reservoirs than is consumed by humans while the average leakage in Irish public water networks is 41% ( twice the OECD average). We have approximately 25,000 km of pipes carrying water. These pipes, mainly made of iron, were originally installed in the 19th century and need replacing, this apart from the lead poisoning risks. 

With 1.6 billion litres of water treated daily at a cost of € 1billion each year, you can see how costly it is to produce. There are 1.4 million households and 4.6 million people where the average family uses 436 litres per day or 150 litres per person. Dublin alone uses 540 million litres every day.

So we need to conserve and minimise the wastage of water. Now more than ever, not just because of the spiralling cost but because this resource is really becoming scarce.

The first thing we can do is install water-efficient fixtures and appliances saving 30% of our usage. Now let us look at the everyday normal usage of water:

  • Shower – uses between 57 and 114 litres. The average shower is 49 litres while a 7-minute power shower uses 175 litres. Cut one minute of the power shower and you save 63,800 litres per year or 112,456 pints! (Having a bath generally uses twice the water of a shower.)
  • Laundry – 132 litres or in Ireland 65 litres per cycle
  • Washing dishes by hand – 75 litres
  • Washing machine – 40 litres ( ensure full loads )
  • Shaving – 38 – 57 litres
  • Flushing toilet – 19-26 litres (presuming only one flush.. we use 33% of all water consumed flushing the toilet) 
  • Brushing teeth – 4-8 litres (6 litres used per minute. I think consumers will be more alert to that tap running once the bills start arriving. You will save 7,000 litres of water each year if you turn off the tap between brushing)
  • Dishwashers – 3 litres (full loads)

Here are a few tips to help you save water and money : 

  • Be leak-free. Fix dripping taps one drip every second adds up to c. 23 litres every day), pipes and cisterns. We will eventually be paying for our own wasted water even if there are underground leaks. Planned reforms include the obligation for all new buildings to be fitted with rainwater harvesting systems to help reduce demand. In the first year of charges, there will be funding available to repair "legacy leaks" after which you will have to fund yourself.
  • Never let the tap run (brushing teeth, shaving washing dishes)
  • Try and collect rainwater for use in the garden. 
  • Clear your gutters and collect some for garden usage. 
  • When the bills do start arriving, monitor and review for high usage. 
  • Using 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch around plants will reduce evaporation and save thousands of litres. 
  • Collect water used to wash fruit and vegetables to use on house plants and flowers. 
  • If you have to wash your car, use eco-friendly waterless products.
  • Waste not, want not - the half-hour shower should be a thing of the past!

With these tips in mind, you can now look forward to the Christmas season. 

For more financial information click on John Lowe's profile above or on his website.