Russell Baillie

When did you start making lifestyle changes to conserve water, and why?

20 years ago when refurbishing an old villa, we went for the most water efficient fittings and appliances at the time. It just seemed logical minimise wastage as much as possible. Oh, and yes, it did align with my job of promoting energy and water efficiency. When we designed and built our new home 5 years ago we stepped it up a notch, looking at the supply side as well as the end-use efficiency, all as an integral part of the design philosophy.

Describe the most satisfying change you have made – what motivated you, how you went about the change, and anything else relevant.

Rainwater tanks enable us to be self-sufficient with water for a large proportion of the year. Because of our small and tight site, we chose three narrow but tall tanks, which give us a combined storage of 15,000 litres.

What other changes or tweaks have you made?

Right from the beginning, we went for appliances with the highest efficiency according to the Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (WELS). This included our taps, showerheads, toilets, dishwasher and washing machine. We also chose plants for the non-edible parts of our garden that are low maintenance and require less water.

What’s one thing you still feel you could do better?

Reminding teenagers that even though most of our water doesn’t come from Watercare’s network, they still need to keep their showers short to keep some water in the tanks for later. It’s very easy to think ‘it’s raining, our tanks are full, I can stay in for longer if I want’, but this sets up bad habits that become harder to break later on.

What would you say to encourage people to join you in being a water saver?

Water is essential to life and despite it ‘just falling out of the sky’ it does cost a lot to catch, store, treat, distribute it and then take away and treat what goes down the drain, so conserving it is a no-brainer.

Beyond the basics of shorter showers, not running taps unnecessarily and waiting until the dishwasher and washing machine are full before using them, one of the quickest, cheapest and simplest things people can do is install a good quality, efficient shower rose (head).

If you are a homeowner, you can change your showerheads and either change or put restrictors in your taps. Another great measure is to install one of the new slim line tanks or under-deck bladder tanks for gardening, toilet flushing, etc.

If you are a tenant, you can swap out your landlord’s showerhead for a low-flow one, and swap it back when you leave.