Gauteng and NW Province

Water Conservation Strategies and Tips

An extract from ‘The Water Short List: The Most Effective Actions U.S. Households Can Take to Curb Water Use’

by Benjamin D. Inskeep and Shahzeen Z. Attari

A primary reason for such high levels of household water use in the United States is a lack of meaningful financial incentives for households to conserve, as publicly supplied water is almost universally priced well below its economically efficient cost.Even though utility bills are generally modest, households may want to reduce water usage to save money on water bills, minimize their environmental footprint, or do their part in contributing to larger community conservation goals during times of shortages. Many households may therefore be motivated to conserve, but lack the knowledge, time, or resources necessary to take meaningful action to curb use. As shown by Attari, Americans also have severe misperceptions about which activities are the most effective to conserve water in their lives, where 43% of the survey respondents listed shorter showers and very few respondents listed any actions related to toilets. For a sample of 17 activities, respondents to the online survey tended to underestimate residential water use by a factor of 2 on average, with large underestimates for high water use activities.  Thus, determining whether substantial savings are readily available and easily achievable is likely difficult for the average household, given the existence of severe misperceptions of which actions are most effective and the general underestimation of how much water a variety of household activities actually use.

While copious water-saving tips are promoted by government agencies at the local, state, and federal level, as well as by water conservation organizations, the actual effectiveness of the diverse recommendations offered remains unclear. No resource to date provides comprehensive, quantitative estimates about the water savings available to the typical U.S. household from both improving appliance and fixture efficiency and changing daily habits indoors, and even less is known about the effectiveness of actions designed to reduce outdoor use. Water-saving tips are typically presented in long lists that fail to prioritize or quantify the reductions associated with specific actions. When quantitative estimates of the water savings available have been provided, they are generally limited to indoor efficiency improvements or are optimistic upper bounds rather than average savings available to the typical American household. In comparison, the potential savings available from adopting simple changes in daily habits indoors or conserving water outdoors are less certain.

More troubling, some of the so-called water-saving tips offered appear to save little, if any, water, and some egregious examples appear to actually increase water use. For example, tip #103 offered on the website of the “Water—Use It Wisely” water conservation campaign suggests “washing your face or brushing your teeth while in the shower,” which would appear to use substantially more water than doing these activities at the sink, since the maximum showerhead flow rate (2.5 gallons per minute) exceeds the maximum bathroom faucet flow rate (2.2 gpm), and it is easier to shut off the faucet than the shower to conserve water during these activities. An example of a recommendation that appears to save only a negligible amount of water is using dropped or leftover ice cubes to water plants (tips #102 and #108).

Households looking to reduce their water use are therefore left to guess the best method to achieve significant savings or to rely on incomplete information about the range and effectiveness of available options. We fill this gap by estimating the savings associated with a variety of water-conserving actions.

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Here in South Africa, we at Water Rhapsody, offer various systems to save water and money. From reducing the volume of water used for toilet flushing to taking you off the grid with rain water harvesting. It is also very important to install the correct irrigation system. Why one should have a green lawn 365 days a year is just beyond my understanding; it’s a total waste of water. If you really want a green lawn during winter then rather install our grey water recycling for irrigation system.


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