Conserving blue gold

Here at Halton Waste Management Site, we like to think of ourselves as experts in the 3Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle. This slogan is embedded into our work and everyday lives as we consciously think of ways to minimize our impact on the planet. Reduce, reuse, recycle is most commonly applied to solid waste. After a very unique experience we recently had at our Site, I’m thinking the 3Rs could be applied to another very valuable resource — water.

A few weeks back, shortly after arriving to work, we were informed that the water would be shut off for 30 minutes in order for maintenance staff to conduct a routine water inspection. We all filled our reusable water bottles and used the facilities in preparation for the brief fix. While everything was fine with the water, there were difficulties turning the water back on, which left staff without running water for two days! This resulted in staff becoming rather creative.

While we did have the option to drive to other buildings on site to use the washrooms, we also had the option to manually flush the toilets by refilling the tank ourselves with water that was brought to our building. I was rather curious as to how this would work, so I gave it a try. To my relief, it worked very well; however, I was shocked to see just how much water is required for one simple flush of the toilet.

We all hear specs about toilets — whether they be old models that use 13 to 20 litres per flush, “low flow” 6 litres units, or WaterSense rated “high efficiency” models that, using single or dual flush, use 4.8 litres of water or less — in one case, as little as 3 litres every time! The toilets at our Site office are 6 litres.  When I hear 6 litres, I think that is a relatively low amount, especially in comparison to older toilets, but when you physically SEE how much water that is, I feel it is much different.

After doing a bit of research, I found the United Nations reported that humans only need between 20-50 litres of water to meet their basic daily needs. Canadians use approximately 330 litres of water a day. While Halton is lower than the national average, I was still upset by our country’s national average.

Water conservation is an issue that has always been highlighted in my life and I must admit, I have always done my best to limit my personal water consumption. My efforts had led me to believe that I was not using very much water at all. But if I were to have my personal water consumption tracked and be shown how much I’m using daily, I think I would be very surprised.

This revelation came at an appropriate time, with Canada Water Week having just passed. “Blue Gold” is one of the planet’s most valuable resources — less than 5% of all water on the planet is freshwater, with less than 0.1% of that being readily available for consumption by the planet’s 7 billion people. In Canada, specifically in southern Ontario, water conservation may not seem as much of a priority for some people  compared to other environmental concerns since we are surrounded by the Great Lakes. Did you know that these lakes comprise of 1/5th of the world’s accessible freshwater, and 80% of all people living in Ontario rely on these lakes for drinking water?

This year’s theme for Canada Water Week is “I Love My Waterbody.” As a self-proclaimed lover of the Earth, I demonstrate this love through actively reducing my personal household waste, and recycling as much as possible. Why not extend this to show love for our freshwater bodies, and try to apply the 3Rs to personal water use?

My gears instantly started turning; following is a list of some of the many ways that Halton residents can use water wisely.  It all comes down to a different set of 3Rs — reduce, repair and replace.

Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth – It is recommended that people spend 6 minutes every day brushing their teeth and with the average faucet using 8.3 litres of water per minute, you can save over 300 litres of water a week by only turning on the tap to rinse your toothbrush!

Only run the dishwasher when full — Sometimes, we can feel a bit eager to run the dishwasher before it is completely full, which can result in more partially full dishwasher loads being run each week. Make sure you utilize all of the space in your dishwasher by rearranging dishes to ensure you can fit the most dishes possible.

Check for slow, silent leaks in your toilet  put a drop of food colouring in the toilet tank, wait 20 minutes without using the toilet, and check to see if any colour has migrated to the bowl.  If it has, your toilet is leaking, and a degraded flapper is likely the cause.  Turn off the water supply to the toilet, take the old flapper to a hardware store to ensure you get the same model, or call a licensed plumber.

If you have an old toilet that flushes with more than 6 litres of water and you haven’t already benefited from Halton’s Toilet Rebate program, take advantage of the $75 rebate by replacing the old toilet with a high efficiency WaterSense approved model that flushes with 4.8 litres of water or less, without sacrificing performance (Halton Region residents only).

If you have an automatic irrigation system, make sure it’s not leaking, all heads are functioning properly, it only waters where it’s needed, and you have a rain sensor or central controller. For more info on automatic irrigation visit Halton’s website

Rainbarrel – In the warmer months, outdoor water activities around the house account for up to 40% of our water use. Rainwater is free and can be used on your plants and garden. Get your own rain barrel for just $40 at  Halton Region’s Rain Barrel Truckload Sale events starting May 11 (Halton Region residents only).

Half-empty water bottles — If you ever find yourself with a half-empty water bottle you do not plan on finishing — don’t pour that water down the drain! Instead, use it to water plants around the house.

I encourage everyone reading this to join me in showing ‘love for our waterbodies’ by using  water wisely as much as possible in an effort to preserve our planet’s Blue Gold.

For further tips on how Halton residents can conserve water, take a look at Halton’s water conservation tips.

About lindsayplugers

Hi, I'm Lindsay Plugers, and I am a Program Coordinator with Halton Region's Waste Management Services. I graduated from the University of Waterloo with my BEs, majoring in Environment & Resource Studies, with a diploma in Ecological Restoration & Rehabilitation, as well as Environmental Assessment. I work primarily with organizing waste audits to see how well our Region is doing at diverting waste, as well as coordinate the Battery Recycling Program and the Take it Back! Halton program. Outside of work, I love to stay active, cook (my goal is to try one new recipe each week!), travel, and spend time with my family and friends.
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One Response to Conserving blue gold

  1. Toni Tielemans says:

    Great blog!

    What water did you use to fill the toilets? The Halton Waste Management Site stores grey water to be used for cleaning the heavy equipment and watering flower beds.

    – Toni Tielemans, Waste Management Works Clerk, Halton Region

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