Waterwise Homes and Gardens

Find out how you can save water in your home and garden.

Gardens

Following are tips on how you can be more waterwise in your garden.

Hand water

Hand watering makes up only 3% of household water use and is a very small figure compared to the amount of water used on irrigation. However, water use in this area can be reduced by switching to drip irrigation where possible, as this is the most efficient form of irrigation. Reducing the number of pot plants you have is another option as pot plants use more water than plants in the ground.

Reduce the amount of lawn area in your garden

Lawn requires a lot of water compared to other types of low water using plants. Replacing your lawn with waterwise plants will save you time watering, maintaining irrigation, fertilising and mowing. Lawn may be replaced with waterwise plants, groundcovers or mulch.

Visit the Water Corporation website for information on creating a water-efficient verge.

Note: Verge landscaping requires approval from your local Shire.

Plant waterwise plants

Local native species are a great option as West Australian plants are adapted to survive the dry conditions of our long summers, and the bountiful biodiversity of our region provides a variety of species to suit the needs of any garden.

Be wary of native plants from the Eastern states. Although they require little water, they often have potential to escape from gardens and become bushland weeds.

Find out more about choosing native plants for your garden and property.

Use hydrozoning in your garden layout

Group plants together in your garden by their water needs.

Plants that need very little water can be grouped together and higher water using plants can be placed in a separate area. This makes for much more efficient watering and reduces water use.

Protect your soil by adding a layer of mulch

A 5−10cm layer of mulch over the soil will allow water to drain into the soil and prevent evaporation.

Waterwise mulch should be of a chunky consistency rather than fine so it will soak up the water, compact and prevent water filtering through to the plant’s roots.

Mulch also helps suppress weeds, which reduces maintenance.

Top up mulch each year to maintain the appropriate level but do not place mulch so that it contacts the stems of the plant as this can cause the plant to rot. Mulch should be well composted to prevent the spread of disease and weeds.

Be aware that adding mulch can cause nitrogen drawdown. This is when micro-organisms such as fungi and bacteria start to compost the woody materials on the soil surface. To do this they need to draw nutrients out of the soil. Nitrogen drawdown results in the competition for nutrients between the plant roots and the mulch on the surface being broken down.

To combat this, first place a 1−2cm layer of well-rotted cow manure or compost on the soil around your plant, then the woody mulch layer on top of this. The manure will directly provide nutrients for the plants and creates a ‘buffer’ so the mulch sitting on top won’t compete and draw nutrients out of the soil away from the roots.

Install an efficient irrigation system

Irrigation is most efficient when water is applied to the root area of the plants rather than spraying the leaves. For this reason, drip irrigation systems are highly efficient, and are a cheap option for your garden. A drip irrigation system prevents loss of water through surface evaporation, especially if it is installed under a good layer of mulch. Watering early in the morning before 9:00am or in the evening after 6:00pm will help to avoid evaporative loss.

A waterwise irrigation design shop can provide you with the most expert up-to-date advice on waterwise irrigation systems.

Visit the Water Corporation’s website for the current list of Waterwise Specialists. This website also has lots of useful information on improving your soil, creating waterwise gardens and choosing waterwise plants.

Improve your soil

Soil improvement makes a big difference, as adding clay and organic matter to your soil will improve its structure to help it retain water and nutrients.

When planting new plants, add organic matter into the planting hole, mixing it in with soil from the hole and water in well. The organic matter feeds the plant and promotes healthy soil life (microbes and worms) that support the plant’s health. It also helps improve soil structure so it will better distribute and hold water. The rule of thumb is to add an amount of organic matter to the planting hole equivalent to the amount of potting mix in the plant pot.

Addition of commercial soil wetting agents can also help soils absorb water and get to the plant roots. Both sandy and clay soils will benefit from the addition of organic matter.

Visit the Water Corporation website for information on improving your soil.

Use greywater for irrigation in your garden

Reusing household waste water sourced from the shower, laundry tub and wash basins allow you to use this undervalued resource to keep your garden lush and healthy. The nutrients in the greywater from the laundry wash cycle can reduce the amount of fertiliser you need to add to your garden.

Use water collected from a rainwater tank

Collected rainwater may also be used to irrigate your garden. However, as garden irrigation requires much more water usage than is required in the house, you may prefer to save your store of rainwater for inside rather than outside use.

A good rainwater tank vendor will work with you to match your tank size to your household needs.

Shower and bath

Shower and bath use account for 25%, or one quarter of household water use. Find out how you can reduce water use in the shower.

Install a low-flow showerhead

The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) Scheme rates products and appliances by their water efficiency, with up to six stars for the most efficient products. Old fashioned showerheads can use up to 12L of water per minute. A 3-star rated showerhead only uses 9 litres per minute, which can save 20 to 30L of water per person per day.

To measure the amount of water your showerhead uses, turn it on and direct water into a bucket for one minute, and note the amount of litres of water in the bucket. This is your showerhead’s water usage in litres per minute.

Other waterwise appliances, such as flow regulators or aerators on your taps and single lever mixer taps, are also available to help save water.

Visit the Water Corporation website for more information on planning a waterwise home.

Reduce your shower time to 4 minutes

Did you know:

  • Taking an 8-minute shower every day with a conventional showerhead (12 L per minute) uses approximately 35,000 L of water per year.
  • Taking a 4-minute shower every day under a 3-star rated showerhead (9L per minute) uses less than 15,000L per year, saving over 20,000L of water per year.

