We here in Ontario are lucky to be living next to the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth. They are a vast and vital resource, providing natural beauty, potable water, and air conditioning in your office building! The ongoing drought in California should give us a moment to appreciate how lucky we are to have such freshwater access in Canada and serve as a reminder that we must work to preserve and conserve these resources. This blog post is about water conservation – steps you can take at home (that are hopefully less draconian than those that may be imposed on Californians) and steps that UHN and other organizations are taking to cut water use.

Check out the water end use breakdown of a typical home as per the US Environmental Protection Agency. indoorwateruse_4web

As you would expect, the majority of water consumption occurs in our toilets, faucets, and showers. Naturally, these are the first places we can target for low cost/no cost solutions. Here are a few simple things you can do at home:

  • Take shorter showers – try timing yourself and keep it under 5 minutes. For bonus points, turn off the water flow while lathering up and turn it back on to rinse.
  • Many shower heads consume up to 11.3 litres per minute. A simple retrofit to a 5.7Lpm model can cut you shower water usage in half.
  • I can’t stress this enough – turn off the faucet while brushing teeth.  Same goes for kitchen chores – be mindful and don’t leave the tap running for no reason.
  • If you have a toilet with a large tank, you can reduce the amount of water per flush by putting a bottle filled with water in the tank. Toilet bowls are designed with a certain flow in mind, so you may have to test a couple different sized bottles to make sure performance is maintained.
  • Only run dishwasher with full loads and use shortest cycle when possible.
  • Make sure your faucets have aerators.
  • Repair leaks as you find them.  Even small leaks add up over time
  • As I was researching for this post, I realized I am guilty of running the water to get it cold for a drink.  I’ll be following the City of Toronto’s tip to keep a cold jug in the fridge from now on!

If you are planning a renovation, here are some medium-higher cost savings options:

  • Older tank toilets can consume up to 18L per flush. New models provide the same functionality at 4.25L per flush. Toilet replacement can have a very fast payback depending on use patterns and size of the toilet that is replaced.
  • Choose Energy Star and WaterSense labelled appliances
  • Landscaping – choose native plant species that require infrequent watering

For dozens of other home water savings tips, click on the inefficient toilet or the wasteful lawn watering image below:

Image Source: instructables.com
Image source: kqed.org

Large organizations can take advantage of some of the same measures described above, such as toilet replacements, faucet aerators, and shower head replacements. Areas targeted by UHN have included improving water treatment in our cooling towers and replacing refrigeration systems that use domestic water for cooling.

For links to some of UHN’s water savings efforts, click below on the efficient 4.25L toilet or the drip irrigation system:

Image source: homeclick.com
Image source: africaag.org

We should show thanks for our fortunate situation with water resources here in Canada by treating these resources with respect and doing our best to conserve.  After all, the global climate is changing and putting more and more people under water stress, especially in California.