Thursday, March 22nd is World Water Day. It’s an annual international event that focuses on the importance of universal access to clean water. The focus is about providing sanitation and hygiene facilities in developing countries. However, it’s important to remember that access to plentiful, clean water isn’t a developing country problem — it’s an everyone problem. There is increasing water scarcity in California. In Flint, Michigan (bordering the Great Lakes just south of Ontario) water quality was unacceptable due to extremely high lead contamination. Canada wasn’t immune either, since in Ontario, many schools were found to have lead contamination as well. There is a continuous lack of access to clean water for many Indigenous peoples in Canada. Our neighbours in BC had more than half their school districts fail safe water tests. And, in Cape Town, South Africa, water scarcity is increasingly becoming a full blown emergency.
We think it’s fair to say that almost all Canadians agree that water is an incredibly important and precious resource. But for the most part, Canadians aren’t doing a good job of showing that we care about water in our day-to-day life. In part, this is because Canada is blessed with a huge amount of water. We are home to one fifth of the world’s freshwater. This leads to some complacency that the people in California or Cape Town would frankly find envious. But just how much water is the average Canadian using every day above and beyond what’s necessary?
The World Health Organization says that a minimum of 7.5 litres of water per day is necessary to meet the requirements of most people under most conditions. However, since developed nations have higher standards for basic hygiene and basic food washing, they say 20 litres per person per day is a more comfortable minimum, but they also acknowledge that so little water would make it difficult to do laundry. The average Canadian uses more than 10x that amount: 250 litres of water per person per day. We use just a little less than our American neighbours, and twice as much as your typical European.
Most of our water-wasteful habits come into play in the washroom. We shower or bath excessively long, and more than a few teenagers have come under the misconception that running the tap while they pee or brush their teeth is acceptable. Running a load of laundry with just one or two articles of clothing is also a colossal waste of water. And many of us are guilty of running the tap for a minute or longer while we wait for the perfect drinking temperature or hand washing temperature.
On average, Calgarians are a tiny bit better than other Canadians. We use 230L of water per person per day instead of 250L. But we know Albertans take pride in striving to be the best and to lead Canada in all things. Therefore, we challenge Calgarians to half that amount. This is actually a pretty easy time of year to try this since you won’t need to worry about watering your lawn or garden. Here’s a guide to bathroom water usage to help keep you on track:
Flushing a low flow toilet (per day) = 30L
Flushing a normal flow toilet (per day) = 100L
Dishwasher (per load) = 40L
Low Flow Showerhead (2 gallons/min) (5 minute shower) = 40L
Normal Flow Showerhead (3 gallons/min) (5 minute shower) = 55L
Bathtub = 90L
Front Load Washing Machine (per load) = 75L
Top Load Washing Machine (per load) = 180L
If you’re aiming for 115L per day (half of 230L), you have a total maximum of 805L per week per person. Immediately, we’ll take off the WHO minimum that you need to drink and to cook: 7.5L per day or 52.5 per week. You have 752.5 left.
Using the toilet also isn’t optional. If you have a low-flow toilet, you lose 210L just to that basic need per week. If you have a normal flow toilet, you’ve flushed away 700L of water for the week, and the goal of halving your water consumption is practically out of reach. We recommend updating your toilet. But let’s say you have a low-flow toilet—you now have 542.5L left for the week.
If you want to shower (for 5 minutes) daily, that will take an additional 280-385L of water. Let’s assume, once more, you’ve invested in the low flow shower head. You’re left with 262.5L for the rest of your needs. Alternatively, you could shower for 10 minutes every other day. It can be hard to keep track of time in the shower, so set a timer on your phone or use a kitchen timer. There are timers made specifically for the shower, but any timer on the vanity should do the trick.
Thanks to your quick, 5 minute showers, you’ll have enough for two loads of laundry (Front Loader, 150L) and running the dishwasher twice (80L) during the week. You’ll finish with 30L to spare, and should feel really good about this change! If you have a top load washing machine (180L), you only get to run one load of laundry and your two loads of dishes (80L). You’ll finish with a close 2.5L left.
So what do you think? Is the challenge doable for you? What changes would you have to make to your lifestyle and the tools you use to make halving your water usage feasible? If you’re interested in learning more about how to save money and water by investing in high-efficiency appliances, contact the Plumbing Paramedics today!