Ways to save water in a communal living spaces

With the rise in property prices, it’s no longer viable for the average person to purchase their own stand-alone home to live in. This means that more and more people are heading to cheaper living areas and choosing to buy flats and apartment blocks. Because there are so many people living in such a small space, this adds to the overall water usage. During the Western Cape’s current drought climate, can these places afford not to save water?

The answer is yes, but it requires a bit of work. As there aren’t as many new developments being built on a daily basis (or at least where they are needed), some water-saving tactics require some elbow grease. Of course, new developments can easily implement the below recommendations.

Rainwater capture and storage

When it rains, most of that water falls to the ground, is soaked up into the soil, or it evaporates. In the grand scheme of things, this is a waste to humans (but good for the environment). That’s drinkable water that can be used in a crisis, but it’s vanishing without us taking notice. 

One way to circumnavigate this issue is to set up water-catching stations. These can be used to collect water when it rains and store it until it’s needed. Often, storage takes place in the form of large water tanks that sit on the top of the roof of the building. Due to the weight these tanks can add to a structure it may not be viable for anything but a new, sturdy development. Otherwise, these can be placed on the ground with caught water funnelled into them.

If the water has been standing for a long time, it can then be treated so as to remove any chemicals or bacteria that may be living in it. The water can then be used for consumption or general usage. Furthering this, the captured water – if it is not drinkable – can be used to water the communal garden. This solution is being primarily implemented in houses, but it is viable for apartment complexes and businesses too.

There are quite a few companies, such as PROXA Water, that will have the ideal solution.

Repiping water collection

In a block of flats, almost every single apartment will have a washing machine installed. These devices usually have their own outlet, which feeds into the main pipe leaving the flat. With a bit of rigging and the installation of another tank, washing machine water, which consists mostly of lesser dirt particles and detergent, can be collected and reused. In general, it will be impossible to use this water for human consumption, but it can be utilised in flushing toilets.

Much like washing machines, toilets use an incredible amount of water every time they’re flushed. It doesn’t matter what needs to be flushed, there is always an excess use of water. By utilizing used water from washing machines, this will not only save on the precious resource, but cut down on water costs. In theory, it’s a simple procedure that carries a massive impact.

Car washes

Everyone loves a clean car. Driving around is a squeaky clean ride to work or a party is an experience. Unfortunately, it can take a lot of water to clean a car – even if it’s just a bucket full. Because of this, apartment blocks need to institute a no car washing policy. Some do, but not all of them. This will help to save every drop of water. After all, there are many waterless car washes around.

Garden usage

Much like any free standing house, blocks of flats often have communal gardens. This is where residents will gather to enjoy themselves in the sun, have a braai, or just chat. These need to be watered from time to time. Instead of having sprinklers run during the day, use watering cans to water what is necessary. 

Look at the plumbing

An excellent way to save water is to look at the plumbing in a flat. An inspector should be called in to check all of the pipes to make sure there are no leaks. When that has been completed the flat should be fitted with water-saving apparatus.

The average person doesn’t require a lot of water to bath or an exceptional amount of water pressure. This means that all of the taps and the shower head can be fitted with eco systems. These limit the amount of water that is dispersed at a single time in order to save water.

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