Many of us have grown up with “don’t let the water run”, along with “turn off the lights when you leave the room”. But in a country with seemingly endless water resources and the lowest energy prices in many years, how many of us actually implement this mentality daily?
The summer of the future is warm and dry
Even if we’re not at immediate risk of running out of water here in Norway, the summer of 2018 was the driest in a hundred years. Who knows what the summer of 2020 will bring? There is no longer any doubt that the climate crisis will create warmer conditions, resulting in water being evaporated more easily.
This spring, we have been washing our hands obsessively and will need to keep it up for many months to come. As we have also learnt that our handwash routine should last for 40 to 60 seconds, let’s start right now by turning off the tap while we are soaping, rubbing and singing (some suggest we hum along to a mid-length song while washing).
Repeat when brushing your teeth and remember to teach your kids to do the same, if they aren’t already. As for showers, it should be turned off while you’re washing your hair or shaving. And how about finishing off with cold water? It not only saves power but is great for the skin, thoroughly waking you up in the process!
The status quo
According to the environmental organisation Naturvernforbundet, over 40% of our total water consumption happens within our households. The average water use per person in Norway is around 180 litres a day, including drinking water, cooking, laundry, showers and toilets. To compare, a sprinkler uses between 1000 and 1500 litres per hour, meaning that a standard sprinkler uses as much water in only an hour as 10 people use in 24 hours!
Naturvernforbundet recommends trying to use a maximum of 100 litres of water per day, twice as much as the UN’s standard per person.
What can we do now
Several countries with a less generous water supply, like South Africa which has been tormented by a row of serious droughts, have developed systems for collecting and reusing greywater, i.e. non-potable water from washing machines, dishwashers, showers and sinks. In Norway, we rarely have a way of reusing household water, but there are easy ways to use drinking water that hasn’t been drunk. For instance, use leftover water from mugs and kettles, even from your cooked potatoes, to water your plants.
If you are doing the dishes by hand, you can use the dirty water for your plants as long as you use mild and degradable dish soap (something we recommend anyway). If you are using watering cans in your garden or balcony, leave them outside to collect rain water to use for your flowers and herbs. It’s even easier than filling them from the tap!
Basic water-saving tips
There are plenty of ways to cut back on your daily water use. Here are five more suggestions:
- Avoid using a sprinkler to water your lawn. Normally, natural rain cycles will regulate the humidity and during a drought, sprinklers will be banned anyway. If the grass gets yellow, it will bounce back when the dry period ends.
- A shower demands a lot less water than a tub. If you do take the occasional bath, only fill the bathtub as much as needed.
- Only do the laundry and dishes when the machines are full, and not more often than necessary.
- Keep a jug of cold water in the fridge to avoid throwing out ‘old’ water or having to let the water run to get cold enough.
- Don’t flush the toilet unnecessarily.
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