By Brian Roffey Engineer at CostWatch Ltd.
Water is one of our most basic needs. In this modern age it can be easy to take the water we use every day for granted. In recent times, due to unprecedented droughts, the importance of water conservation has been brought back into focuson a global scale.
In the Cayman Islands, water has never been easy to come by. Thanks to modern technology, it’s now available in plenty, though it comes with a high price tag and burns fossil fuels. This makes water conservation not just an environmental concern but also a financial one. Here are some practical tips for scaling back water use.
Irrigation can easily become a household’s largest water cost. Here are a few water conscious options to consider:
- Go ‘desert scape’, using drought resistant plants, gravel and rock features. This approach can create a beautiful setting, without the drain on water resources.
- Using artificial turf can still provide that lawn look and feel, without the water demand and upkeep. Even going partially synthetic can result in significant water savings.
- Install sensors and intelligent controls that prevent watering when it’s not needed.
- Speak to your landscaper and explore the options. You may find the money saved on water makes the expense of upgrading to a sustainable landscape more than worthwhile.
Harnessing the Rain
Rainwater capture used to be a must and it’s looking to make a comeback. Building a full capacity cistern into a home and going completely ‘off-grid’ is an expensive endeavour (>US$30K) with a long payback (>10 years), which explains why it’s not as common as it once was.
That said, there are several solutions available today that allow us to utilise the free water from the sky at a lower price. This is not only eco-friendly but delivers extra water security during hurricane season.
For example, a 20,000-litre storage tank/bag can comfortably store the monthly rain captured by a 1,000 square foot roof space. This would provide payback in less than 10 years.
Monitoring and Leak Detection
Having set the water budget for your home, keeping track of water use will ensure you stay within it. A simple problem, like a running toilet can waste over 18,000 litres per day. Leaks in external, underground pipes can easily go unnoticed and cost thousands in water loss.
The old school way of keeping track is to check the utility meter daily and take careful note of excessive use. In the emerging world of the ‘internet of things’ there are clever products and services to do this for you, some of which will, in the case of a leak, even shut off the water automatically and send a notification.
Smart systems like these can not only deliver savings but also provide peace of mind that you are staying within budget.
Probably the most hardcore in water sustainability, greywater recycling can be difficult to retrofit into an existing home but does deliver a great conservation solution, particularly to homes with irrigation needs.
In a nutshell, this is when the same water is used twice. It’s achieved by draining used water from sinks, showers and washing machines into a holding tank where it’s treated/filtered before being used again. These systems can vary in complexity and need to be carefully designed to suit specific needs.
About 60% of household water can be recycled. Based on the budget guidelines, a family of four could produce 12,000 litres of greywater per month, equal to about US$100.
Home Water Budget Guidelines
- 1,000 litres of water costs roughly US$8.
- A typical residence consumes about 5,000 litres per person per month (US$40).
- Automatic irrigation, even for a modest lawn, typically uses 20,000-60,000 litres per month (US$160-480).
- A typical residence should budget about 4,000 litres per month (US$32) for pools and other maintenance.
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