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Water saving tips while NSW waits for rain

Gabrielle Lyons, Friday September 29, 2017 - 18:49 EST
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Saving every drop: Water collected in buckets in a backyard - ABC

Buckets in the shower, jeans in the freezer and greywater on the garden. New South Wales hasn't had rain in near 16 weeks, and regional residents are watching what remains in their tanks.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology rainfall has been well below average for northern New South Wales, and winter as a whole has been exceptionally dry.


UNSW Associate Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering Stuart Khan suggested water saving tips to help residents through the next few hot weeks.

"It's always important to be thrifty with water, even when it's plentiful, no matter the season," he said.

"There are plenty of methods householders can use to save water and save the garden at the same time."

Where to put your buckets

Mr Khan suggested saving water in buckets as a clever method of recycling.



He said the bucket in the kitchen sink could save your lawn.

"Washing vegetables in a bucket is a good way to do it, especially if there is soil on the potatoes. That excess soil contains nutrients that will help your plants during the dry seasons," he said.

Other than a bucket in the shower and sinks around your home, Mr Khan said most other water catching methods would require a little more plumbing.

"Stick the kids in the one bath tub, be prepared for the water to get a little dirty, but don't be afraid to re-use it," he said.

Mr Khan suggested households should clean their gutters out now for when the rain does eventually arrive.

"The best way to collect water is from your roof, and measures should be taken to manage the quality of the water you catch," he said.

Will the garden have to wait?

From specialised mulch to ecofriendly detergents, Mr Khan said there were plenty of options to keep your garden thriving.

"Don't water your garden in the heat of the day, wait until the early evening as that will reduce water loss by evaporation," he said.

"Putting mulch above the soil to keep the water in the dirt, pull out your weeds as they compete for water and nutrition."

Although a little more costly, Mr Khan suggests grey water as the best form of recycling.

"You can actually plumb in a system to harness the grey water at your property also," he said.

"You can collect the excess water from your shower, washing and dishwashing machine that can be used legally and safely for subsurface irrigation.

"Some detergents contains nitrogen and phosphorus."



Waitlist for water

Coffs Coast Water Cartridge owner Richard Macmillan said he would like to see residents in the region being more clever with their water and planning in advance.

"There are certainly a lot of people who find it surprising how quickly they get through water when they are using tanks having previously lived off town water," he said.

"Invariably, those people who have lived in the regions on tank water are more prepared than those new folk who move to the region.



"We live in a time where we watch our weather apps so closely, that should alert people to how much rain is on the way and how closely they need to watch their water."

Mr Macmillan said he has a two-week waiting list for water orders around the north coast.

"When people run out of water, they need to call us and we are running out of water up and down the coast," he said.

"There hasn't been any respite anywhere.

"Colleagues in Nambucca Valley are booked out until the beginning of November."

Mr Macmillan said during these dry months it was important to work as a community.

"Shower together, shower only once a week, don't drink it, buy bottled water and check on your neighbours."

You might be saving more water than you think

As we wait for rain, Mr Khan said we needed to be reminded that Australians are fantastic water savers.

"Things like dual-flush toilets, water efficient shower heads and washing machines all reduce our water footprint," he said.

"After the drought between 2003 and 2009 finished, the State Government expected to see the water use pattern jump back to where it was previously, and it never happened.

"So we are already a few steps ahead of where we were when we previously considered how to save water around the home."


- ABC

© ABC 2017

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