Practical notes on how to save water on...

Monday, 1 October 2012

What's in your shampoo?

The above link is a really interesting database, called EWG, that informs you about what chemicals are in your shampoo, shower gel, creams etc etc and provides informative ratings: 10 being BAD and 1 being GOOD. These ratings help to give you an indication of the ecological impact of your toiletries. Basically the more unpronounceable ingredients in your cleaning product means a higher likelihood of harm to plants, regardless of whether this water ends up in your backyard or the nearest river.

If you want to use greywater recycling, by using laundry or bathwater for watering your garden, remember that natural plant based toiletries or laundry soap will be better for the plants your garden.  Washing machines are so fast at spinning, normal laundry may require no washing powder at all! If you think I am joking why don't you try it for yourself?!  A warning about crops: do NOT spray plants you are going to eat with greywater but direct water onto the soil so that the soil can act as a natural filter as the water drains down into the ground.

In the Lake District, in Cumbria, North England, there is a campaign called "Love Your Lakes" to encourage people to choose laundry powder that avoids phosphates, as phosphates cause the growth of blue-green algae in lakes like Windermere. Blue-green algae can take over rapidly and destroy habitat for other aquatic plants and animals.  Many mainstream laundry powder labels are now getting on board with this and also look out for:

Faith in Nature

Wave by Earth Friendly Products .... see here


For more information on the "Love Your Lakes" campaign see the link below:

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Water Use Survey

Hello, if you have enjoyed reading my posts on how to make your own rainwater harvesting system or how to save water then please spare a few minutes to answer some questions on water use.  I am starting a new business, developing a water saving device and I am interested to know what conditions are like in other countries outside of the UK. Its hard to get up to date information on water use in other countries so I thought I would write my own quick survey -it only has 10 questions. As so many people read this blog from the USA, India, Canada, Australia and beyond I would REALLY appreciate it if you could share this survey with your friends as it would help me to understand the international marketplace for my invention.  

Take the Water Survey

You will need your last water bill to help you answer some of the questions

Thank you for your help!  

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Water Widgets Review

Free water saving widgets for your bathroom - are they actually useful?

Eaga Shower Smart

The Shower Smart is a type of collar that you fit to your shower hose to restrict the flow of water. It comes in a kit with a plastic bag, which you use to test your shower before you fit the collar. You fill the bag for 5 seconds via the shower head. After this, you need to look at how much water you have collected -if its above the high tide marker on the bag then you should install the Shower Smart. I tested both the shower over the bath and the power shower in the shower cubicle at my house. To my surprise, both of these passed the test, with water in the bag lower that the marker line. The power shower is an aerated type where air is entrained in the shower head to create additional pressure, to feel like a power shower without loads more water being used. The Eaga Shower Smart is only useful to a small number of households as you have to a high flow shower and it can't be an electric shower, and it HAS to be fitted between the tap block and the shower hose. Presumably shower smart can cause faults in electric showers by increasing the resistance in the shower hose. Eaga claim that the Shower Smart will reduce the shower flow rate to 7.7 litres/min.

Littlefoot Water Widget

 A rival free product is the Littlefoot Water Widget. Now, I couldn't get this to work properly water, it just sprayed out of the side hole but I think this is because my shower is not sufficiently high pressure to try this out. This is another collar type device that restricts water flow but it is fitted just behind the shower head. This can be fitted to a wall mounted shower or a shower with a hose, although not all wall mounted showers will be adaptable. The Water Widget is also NOT suitable for electric showers and not suitable for low flow showers (they say low flow means anything less than... (yep, you guessed it), 7.7 litre/minute)

 I would encourage you to test your shower to see what the flow rate is currently. I suspect more people have a shower that feels a bit pathetic than the impressive power shower type. Electric showers are the box on the wall type. These only have a cold water connection, as the water is heated in the box and forced through the shower head. This box is usually without an internal pump so the showering experience can be a bit dissappointing as it relies on the pressure in the cold water line. This is often the case if you have a cold water tank in the loft, as its the difference in height between the shower head and the tank that really matters, the higher the tank the better. Showers with a mixer tap will be supplied hot and cold water which is accurately mixed by a thermostatic mixer tap to the correct temperature. This type of shower is taking water directly from the hot water system that supplies all the taps. It is this type of shower that the Water Widget is targeting, and will more likely have a higher flow rate than the electric type.

  Rate Your Shower

 You don't need a silly plastic bag to test your shower, just catch the water in a bucket and time 5 seconds. Pour the water into a measuring jug and note down the millilitres. Repeat this a few times to see if the answers are the same. [click on the diagram to zoom in]

 (millilitres x 12) / 1000 = litres/min

 7-10 litres/min = OK,

 10-14 l/min = too high,

 14-30 l/min = power shower zone, way too high!

