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Saturday, 13 February 2016

Water Consumption; The Cost of Water

I received something of a shock a week ago, when the water bill arrived. It was far, far higher than I expected. I wondered if the meter was broken, as I didn’t think I had been so profligate or irresponsible in terms of water consumption.  I asked the neighbours to let me know how much water they consumed, on average. I must admit that, subconsciously, I still thought of water as a low-cost (if not virtually free) resource. I took it for granted. I’d never bothered to check the water meter, but neither, it seems, had the water company.

I telephoned the company, to query the amount they wanted to charge, and the excessive consumption, in terms of cubic metres, that they had estimated. It turned out that the meter was working properly, but that it had been “mis-read”, by a large amount (about a third). The official who came to check the situation expressed surprise.

A few days later I recalled a project that my grandson had carried out for his school, on sustainable water resources and supplies around the world, and on typical household consumption in the USA. I had quite forgotten some of the findings from his research – that the average North American apparently uses from 150-250 gallons of water daily, the average European more than 60 gallons. A five-minute shower uses about 35 gallons, about 17% of the daily water consumed. The biggest culprit is the lavatory flush - about 27% of daily consumption. The washing-machine uses about 22% (about 40 gallons of water for each full load).

I don’t know if these statistics are accurate, either for the USA or for all parts of Europe. In other parts of the world (eg Africa), household water consumption is a fraction of the US consumption.

I wonder how long I will keep in mind the online and common-sense tips: don’t leave taps running; keep showers shorter; where possible, press the small button on the flush; don’t start the dishwasher until it’s fully loaded.

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