How much water do we use in the Top End?
Darwin and Palmerston residents consume twice as much water per person as people in other capital cities and we’re very near reaching the limit of current capacity, according to PowerWater Corporation. In 2014 we are consuming around 454 litres/person/day.
By way of comparison, Cairns (QLD) who have a similar climate to Darwin, use around 258 litres/person/day. Cairns also has higher average rainfall and a higher population. Townsville (QLD), like Darwin, is in the Dry Tropics, has significantly less rainfall per year, yet still use about 10% less water per person per day. Melbourne uses just 151 litres/person/day.
Other important factors to consider when thinking about water use is rising usage prices, service charges and the amount of electricity required to pump water to households:
- Water usage prices have increased by 73% in the last 3 years
- PowerWater spend $2.5M per year in electricity costs pumping and also treating water in Darwin
- The population of the Top End is increasing dramatically and is set to continue expanding in the coming years
- The current water usage patterns are unsustainable to support future growth
- Prices for both electricity and water will increase more and more over the years
Where is our water being used?
Through COOLmob household sustainability audits it is evident that the largest proportion of our water usage is on our gardens. This is supported by data from PowerWater which shows that in the dry season we use twice as much water at home as in the wet – because we water our gardens so much. On average, considering both seasons’ use, about 45% of our water goes on irrigation; 25% on pools/ponds; 13% on showering; 6% on washing machines; 4% on kitchen use; 3% on toilet use; 2% boats and 2% other (including leaks).
What can you do?
The best way to achieve sustainable water use is to reduce our consumption. Every savings in water consumption you make is saving you money. Some suggestions on how you can reduce water consumption are below.
Inside the home:
- Install water efficient devices into your home, such as water efficient shower heads, dual flush toilets, flush misers (for traditional toilets) or aerators onto taps
- When replacing appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers, always go for the high water rated ones (the more stars the better!)
- Use front loader washing machines as they can save up to 50L of water compared to a top-loader every time you wash
- Don’t run half empty washing machines or dishwashers
- When washing dishes use a plug instead of leaving the water running down the drain
- Stop all dripping taps (including a running toilet). Dripping taps can result in huge water losses; up to 20,000 litres a year!)
- Install aerators on all taps
- Install separate hot and cold water taps and only use hot water when you really need to (this saves energy used in heating up the hot water, as well as saving water)
- Have shorter showers – reducing your shower time from 10min to 4 min will save you 54L each shower if you have a new water efficient showerhead. If you have an old, water guzzling showerhead (using up to 20L a minute!) you will save 120L each and every shower.
- Sweep the path rather than hosing it down
- Wash the car on the lawn using either a bucket or trigger nozzle, rather than washing it on the cement (and use low-chemical cleaning products to protect the soil)
- Wash your dog and bike on the lawn as well
- If you have an evaporative air conditioner direct the water run-off onto your lawn
- Fix dripping taps immediately – a tap that drips one drop each second will waste 30 litres a day
- Use a bucket to wash your car
- Use a shut-off nozzle on your hose to adjust down to a fine spray
In the garden:
Being water wise does not mean having no garden. However, you can make your garden water-wise and dry-season tolerant.
- Re-use grey water from the laundry on the garden
- If watering the garden, avoid doing it in the middle of the day as evaporation will be highest then, and only water each part of the garden for 15-20 minutes at a time
- Choose native plant species (i.e. native to where you live) as they will be most tolerant to the local weather conditions
- Generally speaking native Australian plants are water efficient, given the dry nature of much of our continent
- If you have exotic species that require a lot of water, replace these with native plants
- Place plants with the same watering requirements together so you can water them all at once
- Use drip-reticulation watering techniques as water will be delivered directly to where it is needed
- Use the trigger nozzle on your hose
- Don’t water one spot for longer than 20 minutes
- Use mulch on your garden bed as it minimises water evaporation (and also adds more nutrients to the soil as it breaks down)
- A very short lawn means that water is likely to be evaporated sooner. Try not to keep it too short
- You do not need to water the lawn if it has been raining
- If you have a pool or a spa, always put a cover on it when it’s not in use as it’ll prevent water evaporation.
- A pool cover can come in a variety of styles to help.
A pool cover will also pay for itself in as little as 3 years due to reduced electricity consumption in pumping the pool when it is not used (for instance during the dry season). Many COOLmob households put an extra dose of chemicals in the pool at the beginning of the dry season, cover it and turn the pump off all together.