 By fitting the Eaga Shower Smart or Littlefoot Water Widget you will be simply restricting the flow of water, which will mean you use less water per minute but this may mean you have a dissappointing shower experience. Personally, I LOVE a good power shower! If you want to save water without compromising the experience try some of these free products first and if you're not satisfied try out a aerated shower head like Ecocamel  .  If you are fitting a new bathroom anyway... chose a product like the Hansgrohe Raindance Ecosmart. Hansgrohe claim this reduces the flowrate from 14 l/min to 9 l/min (at 3 bar pressure) without compromising the power shower experience. Look out for the new Ecosmart ratings in the UK, now on showers and taps to help you compare water saving products.

 Another couple of free things I got given at the supermarket are the "hippo" and a Littlefoot Flush Bag, these both sit in the WC cistern to reduce the flush volume. These shouldn't be fitted if you have a new 6/4 litre toilet as it will probably not give an effective flush, see my previous post on this . The Hippo is the better product for older 13 litre cisterns as this displaces 2.5-3.5 litres per flush, whereas the Littlefoot only displaces 1.2 litres. You don't really need these products to do this, you can just use some old comestics bottles filled with water to do the same job. Try it!

All in all these products reduce fresh water consumption but do nothing to embrace the water use hierarchy, (see the water hierachy diagram) .  They are only scratching the surface of the problem, for example: toilets do not need drinking standard water to flush, this is madness!

for more info on these products, see these links:

Hansgrohe Raindance Ecosmart

Ecocamel aerated shower heads


the "hippo"

NB: If you have a disappointing shower with a pathetic drip-drip experience, then my advice is to try descaling the shower head. Do this by taking the shower head to bits (unscrew from the hose, and unscrew anything else if it comes apart)  and sitting it in a bucket of Coca-cola overnight. If this descaling didn't work, you need to investigate your water pressure, 3 bar is good and anything less than 1 bar is bad news. 0.3 bar is the minimum recommended for a lot of shower heads/outlets, and this is roughly equivalent of 3 metres of vertical drop between your water tank and the shower head, i.e. electric showers on the ground floor with the cold water tank in the loft are always better than electric showers on the first floor.  If you can't achieve this, then the only option is to fit a pump.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Run your washing machine on rainwater

For World Water Day I am going to explain how to connect your washing machine to a rainwater tank, (see my previous post on how to set up a rainwater tank). WHY do this? Answer = because your washing machine needs about 50 litres of water (5 buckets) for every load, this water does need to be clean but it does NOT need to be drinking water standard. Providing rainwater is filtered correctly this is safe to use in your washing machine. In order to connect a washing machine to a rainwater tank, to make use of rain for washing clothes, a few things need to be considered first:

[1] Your washing machine is expecting water to be available at normal main network water pressure. If the water pressure is too low or the flow of water is too sluggish then the machine may fail to start. This can happen if your tank is too far away or the tank is nearly empty. This normal pressure varies widely, it depends where you live in relation to the network pumping station. In the UK it is commonly 1 to 3.5 bar, although it can be up to 10 bar. In continental Europe, water pressure above 3.5 bar is more common. Now you're thinking -what is 3.5 bar anyway? -this is the same pressure you get from a tap that takes water from a tank 35 m higher than the tap (1 bar = 10 metre head height between the tank level and the tap). So if you have a very hilly site you can get creative to achieve this, but for everyone, else a pump is required.

[2] The machine is intended to handle mains network water. This is high quality, drinking standard water. However it is perfectly safe for rainwater to be used as a substitute for washing clothes providing that air pollution is not a major problem (acid rain and smog are no longer a problem in the UK) -and- that the collected water is well filtered to remove debris.

So in order to get water from your rainwater storage tank to the washing machine, you will probably need a pump. (The exception to this is if the tank is higher than the washing machine, e.g. your tank is on the ground floor and your washing machine is in the basement.) I recommend using a power shower booster pump for this purpose as these are already fitted with a pressure sensor.

The pump will automatically switch on when the washing machine starts and automatically switch off when the washing machine stops drawing water. This should provide adequate pressure to ensure the water flow reaches the washing machine. (The more bends and connections and the smaller the pipe diameter and the higher the washing machine, all increase the work load or pressure head demand on the pump).

These shower pumps (like this one) are connected to the supply lines normally for both hot and cold connections. You will need to join the two inlets together so that they both accept cold rainwater. The same will need to be done to the two outlet lines, to create one out-going line.

(Click and zoom to see my sketch of the whole setup more clearly...)

The rainwater tank should include mesh filters to remove debris and an auto mains refill float valve (see my previous post on this). It is also possible to collect the drainage water expelled from the washing machine if you live in a particularly drought prone area (like England! Yes we are in drought right now). You can use this to:

[a] water the garden -make sure you use biodegradable laundry soap! I recommend soda crystals or ECOballs.  Actually you can get away WITHOUT using washing powder at all with a normal load.  Modern machines are so good, the spinning action is the main thing that cleans the clothes.  This really is the greenest option.  Maybe save the laundry powder for just sports kit? Don't water crops directly with the waste water, make sure you direct the water onto the soil only and vary which part of the garden you water. If your plants start to look worse then use the no soap option.

[b] reuse water from the second wash or rinse cycle to feed back into the first cycle of a second laundry load. This involves manually setting up a bucket to collect drainage water and manually pouring this into the rainwater storage tank for reuse. You will need to time the washing machine to work out how long this takes to finish each cycle, to get the hang of this.

