Eau my God: How much for water?

Water charges are a new reality. It’s the end of the line for long, luxurious baths and time to work out how best to cut down on water usage in the home

The average tap uses seven litres of water per minute, so it’s a good idea to turn it off when you brush your teeth. Photograph: Thinkstock

The average tap uses seven litres of water per minute, so it’s a good idea to turn it off when you brush your teeth. Photograph: Thinkstock


People have become very interested in water conservation, says Mark Burke of bathroom product manufacturers Roca Ireland. This is because average annual water charges are set to be around €240.

Each household will be allocated 30,000 litres free per annum. That might sound like a lot but it only amounts to a daily allowance of about one load of laundry (44 litres or more), one three-minute shower (36 litres or more) and a couple of kettles for tea.

We need to become as self-sufficient as possible, says Tony Murphy, bathroom sales manager at Tilestyle who cites an American survey that breaks down water usage in the home as follows: toilets account for 28 per cent of water consumption; another 17 per cent goes on showers; washing machines use 21 per cent, _dishwashers another 5 or 6 per cent and, surprisingly, 13 per cent is lost through leaks.

Tapping into water loss

The average tap uses seven litres of water per minute, says Damian Farrell, sales director at Ideal Bathrooms and Tiles. “When brushing your teeth don’t leave the tap running,” he says.

If your tap has an aerator you can upgrade it to use less water. Aerators cost as little as €3. If your tap doesn’t have an aerator then you should upgrade to a new tap to downgrade your water consumption.


Shocking shower statistics

Most modern showers use between 10 and 12 litres per minute, says Burke. That can make a quick three-minute shower a 36-litre experience.

He claims women spend more time in the shower, potentially draining more than 100 litres from the tank for a 10-minute shower.

But what you really need to monitor, he says, is the amount of time spent in there and remember that power showers don’t use more water but they do use more energy.

Some companies, such as Kludi, have developed shower heads that use atomised water to deliver a power shower experience that only uses 9 litres per minute.


Bathing now an indulgence

Is this the end of the bath? Burke draws himself a bath three or four times a week in an old claw foot tub that takes 215 litres to fill. He says it helps him unwind but on top of his daily shower admits it is “a bit of overkill”.

A new, shallower bath at 130cm by 70cm, compared to the classic 170cm by 70cm standard, using 85 litres against 125 litres, is one way to go. Murphy has clients who bought one to put in their utility room to bath their dog – an indulgence that may become a thing of the past.

Dishing dirt on dishwashers

Dishwashers and washing machines use a huge amount of water, says Dominic Smith of Dominic Smith Electrical. “Most manufacturers work on the basis that a machine is used five times a week but families differ in their usage.”

It makes zero sense to wash dishes by hand, says Smith. “The time spent doing [that] can be up to 550 hours per year – that’s almost 23 days or six per cent of a year spent up to your elbows in dirty water. The volume of water used to hand-wash dishes is between four and six litres per sink load.

“New dishwashers on the market can use as little as six litres to wash up to 13 full place settings. The same load by hand will require changing the water four times, which amounts to 16 litres of water used.”

Dishwashers vary in the amount of water they use per wash from the super economical six litres to as high as 17 litres. Most of the good ones use about nine litres per load, Smith says.

Then there’s also the hygiene factor. Dishwashers wash at between 65 and 75 degrees. There’s no way hands can tolerate those temperatures.

Weighing up washing machines

Washing machines guzzle water, says Aaron Duff, product and marketing manager for major domestic appliances at Harvey Norman.

“Most designs use between 43 and 46 litres per wash. Manufacturers usually put the average yearly use of litres on the machine – a clearer way to determine its usage is to ask how many litres it uses per wash.”

A machine with a refresh cycle, a one kilo short wash that only takes 15 minutes, is ideal for those of us who wear our clothes once and throw them in the laundry basket, says Duff.

These days you’ll struggle to find a decent washing machine that is not A-rated which leads to confusion. There is A-plus, A-plus-plus and A-triple plus, which uses 30 per cent less energy than an ordinary A-rated appliance.

The downside to this is that the wash usually takes longer, Smith explains. “The most energy is used heating the water for a washing machine. The less water a washing machine uses the more efficient it is to run.”

Some machines treat your clothing more kindly than others. This has to do with the way the drum has been fabricated, Smith says.

In cheaper models the drum technology is only perforated on one side giving it “a cheese grater quality that can wreak havoc with your clothes”. In the more expensive models the drum is perforated on both sides, which is twice the work the brand has to do to create a honeycomb effect that is far gentler on fabrics.

Toilets to try

A toilet that is more than 12 years old will use 12 litres per flush with no differentiation between flush types, Murphy explains. Each householder can use as much as 10,000 litres of water per annum just flushing the toilet.

Additionally, a leaky toilet, the kind whose cistern keeps filling after flushing, can account for the loss of 909 litres per annum, 200 gallons of water squandered, he cautions. A plumber can easily rectify this situation.

Modern toilets have a two-flush system that offer 6- and 3-litre flush options or an eco design of 4.5 and three litre flushes. The latter can be tried in the public lavatories at Tilestyle.

Most homeowners still don’t understand which button is for which flush, says Mark Burke. “The water charges will have a lot of bill payers reaching for the manual.”

A waterless urinal is an option that can conserve an average of 150,000 litres per urinal per year. While attractive to the commercial market, The Ice House, Ballina and The Harbour Master in Dublin’s IFSC have both installed them in their gents toilets, says Brendan Tierney of Hazelfort.

His long term aim is to get them into the domestic market. “Putting a urinal into a home is a new departure but in a house full of boys – no more arguments about leaving the toilet seat up. It might even solve a few domestic rows too.” They cost €550.

Conservation for consumers: Designed to save water

Aerator Changing the aerator on your taps can reduce the flow to as little as 3.5 litres per or by up to 70 per cent. If your tap doesn’t have an aerator you will need to buy a new tap.

Dishwashers At entry level, one of the most efficient in terms of water usage is the Bosch SMS40T32GB. With a 12- place setting capacity, it has an A-plus rated appliance and uses 12 litres of water per load.

Whirlpool has a very good environmental record. Their mid-range dishwasher uses only six litres per load and has a power wash for heavily soiled clothes.

At the top end of the market is Miele’s triple-A rated dishwasher. Longevity is what you’re buying with this machine which is designed to last 7,500 cycles so you should get 15 or 16 years use out of it. The best results are from the 6.5 litre water consumption Sensor wash programme.

Washing machines At entry level , Whirlpool’s six kg 1,200 revolutions per minute spin double-A rated appliance uses 40 litres per wash.

At mid-range, Siemens triple A-rated i-Dos is ideal for family use. It has a 1,400 revolutions per minute spin and its energy- efficient motor is designed to last years.

At the upper-end of the scale is Miele’s double-A rated W3370 which uses 44 litres per wash. This machine is built to last and features a honeycomb drum which helps to protect your laundry.

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