Despite NZ having a temperate climate with plenty of rainfall, water is still one of the most precious resources we have and we shouldn't take it for granted.
Many lifestyle farmers live with a restricted water supply including rural water schemes, trickle feed supply or roof water. For those of us who were brought up on seemingly unlimited town supply, it can be a shock to even have to consider our water usage.  Here are some tips:

Day-to-day water sense

Develop good water-saving habits. A running tap can waste up to 14 litres per minute!

  • If you're washing something in a sink, whether it's your hands, dishes or clothes, put the plug in the sink before turning on the tap. Don't run the water until it's hot before putting in the plug.  There's a good chance that you'd have to add cold water anyway.
  • Talking of which, make sure your water temperature is set to an appropriate level, if it's too hot then you waste water cooling it down.
  • In the same way, don't run the tap waiting for the water to get cold when you're thirsty, keep a jug of water in the fridge instead.
  • Turn off the taps when brushing your teeth - if you brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day this could save up to 76 litres of water…per person per day!
  • Same with shaving - turn off the tap and rinse the razor in the water in the sink, not under a running tap.
  • Don't overdo the washing-up liquid - it just wastes more water while rinsing.
  • While on the subject of rinsing, don't rinse dishes under a running tap; have a sink partially filled with water instead.
  • Make sure dishwashers and washing machines are full when you use them - half load settings use more than half a full load setting.
  • Use liquid soap as it takes less water to rinse hands that have been washed with liquid soap rather than solid.
  • Mulch your flower beds and vegetable gardens to conserve water and get the added bonus of cutting down on weeds.
  • Rinse and peel vegetables in a pot or bowl of water rather than under a running tap and then use the water on your garden or house plants.

Water wasters

Even if you are water-smart your house may not be, check the list below for potential water wasters in your home.

  • A dripping tap isn't wasting much, is it? Actually, it is - up to 100 litres a day, that's around 3,000 litres each month.
  • A leaky cistern can use up even more. To check your cistern, put a little food colouring in the cistern and wait twenty minutes…if the water in the toilet bowl has become coloured too then you have a leak. Shockingly, a cistern with a steady leak could be wasting more than 10,000 litres each month.
  • If you have a large single flush cistern then you may be wasting over 5 litres of water per flush. If the cistern is a ballcock type then you can bend down the ballcock arm so the cistern stops filling sooner. If it's not then you can put a house brick, or a plastic bottle(s) full of water into the cistern to save that volume of water each time you flush.

Built-in water efficiency

When you're building or renovating there are ways to build-in water savings.

  • Old-style single flush cisterns use up to 11 litres of water per flush. Modern, dual-flush cisterns can use less than half that.
  • It's easier to get the temperature you want with single lever mixer taps, saving you time and water.
  • A low flow or water-efficient shower head can cut the water used per shower by around 50%.
  • Baths - obviously, the bigger the bath the more water it will take. A contoured bath uses less water than an older-style bath.
  • Appliances - many appliances have a water efficiency rating on them. See here for details.
  • Front loading washing machines use less water than top loaders.
  • If you can, separate your grey water and collect it in a water tank. Grey water is wastewater from kitchen sinks, dishwashers, laundry tubs, washing machines, showers, baths and basins. You may need resource consent to use grey water in some situations so check with your local council.

Farm water

There are some basic guidelines to prevent losing water on your farm.

  • Know where your water lines are and where the weak spots (eg joints) are located.
  • Make sure that water lines above the ground are protected from livestock and machinery.
  • Check troughs regularly for leaks and worn fittings.
  • Protect lines that run under high-use areas such as races.
  • Try to set up a system that limits your water loss if a water line breaks.

When you have to really water smart…

Sometimes, no matter how water smart you are in times of drought you may have to cope with a very limited water supply. When that happens you need to take some extra measures…

  • Don't run the taps while you're lathering soap into your hands, run the tap only to wet hands and then again to rinse.
  • The same goes for the shower, get wet, turn off the shower and lather up, then turn it on again to rinse.
  • Don't flush unnecessarily, as the old adage has it "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down."
  • Consider showering with a friend!

And remember, the more water you collect and store, the less frequently you should have this problem, so hook collection tanks up to garages, sheds, animal shelters and even the chook house!