Curbing Your Consumption:
Being Water Wise
By John Ford
Part of the general conservation message has always been to conserve
water. While you don't often think about water as an energy issue, the
pumping and purification of it is energy intensive. Cutting down on
your water use lowers your overall energy footprint.
The energy contained in waste water does not have to be sent down the
drain. Technology exists to transfer the heat back to incoming water,
which is becoming popular as it becomes more cost effective.
We often take water for granted. When cycling in Africa, I've had to
spend many hours a day searching for a water source. One village had
their wells surrounded by barbed wire to protect it, and we had to
summon the keeper of the key so that we could buy some. Not a common
sight here where water is so cheap and abundant.
Near the Sahara Desert in Mali, water used for cooking is then used to
wash the dishes, then dumped on the garden, where the animals all
gather to get a quick drink before it disappears into the soil. Not a
drop goes to waste.
Coupons come in the mail for discounts on low-flow showerheads, and
faucet aerators. Presumably you have already taken advantage of those
offers to reduce your flow. Front-loading clothes washers are now very
common, and use a fraction of the water and energy compared to
There are also incentives to install rain barrels to collect water for
the garden from the roof runoff. You can't collect enough water to
supplement a thirsty lawn, so plant clover, or more drought resistant
As water becomes a more valued resource, we will see some of the
measures already used in other places, such as Florida's rainwater
recovery. There are two water collection and distribution systems so
that non-potable water can be used for purposes such as washing and
watering. I once rented a farmhouse in Ottawa with a cistern in the
basement. One day we may see a version of those return.
Building codes now require low-flow toilets. Why not eliminate any
flow, by installing a composting toilet. The technology for these has
come a long way, to make them a convenient option even where septic
systems are not required.
John Ford is a technology consultant, owner of a small energy
conservation business, and the Energy Advocate for the Green Party of