A shower timer can get you in the habit of taking 4-minute showers. These are inexpensive and readily available to buy online at hardware stores, ecoshops and Waterwise Specialist shops.

Take a ‘navy shower’

In warmer weather you could take a ‘navy shower’, which involves running the water for a little while initially to get wet, turning it off to wash yourself with soap or shampoo your hair, and then turning the water on again to rinse off. Anecdotally, this form of shower was popularised in the navy in order to save fresh water stored on seafaring ships.

Reuse your greywater

One easy option for this is bucketing by collecting water in a bucket while you are waiting for the shower water to warm up and/or during your shower, and then pouring the water on the garden when you are finished.

Make sure to use a bucket which is of a manageable size.

Toilets

Toilets attribute 9% of household water use. The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) Scheme website notes that “an oldstyle single flush toilet can use up to 12 litres of water in one flush, whereas more water efficient dual flush toilets average less than four litres”.

Ways to reduce the amount of water used include the following:

Install a more water efficient toilet

The WELS Scheme requires new toilets be registered and labelled with an efficiency rating score out of six, with six being the most efficient.

Install a 4-star rated dual flush toilet

Installing a water-efficient toilet to replace a single flush toilet could save your household around 30,000L of water per year.

Put a bottle of water in your cistern

If you are unable to install a new toilet, you can place a one- or two-litre bottle of water in your toilet’s cistern (ie. a bottle full of water with the lid on).

It will reduce the amount of water needed to fill the cistern, and therefore the amount of water used per flush. Given that people use a toilet an average of seven times per day, this is a cheap option that can save a considerable amount of water.

Fix leaks

A leaking toilet can waste up to 25L of water a day. You can test for leaks by adding a dash of food colouring to your toilet cistern, leaving it for an hour or two without flushing, and then inspecting the toilet bowl. If the water shows any sign of the colour you added, you have a leak.

There are several possible reasons for this and there are a number of useful troubleshooting guides to solve this problem on the internet. However, most causes can be fixed yourself through checking, cleaning, adjusting and replacing dysfunctional parts in the cistern (hardware stores carry replacement parts for toilets) or engaging a plumber.

After replacing dysfunctional parts, repeat the food colouring test to make sure you have fixed the leak.

Visit the Water Corporation website to find out more abut leaky toilets.

Install an Aerobic Treatment Unit (ATU) and reuse your blackwater

In areas of your Shire where connection to the sewer system is not available ATUs are an alternative to septic tanks.

These systems treat water to a higher level than septic systems, and the water may then be reused on your garden which saves scheme water use on irrigation.

Investigate if an ATU is right for you as there are ongoing costs. A qualified contractor must undertake maintenance inspections on a regular basis. 

Find out more about effluent disposal systems.

Install a composting toilet

Composting toilets are another option for reducing water use if your property is not connected to the sewer system. These toilets break down human waste using natural decomposition processes and usually operate without a water flush system.

Some types of composting toilets have heating and drying units powered by electricity or wind power to assist the decomposition process. If your composting toilet is well maintained it will not smell.

Note, you will need to contact the Shire prior to installing a composting toilet.

Evaporative air conditioners

If using evaporative air conditioning one way to save water is to collect water bled from the air conditioner by putting a container under the dump pipe and emptying it onto your pot plants.

Note that this water is higher in total dissolved salts than tap water due to the evaporative process of the air conditioner. Reusing this water also requires some vigilance so that water is not left standing as this could allow mosquitos to breed.

Fix leaks in your home

4% of water consumed in the average Perth residence is the result of leaks. This is a significant figure given that this water is not being used for any useful purpose.

An easy way to check for leaks is to read your water meter before going to bed, avoid using taps or the toilet overnight and read the meter again in the morning. If there is a change in the reading you may have one or more leaks.

Small leaks take longer to show so it is good to wait this length of time in order to pick them up. If you suspect a large leak, you need only wait a couple of hours before checking the meter again. If a leak is detected first check all taps and fittings, and try the toilet food colouring leak test described above.

Change all washers and seals you can manage yourself and if you are still experiencing a leak contact a plumber.

Visit the Water Corporation website for more tips on detecting leaks.

Pools and spas

Though pool and spa water use seems small at only 2% of household water use, installing a pool blanket (pool cover) to prevent evaporation can save a staggering 50,000L of water a year, amounting to thirteen buckets a day.

The pool blanket should cover the pool whenever it is not in use. As well as conserving water a pool cover can help reduce your pool’s chemical consumption (as this evaporates along with the water), reduce cleaning time by keeping dirt and falling leaves out of the pool and can also make your pool warmer to swim in.

Dishwashers

Dishwasher use makes up 1% of the average household use, and the WELS rating system mentioned also applies to dishwashers.

If you are buying a new dishwasher, choose a highly rated model. Also save water by waiting until your dishwasher is full before turning it on to maximise the benefit from the water used. To save a significant amount of energy, turn off the drying cycle and open the door to let your dishes air dry naturally.

More information and contact

For more information about being waterwise, visit the Water Corporation website or contact the Shire’s Environmental Team on 9290 6651 or email shire@mundaring.wa.gov.au.