Most washing machines are designed to pump drainage water back up to worktop height to ensure the drainage water is properlly expelled from the machine, therefore the drain pipeline does not have to be right down at floor level to do its job. Fitting a WATER TWO drainage valve in the drainage pipeline from the washing machine can be really useful for both of the above tasks, to avoid the need to lift the flexible drainage hose out of the fixed drainage pipe and risk water spilling everywhere whilst you direct it into the bucket. It's OK to arrange the drainage line so that there is enough room to fit a bucket underneath the drainage pipe next to the washing machine with a T junction.

Monday, 12 March 2012

WaterAid Triathlon Update

My online sponsorship total is up to the £200 mark now after some "facebook" action, I am delighted. If you haven't voted already check out the campaign for tasteful triathlon attire on my triathlon page on facebook. If you too feel that more tasteful attire is needed in the world of triathlon feel free to vote for your favourite outfit. click here to vote

WaterAid is a very worthy charity. They give support to improve sanitation in many areas of the world, including helping victims of the recent Cyclone Giovanna in Madagascar. The cyclone has destroyed over 90% of latrines, due to heavy floodwater. WaterAid are working on the ground, trying to improve access to clean water for drinking and safe access to temporary toilets to prevent the spread of water borne diseases.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Drought Summit

We get plenty of rain, so what's the problem? Drought Summit as Rivers in England Dry Up

Yesterday, Caroline Spelman, Environment Secretary , hosted a Drought Summit to discuss the impending water shortage over the next 6 months for the South East, East Anglia and the East Midlands. The meeting involved stakeholders such as farmers, wildlife groups and water companies, to discuss solutions. This is the current situation:


West Sussex
East Sussex

Ms Spelman, in an interview with BBC Radio 4, was asked "what can we do to save water, get water meters?" she replied "Water meters can be helpful, particularly for households with a small number of occupants or a reduced income. But the most important thing is to save water. Everybody knows how to save water."

In my opinion this is a short sighted approach from the Environment Secretary. Two-thirds of all water consumption in the UK is from households. Consumers have to be motivated to use less water. Water meters make people realise how much water they are using and also allow people to pay for exactly what they use. This means consumers will be motivated by spending less as well as a moral concern about environmental impact.

In the same way that counting calories helps overweight people eat less, reading the water meter will give people a better awareness of how much water they use each month in comparison to other households and benchmarks.

In the UK we have a perception that drought doesn't happen here, it doesn't affect us, as the UK is a cold and wet country. We get plenty of rain, so what's the problem? The real underlying problem is human population. There is a dense, urban population in the UK, particularly in the South East, creating a huge water demand. Looking back at the last 100 years, UK population has increased from 38 million in 1900 to 59 million in 2000, this staggering 55% increase or extra 21 million people, are putting pressure on the water companies to over-abstract water from all fresh water sources. This has already caused long term damage to the environment and wildlife with significant loss of animal and plant species, particularly for wetland and river habitats.

From the map below (click on the image to zoom in) you can see how the work of water companies impacts on freshwater resources. There are many areas with no spare capacity (orange to red areas) and many areas are seriously over abstracted (red areas) which harms the local ecology. Almost every inch of the country is being used to collect ground water to serve the public water network.

Unfortunately UK consumers are in a weak position to react to this drought warning for the following reasons:

- fixed tariffs, often set annual, no penalty for high water use
- water meters are not mandatory, most people have no idea how much water they use
- few water saving products available that offer real savings
- prohibitively high cost of installing rainwater recovery systems

I see the only way to curb this demand in the short term is to motivate households to save water e.g. by making water meters mandatory, promoting the use of water butts for gardening, higher tariffs for excessive water use. There are many ways to reduce water consumption but most people are not motivated to do this currently as the perceived consequences of carrying on as normal are nil. In the long term the government will need to reduce UK population to a sustainable level that puts less strain on the available water resources.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

WaterAid update


I am now up to £110 with sponsorship money for my triathlon. Recent training for the event has involved 2 days of ice climbing in Scotland and a 23km walk in the snow from Altrincham to Tatton Park and back. I was glad Tatton Park were open when we got there, it was freezing, it was also great to see the herd of deer sitting in the snow. If you want to support WaterAid please go to my sponsorship webpage, overseas donations are accepted. click here to donate

WaterAid is an international non governmental organisation focused exclusively on improving poor people’s access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation. WaterAid works in Africa, Asia and the Pacific region and campaigns globally to realise a vision of a world where everyone has access to these basic human needs.

Please help me to work towards a world where everyone can have access to clean, safe water

Just £15 can give the life changing gift of clean water to one person. See what else your donation could provide:

• £12 can buy two taps for a village waterpoint
• £15 can give the gift of water to one whole person
• £20 can buy 25 metres of pipe
• £46 can buy a family toilet
• £50 can buy a handpump
• £60 can buy a rainwater collection jar
• £100 can buy a soap making business for two people

So please, dig deep and help me hit my target!

If you feel like joining me in my challenge for WaterAid, email for more information.