Reducing Water Consumption & Re-cycling Water

Dear Margaret,
Since I live in the driest State in Australia, the management & conservation of water is a concern to me. I feel it needs to be addressed not only in Permaculture, but in society's use of it in general.
Every winter I am faced with the problem of how to use my waste or 'gray' water. Nature takes care of my garden's requirements during this period, so that I am generally left with a great deal of water that I end up letting go down the drain.
Please help - it's frustrating to see this precious resource going to waste.

I see that you live in an inner Adelaide suburb so I shouldn't imagine you've had much of a problem this year! But winters in the southern districts of Australia are usually periods of maximum rainfall, & I understand your frustration.
Presumably you are already using water from the shower or bath to do your washing & cleaning, & flushing the loo with buckets of grey water instead of using the cistern?

(NB. NEVER fill the tank of your cistern with grey water - it could contaminate the main water supply)

Hot water systems & modern appliances have encouraged us to be unnecessarily extravagant with water, so the next step is to look at reducing clean water use.
Cutting down on washing-up has lots of positive & healthy spin-offs. Cook with as little fat as possible, have one-pot meals followed by fresh fruit & cheese or nuts, & make sure everyone cleans their plate before they leave the table. Traditionally, bread was used for this, then eaten, but if this is a problem, you could 'rinse' utensils in bran, which is then either fed to chooks, or composted. (If you do this to your frying pan & baking tins, you won't need to wash them at all!) Give each family member their own distinctive mug or drinking glass, & discourage the practice of rinsing them under the tap after each use. Put half consumed mugs of milk or cordial in the fridge until wanted again. Stack washing up in a large bowl or bucket, cover with a towel & hide it. Wash up only when necessary. It may surprise you how long you can get away without doing the dishes! If you use a dishwasher, try running it without any detergent. Using these methods, the water alone should be sufficient.

Try showering less often, have a good wash every other day instead. Share your bath - you need less water with two in the tub. Be sparing with the soap - or use an oatmeal bag. You only need one mug of water to brush your teeth - less if you use bicarb or salt water instead of toothpaste. Wash your hair in a bowl, & don't do it too often. Daily shampooing & conditioning is not good for your hair, your purse, or the condition of your greywater, however you choose to dispose of it. Good simple styling & lots of brushing, preferably in the fresh air, are the earthwise way to care for your hair.

It's easy to reduce your laundry. Shake & brush outer clothes when they are removed, then turn inside out & hang up to air. Remove stains as soon as they occur. Wear an apron or old shirt to protect your clothes whenever appropriate. Only underwear needs daily washing, & this can be done by hand, in the warm water from your shower or wash. Hang towels & face-washers out to dry as soon as they are finished with - if it's raining, hang them on the porch.Top & tail sheets, rather than using a fresh pair each week. Break the unhygenic habit of making beds as soon as you get out of them. Shake quilts or blankets, & put them to air for several hours each day. Shake & turn the pillows, then the covers will wear & soil evenly. Also see the laundry leaflets I wrote in 1989 - very old-fashioned now, but still useful.

All these methods of doing everyday tasks were second nature to my generation, until the force of multi-media advertising sold us a picture of domestic life which is totally unsustainable & as unrealistic as the body images it uses to sell clothes & cosmetics.

You might also consider what policital actions you can take, either as an individual, or as a member of a concerned group, to work towards the implementation of truly sustainable water use throughout this wonderful, but extremely arid country.

Note:In researching & answering questions about earthwise living, Margaret offers information, opinion, & personal experience, but no quick fixes! Readers should evaluate these offerings in the context of their own situations; they are suggestions, *not* recommendations. Any responsibility for their implementation rests *solely* with the reader.

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