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Friday, November 18, 2005


Saving water

Here in south-east Queensland there has been a drought for most of this year. Since I have returned there has been some rain but dams remain at critically low levels. Quite severe water restrictions are in place.

Even though Australia is such a dry continent we live a life of plenty in general terms and tend to expect that whatever we want should be available to us. Perhaps we can learn a little about water saving from our Asian neighbours. What I write here I learned in Thailand but similar practises are common to most, or perhaps all, south-east Asian countries.

A traditional bath in Thailand is taken with water from a tub that one splashes over the body with a bowl. When wet, you soap up and then rinse the soap off with more water from the bowl. This is done with cold water. At the luxury end of the spectrum, at least from my experience, some of my middle-class Thai friends have an electric instantaneous hot water system connected to their shower. The temperature can be set in advance and being instantaneous very little water is wasted before it reaches the required temperature. Once again, one would usually wet the body, turn the shower off, soap up and rinse off. In between these options is a cold shower. Having lived with that I can assure you that in Thailand it is not too bad for over ten months of the year. However it can be a challenge in the winter which lasts four to six weeks when morning temperatures might drop to mid or even low teens.

I don't know anyone in Thailand who has running hot water in the kitchen.

The house I am staying in here in Brisbane has an instantaneous gas hot water system. It serves the whole house, ie bathroom, laundry and kitchen. The system is placed in the laundry. When having a shower it takes several minutes before all the cold water in the pipes has run through. When it does the water that comes out is probably not going to be the right temperature. It might take a minute or two more to adjust the two taps so that the temperature feels right. In the meantime quite a few litres of water have been wasted.

Now that the temperature has warmed up a little I have taken to showering Thai style with cold water. I feel I am doing my bit to help Brisbane cut down its water usage.

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