Using water wisely

by Farmer Liz
I've written before about water at our place, but I thought now was a good time to get into more detail after I read a post about the same topic by Frugal Queen.  She was talking about saving town water, but we have a slightly different focus.

As you know, we are not on town water or sewage, so we have to manage our water use very carefully.  We have 3 22000 L water tanks that collect water from the roof of our house and our shed, and our waste water drains into a large underground septic tank, which has to be emptied every few years.  We use all our bath and washing machine water on the garden.  We built a system to drain the grey water into a drum under the house and then pump that up to the garden, this would be even better if the garden was downhill from the house and the water could just gravity feed straight to the garden.  Using the grey water on the garden means that we don't fill up the septic tank so quickly, and we always have plenty of water for the garden.

Three water tanks (about 22000 L)
for our drinking water and the chickens

When I moved from the city, I thought I was pretty careful with water, but its amazing how wasteful I still was, because I never had to worry about running out of water.  Having our water set up like this leads to some strange behaviour.  For example, if it rains and tanks are full and overflowing, we put on a load of washing :)  When the garden is getting dry, I also try to find a load of washing.  We also become ultra conservative when the tanks are getting low, and this becomes kind of normal until we have people come to visit and we realise that we are a bit strange:
  • We only flush the toilet when really necessary (not good when you have surprise visitors! and not good when I nearly forget to flush public toilets!)
  • We only do the washing up once a day at the most.  We did have a problem with ants getting into the dirty dishes, but we solved that my leaving the water in the second sink and stacking all the dirty plates under the water so the ants can't get them (In Australia it is common to use two sinks, the first one with the detergent and the second to rinse).
  • We have very short showers (I don't even know how people use 4 minutes!) or very shallow baths
  • We only wash clothes when they are really dirty.  I wear the same "farm clothes" - jeans and shirt - for afternoon chores all week, I wear the same work uniform - jeans and shirt again - all week and then I have clean inside clothes that I wear all week too.  If I do go out into town in nice clothes, they usually get put away again unless they are dirty.  Farmer Pete wears overalls to work because work washes them, so that saves heaps of dirty work clothes.
  • We only wash towels and sheets when they are really dirty.  I used to wash all towels and sheets once a week, but when we got really low on water and were trying to get away with only one wash a week, that was something that we decided we could stretch out longer, clean sheets are a real treat now!
  • We don't wash things with water unless they really need it - like the house, the car, the veranda, they only get washed if they are really dirty, and then only with a pressure cleaner, which uses less water overall.
The most wasteful use of water in our house is running the hot tap in the kitchen, it takes forever to get hot because the hot water cylinder is on the other side of the house, this is TERRIBLE design, the hot water cylinder should always be closer to the kitchen, as it has more on/off tap use than the bathroom.  Anyway, when the tanks get really low we keep a jug in the kitchen and fill that when we are waiting for hot water, then it gets used for cooking or watering the garden.

Another thing that we do, that people find a bit weird, is we leave the bath water in the bath all day.  This means that if we need to wash our hands or need water to clean something, we can just use the old bathwater, we then drain it into the drum under the house for the garden water when its time for the next bath.

Of course that is only the water for the house, we also have dam water that we use for the cattle.  And we are hoping to get some bores at Cheslyn Rise for added water security.

What are your weird water habits?

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