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Water Wednesday

Welcome to another edition of Water Wednesday. Last week, a few easy changes saved the Hendersons more than $100 a year in their kitchen water use. They also conserved around 80,000 litres of water. This week, we help the family of four do the same in their laundry room. The information provided here is based on the April 2024 City of Lethbridge residential water rate of $1.327 per cubic meter.

Washing machines are water intensive. Modern standard washers use an average of 75.5 litres per load. Efficiently filling each load can save the Hendersons water and money. Washing full loads should be the goal, but there are other options.

“In addition to always running full loads, the other thing you can do is learn the settings on your washing machine,” says Kathleen Sheppard, Executive Director of Environment Lethbridge. “Many machines adjust the water used for the size of the load. All you have to do is program it.”

Running one full load per day would cost the Hendersons at least $36.50 a year in water alone. When you factor in other costs like energy (for hot water) and detergent, the cost-per-load is around $1.35. Add it all up, and the Hendersons are paying around $500 a year for this daily chore. They’re also using more than 27,500 litres of water.

If the Hendersons can drop to five full loads per week, they would save around $150 a year and conserve almost 8,000 litres of water.

As we’ve seen with low flow showerheads and faucets, increasing your washer’s efficiency is key. High-efficiency (HE) washers use an average of around 53 litres per load. That would reduce the Hendersons’ water use by almost 30 per cent. At five loads per week, the Hendersons would save almost $50 a year while conserving another 5,900 litres of water!

To maximize water efficiency, the Hendersons could explore a front-loading HE washer. The most efficient models use as little as 26.5 litres per load. Let’s do more math. If the Hendersons move from seven loads per week with a modern standard washer, to five loads per week with a front-loading HE machine, they would save $375 while using only 6,890 litres of water. That means their annual at-home laundry bills drops to $125 and they conserve an amazing 20,600 litres of water. That’s enough to fill their summertime kiddie pool more than 100 times!

Grease. Grass. Food. Oil. Makeup. All things that can wreak havoc on our clothing.

“There’s nothing more frustrating than pulling an item from the washing machine and seeing a stain,” says Sheppard. “Pretreating makes sure you only have to wash items once. This saves water and extends the life of your clothes.”

The key to pretreating a stain is quick action. There are several ways to attack a fresh stain. Some can be removed using home remedies like a cold-water soak or a combination of vinegar and baking soda. Tougher stains may need a few squirts of commercial pre-treater. Whichever method you choose, pretreating a stain can help ensure it’s removed in a single wash.

There are several other ways the Henderson can conserve water in their laundry room, including:

  • Re-using towels and wearing clothes more than once. You can use a shower towel multiple times before it needs a wash. And if you aren’t playing in the dirt, hang your jeans and t-shirt back in the closet.
  • Avoid using the ‘extra rinse’ feature. If you use the correct amount of detergent, your machine’s default rinse cycle should suffice.
  • Check for leaks. As we’ve seen in the bathroom and kitchen, leaks are costly. Regularly examine your washer’s hoses.

Next week, we will examine ways the Hendersons can conserve water and save money in their yard.

Previous Water Wednesday stories

April 3, 2024 - Bathroom Conservation

Welcome to the first instalment of Water Wednesday. This weekly series will provide information, conservation tips and expert analysis on all things ‘water’ in the Lethbridge area. We begin the series with a look at water conservation in a typical Lethbridge home.

Almost half of all home water usage occurs in the bathroom. From detecting and fixing toilet leaks to optimizing shower and bath routines, every drop saved translates to significant savings and conservation.

For the sake of this story, we will provide context for a family of four. We’ll call them the Hendersons. We uncover a few simple yet effective ways the Hendersons can conserve water and lower their utility bill. The information provided here is based on the April 2024 City of Lethbridge residential water rate of $1.327 per cubic meter.

Toilets are often the source of unnoticed leaks. Not only are they wasteful, they’re also expensive! A leaky toilet can waste upwards of 1,000 litres of water every day. This equates to almost $500 a year in water costs. Thankfully, as this video shows, discovering a leak is both quick and simple!

“A leaky toilet uses an immense amount of water that you’re paying for,” says Kathleen Sheppard, Executive Director of Environment Lethbridge. “Don’t forget to check all your toilets for leaks, even that one in the guest bathroom that no one uses.”

