It was with a sense of déjà vu reading The Royal Gazette recently when it was reported Bermuda is experiencing a drought and residents are once again being urged to conserve water.
A May 1 article reported: "Water conservation urged as low rainfall trend continues" similar to a 2011 article published on May 16 titled: "Works Minister calls on public to conserve water". It's the same story every year -· 'There isn't enough rain' - but is this only part of the story?
While the amount of rainfall in Bermuda has declined over the last several years, lower than historical averages, what is not taken into account is increased potable water consumption by individuals and businesses.
On average globally, potable water usage has tripled in the past 50 years. While there is no identifiable data on individual water consumption in Bermuda, looking at one of the most water conscious countries in Europe - the UK - the average person uses about 40 gallons per day. This means that in a single generation water consumption has tripled from an estimated 13 gallons to 40 gallons, compounded with lower than average rainfall will always result in water shortages and droughts. Even if Bermuda received a higher than average rainfall there would still be people purchasing water and water shortages.
Traditionally, Bermudians have been known to be quite water conscious, conserving and re-using water given the lack of other options. If you ran out of water, there was no desalination plant down the road you could turn to. Times have changed and so have people's perceptions of available resources. Water conservation was once seen as a vital activity required to sustain life on a fragile island and has now turned into a yearly plea from government to reduce water consumption until the next desalination plant can be built. It is no longer a question of 'How can I reduce my water usage and live a comfortable life?' but 'How much will it cost me to use as much as I please?'
Water is a finite resource. Fresh, potable water is growing scarcer as global demand grows faster than the earth can replenish it. Building desalination plants that run on imported fossil fuels and dump heavily saturated salt water back into our oceans is not the right solution. Lifestyle changes that focus on sustainable practices using innovative technologies can reduce water consumption by more than half in both residential and commercial settings.
Take for example the following four technologies in order of price:
1. Aerators ($5 - $50)
2. Low flow showerheads ($25 - $200)
3. Ultra Low Flow Toilets ($375)
4. Greywater Recycling ($7,000 – 12,000 for residential units up to 6 people)
An aerator is a device found on pretty much every faucet (hopefully). They restrict the flow of water and focus it in a stream. A typical faucet has an aerator that when the faucet is open all the way will allow for 2.5 gallons per minute. This means that when you run your faucet for one minute while washing your hands, face and teeth you have used 2.5 gallons. Most people rarely if ever change their aerators or know that there are aerators with 2, 1.5, 1 and 0.5 gallons per minute flow rates with the same pressure as the old 2.5 gallons per minute.
Example: A typical bathroom faucet is run for 10 minutes a day using a 2.5 gallon per minute aerator.
10 x 2.5 = 25 gallons per day, 25 gallons times 365 = 9125 gallons per year. Replace that 2.5 with a 1 gallon per minute aerator 10 x 1 = 10, 10 x 365 = 3650 gallons per year. A savings of 5475 gallons, that's more than 5 truck loads at $90 a truck, is $450 a year, which doesn't even include the amount of hot water you save.
A typical showerhead uses between 2.5 and 5 gallons per minute with some going as high as 9 gallons per minute. Most people don't care how much water they use in the shower as long as it the water is hot and the pressure is strong. If you could replace your 3 gallon shower head with a 1.5 gallon shower head and get the same pressure while savings water and energy, would you?
For example, say you take a 5 minute shower using a 3 gallon head once a day for a year:
3 x 5 = 15 gallons per day, 15 gallons times 365 = 5475 gallons per year. Replace that 3 gallon shower head with a 1.5 and reduce your consumption by 50% or 2,737 gallons per year. That's almost 3 truck loads at $90 a truck is $270 per year. This doesn't include the amount of hot water you save.
Ultra Low Flow Toilets: Stealth 0.8 gallon flush
Currently, the standard low flow toilet uses 1.6 gallons to flush. This has been further reduced in dual flush toilets to 1.6 and 0.8 gallons depending on your needs. There is also a new technology that uses only 0.8 gallons per flush for every flush. It will flush better than any existing 1.6 gallon, is quieter and uses 50% less water.
For example, say you flush your home toilet 12 times per day at 1.6 gallons:
12 x 1.6 = 19.2 gallon per day, 19.2 x 365 = 7008 gallons per year
12 x 0.8 = 9.6 gallons per day, 9.6 x 365 = 3504 gallons per year
This is a savings of 3,504 gallons per year, or 3.5 truckloads for a savings of $315.00 per year, not to mention the reduction of waste water being dumped in your cess pit or sent in a sewer pipe out into the ocean.
Greywater recycling has been used in Bermuda for hundreds of years. Recently, at the Bermuda Home Show I spoke with a woman who has been recycling her shower water for 50 years by simply putting in the plug during a shower and using a bucket to fill her toilet with the greywater - an incredibly simple concept that has saved her thousands of gallons and hundreds of dollars these past 50 years.
If doing it the old fashion way isn't for you, then think about a Brac water recycling system that could save you thousands of gallons without the use of a bucket.
While the payback on all of these technologies is very good (some within a couple of months), ensuring water security for all Bermudians now and in the future should be the most important reason to install these technologies.
Government should lead by example and begin mandating the use of proven, innovative technologies and installing these technologies in all Government buildings. As shareholders in our global environment, we need to take responsibility, make every effort to reduce our water consumption and inform elected representatives of the positive changes that must be put into action.
All of the products mentioned in this article are available at your local plumber but I would suggest visiting Encon Bermuda Ltd. (part of Batson Swan group of companies) for the most extensive line of water and energy savings products available in Bermuda.Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 Oct 2012