Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Saving water - is it really worth it?

Like all of us, I've been absorbing for years the maxims around saving water: it's a scarce resource, reduce-reuse-recycle, rainwater is better for the plants etc etc.

So I've spent a lot of time, and a fair amount of money, installing water butts and devising water-saving devices in my garden.

Indoors, I'm pretty frugal with water anyway: I only ever use the short 15-minute cycle on the washing machine (it takes 22 minutes, I've timed it, but heyho); when I ask for hot water, my combi boiler takes 25-30 seconds to get the hot water all the way down to the tap, so I catch that otherwise wasted water (easily 4 litres, shocking!) in 2-litre milk cartons with the tops cut off for easy filling, then use it to water house plants, rinse off the sink, rinse out packaging prior to putting in the recycle bin, and so on.

I did, for a while, try the practice of not flushing the loo unless there were solids involved ("if it's yellow, let it mellow: if it's brown, flush it down") but I found that, here in this hard water area, the loo would quickly start looking stained and disreputable, so I gave up on that.

But outdoors, I use a lot of water, as I have a lot of plants to look after, and small plants in small pots need to be watered.

Why am I bringing  this up now?

Well, I have a water meter, as any sensible person would do. I say that, because I pay on average £140-160 per year, split over two bills. A friend two streets away, who has the same size household as me but does not have a million plants in pots to water every day, does not have a water meter, and pays over £700 per year. That's a whopping difference. Especially considering how much water I pour onto my plants!!

My bill for the summer half-year is usually about 15 or 16 units of water, and it costs me about £70-85: the amount doesn't seem to bear any relation to the actual amount of water used, as most of the charge is the standing charge, which they make as deliberately confusing as possibly by a) splitting it up into standing charge for fresh water, and then a different standing charge for wastewater: and b) by invariably changing their prices mid-way through the billing period, so you get four or more lines of pricing...

...anyway, you get the picture, an average of 15/16 units of water, costs me £70-£80 or so.

This recent bill arrived, and I was interested to see if it showed any reduction, as I have installed water-catchers under my plant benches, so I can re-use the water that would otherwise just fall between and through the pots: and I now have six water butts, some of them with taps, some of them with hoses attached, so I can use as much rainwater as possible. I wondered if all these measures would be reflected in my water usage.

Well, hooray and cheers, this time I only used  6 units of water. Six!! Massive reduction! I'm so proud!

How much do you think the bill was, though.

I'll tell you, it was £64.08.

All that effort, all those water butts bought (and they're not cheap), all that staggering about carrying them out to the car (flaming awkward things to handle, I can tell you!): all that building of stout wooden stands to get them high enough that I can use the syphon principle to water my plants - and how much did I save? A fiver.

I more than HALVED my water usage, and saved five quid!!

No wonder most people don't bother...

Of course, I have the  pleasure of knowing that I have Done My Bit, I've massively reduced how much expensive treated water I use, and my plants are enjoying the nice fresh rainwater instead of the horrible chlorinated stuff.

So saving the planet I may be - but saving money I am not!

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