Lowering your cost-per-flush is another way to save and conserve. According to a report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), toilets older than 20 years typically flush with 13 to 20 litres of water. Installing a WaterSense® toilet ensures no more than 4.8 litres per flush. Assuming the Hendersons each flush the toilet twice daily they could reduce their water bill and usage by more than 70 per cent.

According to Sheppard, the average shower uses almost 10 litres of water per minute. That means a typical eight-minute shower uses a whopping 80 litres of water!

If each member of the Henderson family showers once a day, that’s around $155 a year in water costs. If the Hendersons reduce their showers to six minutes, the annual price drops to around $116. And if they can each get clean in five minutes? That’s around $97 a year, a savings of more than 37 per cent!

“We all love the feeling of a nice hot shower but cutting it a few minutes short is a great way to save water,” says Sheppard. “Use a timer or a short playlist to make sure you meet your goal.”

A low flow shower head also lowers consumption. It reduces usage to approximately 7.5 litres per minute. This would result in the Hendersons paying only $72.50 a year for their daily five-minute cleansing sessions. That’s less than half their original amount!

However, let’s assume the Hendersons prefer daily baths. According to the CMHC report, a typical bath uses at least 150 litres of water. This would add up to 4,200 litres of water usage a week, removing around $290 a year from the Hendersons’ bank account. While there are exceptions, baths typically use a lot more water than showers. But if you prefer baths, try soaking in less water or consider reducing your soaks to every other day.

Using a few easy conservation methods in the family bathroom, the Hendersons could save upwards of $800 a year. They could also conserve around 315 cubic meters (that’s 315,000 litres!) of water.

Next week’s Water Wednesday will cut costs and conserve water in the Hendersons’ kitchen.

April 10, 2024 - Kitchen Conservation

Welcome back to Water Wednesday. Last week, we saved our family of four (the Hendersons) upwards of $800 a year and conserved around 315,000 litres of water in their bathroom. This week, we move to their kitchen. A report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) shows kitchen water accounts for about 15 per cent of indoor water use. A few small behaviour changes can lead to big savings. The information provided here is based on the April 2024 City of Lethbridge residential water rate of $1.327 per cubic meter.

“It might seem counterintuitive, but modern dishwashers are so efficient that they actually use less water than washing by hand, as long as you fill them up,” says Kathleen Sheppard, Executive Director of Environment Lethbridge.

Handwashing dishes can use upwards of 100 litres of water per load. Let’s say the Hendersons wash breakfast and dinner dishes every day. That adds up to around 73,000 litres of water every year. That number is easily reduceable.

  • Fill one sink halfway for washing and the other halfway for rinsing.
  • Only using one sink? Use a dish rack for washed dishes then rinse them together with one spray of water.
  • Avoid continuously running the water for rinsing.

A dishwasher is a better option. Older model dishwashers use upwards of 22 litres of water per load. Assuming one full load per day, the Hendersons’ machine would use around 8,030 litres of water every year. That’s 89 per cent less water usage than hand washing. And that number shrinks even more with an efficient dishwasher. As of July 2023, an ENERGY STAR® certified dishwasher cannot use more than 12.11 litres of water per cycle. A daily load now results in only 4,420 litres of water per year. If the Hendersons move from hand washing to an efficient dishwasher, they reduce their annual water usage (and costs!) by 94 per cent!

The Hendersons love using their garburator after every meal. But that convenience comes with a cost.

“Garbage disposals use a lot of water,” says Sheppard. “The best thing you can do is put your food waste in your green bin, which saves water and turns your food waste into compost.”

According to Sheppard, a garburator uses up to 8.5 litres of water per minute. If the Hendersons ditched their disposal, they could conserve upwards of 9,300 litres of water per year.

Reducing your faucet’s flow rate will also shrink you water bill. A standard kitchen faucet can flow at around eight litres per minute. If the Hendersons run their kitchen faucet for five minutes a day, that’s 14,600 litres of water every year. New federal standards will lower flow rates to a maximum of 6.8 litres per minute. That would conserve more than 2,100 litres of water with one faucet alone.

There are several other ways the Henderson can conserve water in their kitchen, including:

  • Installing a hot water dispenser.
  • Repairing faucet and plumbing leaks.
  • Keeping a jug of cold water in the fridge.
  • Not using water to defrost frozen foods.

These slight changes can conserve more than 80,000 litres of water. That’s a reduction of more than 83 per cent, or the amount needed to fill an average six-person hot tub around 55 times.  It would also save the Henderson family more than $110 over the course of a year.

Next week, we tackle the Hendersons’ laundry room!

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