Water Audit


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These days the expression spending money like water has a new meaning.

The wet stuff is becoming as precious as oil.

Like many of us, Kathryn Smith makes an effort to save water.

"I honestly thought I was one of the better ones, but now I can see that I can do much better without too much of an effort, and without being too fanatical about it," said Kathryn.

The full-time marketing manager re-uses water on the garden, and is mindful of every drop that goes down the drain.

But until recently, she had no idea exactly how much that was.

So what do you do to keep track of your water usage?

Welcome to the brave new world of water wisdom.

The only way Kathryn could know for sure how much she was wasting was to call in the water auditors.

Believe it or not there are such people. Specially trained plumbers whose job it is to sweep through your home with forensic accuracy. Pin pointing what's being wasted and what's not.

For instance, if you've got a running toilet cistern, you can save up to 40,000 litres of water by putting in a dual-flush cistern, so it's a big saving.

Craig McCloud and Peter Gilbertson are two of the new breed of water savvy plumbers. Their first port of call for Kathryn's audit was the laundry.

Her washing machine's seen better days, using 180 litres per wash compared to the miserly 40-litre washers on the market, so there was plenty of room for improvement.

Next up was the bathroom where water flow to the shower, toilet and bath taps were all measured.

"The bath's not really an issue because you're putting the plug in and filling it to a level you wan't to bath in. The only thing I would keep in mind, you could probably use the bath water afterwards to put on your plants," said Craig.

Now to the hot water service where a potential hidden water waster awaits.

"What you've got here is a mains pressure hot water unit. The main thing to check with this type of unit is the relief valves, the two valves on the side. And because it's always behind a door and you don't really take any notice of it, you've got to make a conscious effort to make sure the valves aren't leaking because they'll leak into the drain and you won't know."

And finally the kitchen. Where the auditors measure how fast water flows through the kitchen taps, and the dishwasher.

And the verdict?

"We found a couple of problems. There's a couple of high water usage areas in the house: in the laundry, the kitchen tap. You're approximately using 18 litres per minute and with a simple installation of some flow restrictors you can halve that to 9 litres per minute. This would give you, over a 12 month period, a considerable saving," Craig said.

As a result of her audit Kathryn discovered she could save a massive 75% of her water usage in the laundry and another 20% in the kitchen.

All up she's confident that over the course of a year, she can reduce her water use by 100-thousand litres. That's enough to fill a massive rainwater tank.

And speaking of water tanks. Her audit showed she didn't need one.

The trick was, to use less water to start with.

Kathryn said, "I didn't realise my washing machine was using so much water. I'm astounded by that. I didn't know to check my hot water service, so I'm pretty impressed that I've done it. So just by changing over my washing machine I can make an enormous difference."

All this comes as no suprise to Mike Young from Adelaide University.

The professor of water economics and management says the only thing wrong with water audits, is there just aren't enough of them.

One way to fix that, is to put the price of water up.

But if more of us don't get on the water-saving bandwagon, a more drastic solution could be just around the s-bend.

Professor Young said, "we've got half the solution, which is encouraging people to have audits, but in a real world we wouldn't have to even offer anybody subsidies for audits and try and bribe people to save water. We'd put the price up and then everybody would manage water as if it was valuable."

He thinks we should be paying up to eight times more per kilolitre than we are now.

For more information contact SA Water on 1800 130 952