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Water: protecting your liquid assets

superannuation greywater

My latest water bill was a shock and I’m told to expect water prices to rise by more than 15% above inflation over the next few years as my supplier upgrades and expands its infrastructure.

I admit that my family has become more relaxed about using water since dam levels have risen, but it’s time to return to more frugal ways. Small things can make a big difference. For example, check for dripping taps and leaking toilets. You can also catch shower or tap water before it heats up and use it on the garden.

Also turn off the tap when brushing teeth and always wash laundry and dishes with a full load. Timing our showers especially those of my teenagers is essential. You use the most water in the bathroom around 40% of all household water. Check your shower head because a threestar rated head uses no more than nine litres per minute while an older style uses up to 20 litres per minute, according to the useful website If you shower for six minutes, a waterefficient shower head can save up to 50 litres for each shower, or up to 20,000 litres per person per year.

Leaking toilet cisterns waste many litres each day. Check for a leak by putting a few drops of food dye in the cistern. If you have a leak, coloured water will appear in the bowl before the toilet has been flushed.

If you have a leaking tap, replace the washer or other faulty component, because dripping taps can waste as much as 200 litres a day.

The laundry uses 15% to 20% of all household water. You can cut that back by putting your washing machine on the most waterefficient cycle. If buying a new machine, look for one that has a star rating of four or more. A front loader will use less water than a top loader up to 70% in some cases, or 36,000 litres a year for a typical household.

A front loader will also use less detergent, and less energy if you use warm or hot water. According to the website, top loaders are generally cheaper than front loaders. For a machine of equivalent size and quality, the difference could be about $200. However, the gap is narrowing as more front loaders come onto the market.

I do have a thirsty garden and I’m planting droughtresistant plants that don’t need to be watered constantly in hot weather. My rainwater tanks help capture runoff and give me a free supply for the garden. Some 17% of Australians have rainwater tanks and I’m considering putting in more.

I’m also looking at the cost of a greywater system to recycle shower and kitchen sink water and the rinse cycle from my washing machine. Sydney Water says that households with a recycling system typically use 30% to 40% less utilitysupplied water.

Greywater systems vary greatly in price, depending on their complexity. A simple diverter can cost under $100, while a complete treatment system can set you back thousands. See some of the products available. You may qualify for a rebate from your state government or local council, depending on where you live.

How to cut costs

Read the label

Look for a dishwasher or washing machine that has a high WELS (Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards) rating. The best water rating is six stars. Don’t use the dishwasher and washing machine until you have a full load.

Royal flush

Fourstar rated toilets can save the average home up to 35,000 litres a year. They use just 4.5 litres for a full flush and three litres for a half flush. For olderstyle toilets, you can buy small gadgets to reduce the volume of water used with each flush. They flush only for as long as the button is pressed. Water Wizz has an easytoinstall device that can cut your usage by up to 70%. See

Control the flow

Flow control discs can be fitted to taps and shower heads. They are available in six, nine and 12litre per minute flow rates and can cut usage by up to 72%.

Written by Susan Hely

Susan Hely

Susan has been a finance journalist for 30 years. She wrote for the Australian Financial Review and the Sydney Morning Herald, edited ASFA's Superfunds magazine and wrote the best-selling Women and Money.

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