May is one of the hottest months in India. There are scattered pre-monsoon showers in some parts of the country, but for most of the plains and much of the peninsula, May is the warmest and driest month of the year. It precedes the onset of the monsoon rains, and therefore means that reservoirs, rivers, and water tables are at their lowest – just when we want to drink, bathe and wash more.
There are different methods to reduce water consumption – most of which depend on the normal pattern of usage. For example, choosing not to water a large lawn, or using a bucket and sponge to clean vehicles are simple and fairly obvious choices. The World Health Organization estimates that every person needs about 120-150 litres of water a day, for a comfortable life. But, this can be reduced drastically with one major lifestyle change.
Most conventional toilets use approximately 8 litres of water for every flush and this number quickly adds up to nearly half the water usage for each person. In water-starved urban centres like Bangalore, many apartment complexes buy water in tankers from far-flung reservoirs and borepumps in farm lands. Monthly expenditure on water is not trivial. And yet, dry toilets face resistance because there is considerable conditioning against the idea. Even those who do not have access to a sewerage system rely on expensive septic tanks that can cost more than fifty thousand rupees to construct. Septic tanks need regular maintenance – to say nothing about the harm they can cause to the maintenance personnel.
The driest places in India do not have this luxury. In their attempt to become free from open defecation, some are experimenting with EcoSan toilets. These toilets use very little water and do not leach toxins into the surrounding soil or into the ground water. In other parts of the country, the twin pit method is preferred. Both these methods convert human solid waste – smelly, toxic, and difficult to handle – into dry, crumbly, odour-free manure. With almost no intervention. The owners of the dry toilets simply have to empty out the manure twice a year. In many parts of rural India, this can be sold as valuable (and organic, haha) fertilizer.
If you are looking to remodel your home or office space, consider the following ways to reduce your water consumption.
1. Construct dry toilets – There are a number of resource people across the country who can provide guidance. Drop us an email and we will put you in touch with local experts. (Thank us later when you realise that you have escaped one round of government officials by avoiding a sewerage connection)
2. Try the dual flush system – If dry toilets are too radical for your family or workspace, consider the dual flush system. These cisterns come with two buttons – one of which dispenses less than 3 litres of water.
3. Install efficient taps and shower heads – Running water can be among the most relaxing experiences – whether it is an open tap for washing dishes or a warm shower at the end of a long day. Install water fixtures with a low flow rate, so that a 5-minute shower can use half the usual amount of water.
4. Recycle grey water – This is among the simplest alterations that can be considered even for older homes. With a small change to the plumbing system, wash water (the water used for bathing and washing clothes) can be either sent into a bed of water-loving plants, or simply filtered through the soil and allowed to replenish your local ground water.
And if you have heard of other methods to have a water-efficient home, let us know!