10 August 2016 - As we go about our daily lives in Hong Kong, one thing that we take for granted is fresh, clean water. As of 1982, Hong Kong’s water supply has come from three sources: rainwater collected at local reservoirs, imported water from Dongjiang and seawater for toilet flushing. While its water supply has been consistent and abundant over the past three decades, the fact that only 2% of the world’s water consists of freshwater, in conjunction with the faint possibility that the water supplied from Dongjiang may not last, lends credence to the government’s desire for being prudent about how water is being used in Hong Kong. To elaborate, a paper published from the Legislative Council detailed that Hong Kong’s per capita domestic consumption of fresh water was 130 liters/day, 18% higher than the world average of 110 liters. At the same time, Dongjian’s water reserves are reportedly being subjected to increased strain as it has to support not just Hong Kong, but seven other cities within Guangdong. With this in mind, it has become important for us to better manage the way in which we use our water and aim to reduce our water usage. This article will give you tips to accomplish just that.
In our households, bathrooms and kitchens are the abodes of the typical home’s most egregious users of water. For example, if you were to keep your shower time under 5 minutes, you would save up to 1,000 gallons per month.
When designing your bathroom, one thing you hear often is that you should opt for a shower instead of a bath. However, the way in which you design the shower itself can affect how much water you end up using. To test if your showerhead is using too much water, see if your shower can fill up a gallon’s worth of water in less than 20 seconds – if it can, then a change might be warranted. Wateruseitwisely.com suggests switching to a WaterSense labeled showerhead model to save water, though other branded, water efficient showerheads can also be found online and at plumbing stores such as those along Lockhart Road in Wan Chai.
Of course, the showerhead is not the only culprit in your bathroom. The toilet is also often complicit in excessive water usage in the home. The amount of water needed to flush a normal toilet in addition to frequency of use means that changing the way we build and use our toilets can substantially reduce our monthly water bill. First, consider taking a lesson from Archimedes by adding a weight in the toilet sink. Toilet sinks take in water until they reach a certain level, and adding a weight displaces the water such that the level is more easily reached. This in turn saves a bit of water per flush, and a lot of water per day. If you want to take this further, consider buying and installing a dual-flush toilet rather than a single flush one. A dual-flush toilet is one with two buttons that allows better management of water used per flush. Before we close on the subject of toilets, note that toilet water usage is not just dictated by how we design them, but also how we use them. Do not use your toilet as an ash tray or a garbage bin for anything other than toilet paper. A small cigarette butt or bit of facial tissue being flushed down the toilet consumes about 5 to 7 gallons of water.
The other big contender in the household water consumption weightlifting championships is the kitchen and there are multiple ways in which we unnecessarily use water within these four walls. In many households, people like to wash their vegetables, fruits, and all other sorts of groceries under a running tap. One should consider washing them in a bowl instead. This takes much less water to accomplish the same thing and you can also use leftover water for other purposes such as watering plants. The same advice applies when you hand wash your dishes, pots, and pans. If you have the choice between hand-washing and using a dishwasher (although not common in HK), opt for the latter option only if you have enough for a full load. In addition, be vigilant in monitoring and fixing water leaks from your faucets and pipes. Lastly, when it comes to washing, make sure to use a strainer in your sink. While cleaning the strainer is not the most pleasant of tasks, preventing gunk and debris from reaching drains makes the water purifying process easier upon arriving at water cleaning facilities. This also lowers the risk of clogging up your own pipes.
Another slightly unconventional method of saving water is choosing to go meatless one day every week. What does this have to do with water consumption you may ask? The preparation of meat up until it reaches your table involves an enormous amount of water. For perspective, the components and processes involved in the making of a single hamburger require roughly 2,400 liters of water. That’s just one hamburger! Going meatless one day a week won’t heavily reduce your water bills, but it certainly can greatly reduce the amount of water you “consume”. Another idea to consider is to think ahead when handling frozen food and put any items in the fridge overnight to defrost them and save water by avoiding thawing them under the tap.
Lastly, it is safe to use tap water over bottled water in Hong Kong. Given that it takes roughly 1.5 gallons of water to manufacture a single plastic bottle (which in most cases far outstrips the amount of water that’s actually in it), it is a perfectly sensible idea to simply take tap water from the sink, boil it for good measure, and use this as your main source of drinking water instead. You can also buy a water filter from your neighborhood Fortress that removes impurities (including lead) and makes tap water safer to drink.
Hopefully this article provided you with a lot of new tips and tricks in planning how you use water around the home. If you liked this article, consider sharing it with your friends, everyone can play a part in putting the world’s water reserves to better use!