Don’t let money go down the drain
How you can minimise water usage and bring down your soaring bills
Come summer and many apartment complexes in several cities may run out of water. With soaring costs of tanker water, residents tend to run hefty water bills. However, a few simple techniques can help lower your water usage and cut your bill.
Typical water usage is about 135 litres per person per day; 55 litres goes for bathing, another 30 litres towards toilet flushing, 40 litres for washing and cleaning (clothes, utensils) and another five litres each towards cooking and drinking.
You can install inexpensive water saving devices such as faucet heads, aerators, pressure regulators, low-flow shower headsand restrictors. For instance, you can retrofitdevices such as aerators to your tap. It costs about ₹100-500 and when installed in the kitchen tap, water gets mixed with air, giving a soft bubbly flow, while reducing usage.
Flushes are another big water guzzlers. You need about 11 litres of water in typical flush systems to work well, but the tank capacity may be about 19 litres. You can reduce the tank capacity by, say, inserting one or more plastic bottles that are weighed down with sand or pebbles.
Also, when washing clothes in a machine, go for ‘full loads’ rather than batches of smaller loads. Or, if you must wash only ‘small loads’, make sure you set the appropriate water levels.
Invest to save
You can also buy water-saving fittings such as ultra-low volume flush toilets. This uses only six litres of water and saves 70 per cent of water per flush — 15 per cent saving in overall daily usage. You can also consider dual-flush systems that use half or full tank flush.
Another option to consider is urinals, as they require less water. Roca, for instance, has a flush-free urinal that uses a cartridge to prevent unpleasant odours. The cartridge must be replaced every 6,000 cycles; no water is needed.
Manufacturers also offer certified green products that claim to save 2 litres per minute of water flow. These products cost a little more — for example, Parryware’s Griha (a rating system for green buildings) approved products may cost ₹140 extra.
You can also replace top load washing machine with a front load one. If you have a big family or do laundry often, consider investing in a larger-capacity machine to reduce the number of loads and save water.
To minimise water wastage from evaporation, apartments can consider covering pools when not in use. Inside the home, the simple step of using a mug instead of open tap when brushing and shaving can save a family of four about 80 litres of water per day, says A B Selvakumar, Associate Director, WEGOT Utility Solutions, which makes intelligent water-saving solutions.
Other main sources of wastage are leaks, open taps and pipe cracks. A leak of about 1 drop per minute wastes 10 litres a month. A common hidden culprit is toilet flushes. Wasting 250ml in a minute can lead to 150 litres wasted in one day, equivalent to a person’s daily water need.
Wastages can be detected with meters and sensors, says Selvakumar. If there is continuous flow of water at a constant speed, it can be considered as ‘leak’ by sensors. The facility head in an apartment complex can also be notified to shut off water supply if the water wastage is high — for example, if a tap is left open in a locked apartment. You can detect toilet flush leakages even without sensors or meters. Add a little colouring in your toilet tank and if the colour begins to appear in the bowl within 30 minutes without flushing, there is a leak.
Water from kitchen sink and washbasins may be suitable for reuse. Roca, for instance, has a washbasin combined with a toilet that reuses waste water from the washbasin to fill the toilet cistern. Selvakumar suggests that water drained from the air conditioner can be collected in a bucket or redirected to the main supply pipes. About 30 litres of water may be collected over 8 hours of use, he says.
Besides these decentralised reuse, apartments can reuse grey water from sewage treatment plants (STPs) to flush tanks and gardening, says Sangeeta Banerjee, Founder and CEO, ApartmentADDA. Some builders such as TZED Homes, do this in a big way.
With about 55,000 litres of water generated from STP and reverse osmosis system, and a similar amount from the rain water harvesting system, they do not take any water or put any water into drains, as per Alok Kuchlous, an architect who implemented the water neutrality programme.Being aware of usage is a good first step, particularly in larger communities where operations tend to be more centralised, says Selvakumar. For example, a complex in Chennai with 136 apartments reduced monthly water usage from 28 lakh litres to 17 lakh litres in two months, aided by a few factors. One, rather than include water as part of overall maintenance bill, users were billed for their usage. Two, wastage due to leaks and open taps was minimised as alerts were issued. Three, monitoring minute by minute consumption and comparison with neighbours helped raise awareness to reduce usage.