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The Witness of Our Buildings

Information sheets to help Friends make our


buildings less damaging to the environment

V. WATER
All over the world more and more water is being used and water tables are falling severely in many parts,
even in Britain where we think we have plenty of rain. Our main source of water should be the rain, but this
is being channelled more quickly to the sea than ever before, and so has less opportunity to accumulate
underground or in lakes and ponds. Drainage for agriculture, flood control and abstraction for our use cause
the drying up of rivers, streams and naturally wet habitats. This affects wild species which depend on
aquatic and damp areas. At least 354 wildlife sites across Britain are under threat from our wasteful uses of
water. The remedy is not to make more reservoirs, which take up valuable land, but to treat water with more
respect and to conserve it wherever we can.

Water is essential to life. Not surprisingly, it features in spiritual language, and its presence in sea, rivers
and lakes, gives pleasure and satisfaction.

Conservation
Toilet cisterns: Some 40% of domestic water is used in toilets. New cisterns that use 6 litres (1.3 gallons)
instead of the average 9 litres (2 gallons) should be installed wherever possible. Meanwhile, put bricks, or
two or three bottles filled with water, into the existing cistern. Consider that it may not be necessary to flush
every time. There are also systems which have a dual flush, using different amounts of water. IfoCera has
an adjustable dual flush from 2-8 litres and can operate efficiently with a dual flush of 2 and 4 litres.
Consider whether a compost toilet is feasible:

Duncan Wood, in Eco-Renovation by Edward Harland, 1993

There are commercial ones which can be installed inside a building, eg. the Clivus bioloo, the Separett and
the Biolet. The Aquatron has a 3-litre flush and a separator so that solids can be composted. These mostly
use electricity for the drying process, and result in useful compost being available for the garden. There are
also designs for outdoor compost toilets, which do not require electricity as decomposition occurs naturally,
and these are therefore much cheaper than the indoor type.
Taps: These can use 10-20 litres a minute (2-4.5 gallons). Flow control aerators can be fitted, and taps for
handwashing that stop automatically or only flow when pressed will save water.
Showers: A water saving head can be fitted. Switch the shower off while lathering.

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Baths: Try not to have unnecessary baths (!) and only use the minimum of water.
Water heating: Using "point of use" heaters cuts out waste of water until the hot water reaches the tap.
General wastage: All leaks should be dealt with immediately. Dripping taps can waste 90 litres (20 gallons)
a day.
Recycling: When possible, recycle used water in the garden or to flush the toilet.
Rainwater: Collect this from the roof in a barrel and use it in the garden. It may even be possible to arrange
for it to be used to flush toilets.
Water meters: Consider installing a water meter. It may save a lot of money, and will make people more
aware of what they use.
Pollution: Do not use products that harm the process of sewage treatment. For example, cleaning agents
that contain chlorine or its compounds (like sodium hypochlorite) or phosphates, toilet paper bleached by
chlorine or coloured by dyes, paints other than ecologically harmless ones. Think before you put anything
down the drain! (See Information Sheet No. IV, "Cleaning and Redecorating".)

References
Biodiversity Challenge Group, c/o Policy Operations Department, RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire
SG19 2LD
Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth Powys SY20 9AZ: "Fertile waste: managing your domestic
sewage", 1994
"Making Use of Waste Water" (information sheet available for 30p)
Helmuth, Keith: "If John Woolman were among us: reflections on the ecology of flush toilets and motor
vehicles", 1987
Pearson, David: The Natural House Book, Conran Octopus, 1989

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