The life & times of an HVAC Engineer

{April 4, 2011}   Gimme gimme good water

Starting last week, and carrying on for the next few months the Science Council’s careers website, future morph (which, incidentally is a brilliant resource for anyone considering a career in science/engineering but wants a bit more inspiration about what sort of jobs they could actually do), is running science Q&A forums. You can read & join in here. If you’re with the Orange mobile network you can also join in via your iPhone using the ‘Do Something Good’ app.

There have been some fantastic, intriguing, and occasionally slightly worrying questions, here are a few examples:

If we drink the water that has been running through the mountains for millions of years, why do manufacturers then stick a sell by date on it?
How far away are we from exploring the deepest of the worlds oceans?
With fresh water resources becoming more scarce, what can be done to make desalination plants more sustainable e.g. using renewable energy?
How much water would you need to put out a fire the size of the moon?

And last but not least (and I’m very thankful that this question isn’t in my area of expertise):

How much water can you get into a human being before he explodes?

I’ve been really enjoying putting my knowledge to use in answering questions from enquiring minds of all ages, the majority of the people asking them are 14-19 though, so hopefully these are the first tendrils of interest that will grow into fully fledged careers in science & engineering. Certainly my favourite questions relate to being more environmentally friendly which, as the first theme is ‘Water’, there have been a fair few of. Those questions & answers are well worth a read for anyone who wants to help reduce water wastage or for anyone who pays metered water bills! So, in the interests of saving the planet or reducing your bills, here are a few water saving tips gleaned from my Future Morph answers:

An appealing way of saving water

Showers & Baths:
A ‘traditional’ shower rose uses up to 20 litres of water per minute so could be using 200 litres for a 10 minute shower…making it about equal with the amount used for a bath. You can save water by using a modern shower head, these generally use around 12 litres of water per minute. Saving in a 10 minute shower = 80 litres of water + 18p
Using ‘water widgets’ to reduce the water flow or choosing a water efficient shower head can reduce this down as low as 6 litres of water per minute so you’d only be using 60 litres of water in 10 minutes. Saving = 140 litres of water + 32p
Of course spending less time in the shower would also save water, as would sharing a bath:

Toilets: Traditional toilets use about 13 litres of water per flush but modern water saving ones can use as little as 6 litres. Saving: 7 litres + 1.6p
You can reduce the water used by traditional toilets by filling an old drinks bottle with water putting the cap on & then putting it in the cistern. The water saved per flush will be the same volume as the volume of the drinks bottle. Saving: 2 litres + 0.05p

Sinks: A standard tap uses around 0.15 litres per second where as a tap with a spray head/aerator uses around 0.03 litres per second. So by fitting spray inserts you could be reducing the water use by around 80%. Saving: 7 litres + 1.6p per minute

Gardens & Cars: Watering the average garden with a hosepipe takes 540 litres of water. By using a watering can instead or by at least fitting a nozzle with a trigger you can significantly reduce this…often down to as little as 50-100 litres. Saving: 465 litres + £1.06
Washing the car with a hosepipe also uses 400-500 litres of water, instead you can use a few buckets of water and reduce the need for water down to around 32 litres. Saving: 418 litres + 96p
Also recycled or ‘grey’ water can be used for these jobs, which reduces your water demand even further. Saving: 500 litres + £1.15

Recycling Water: It’s very easy to direct gutters into a water butt and use some of the 85,000 litres of water that falls on the average UK roof each year. This water can be used for flushing toilets, watering the garden and cleaning the car without any need for treatment. You can also use the water from your bath, shower & sink to flush toilets or wash the car. This can give you a saving of several 1000 litres of water per year, which could certainly save you a few quid!

Wasting Water: Water companies estimate that around a third of all the water used in the UK is just run straight into the drain. This is done when you brush your teeth without turning off the tap, or wait for the water to run cold before you get a glass of water or wait for it to run hot before you wash your hands. Make sure you always turn the tap off when you don’t need it , for example when you’re brushing your teeth. Saving: 15 litres + 3p When you’re waiting for the water to run hot why not run it into a jug, then you can use this water to water the house plants. Rather than waiting for the water to run cold you could just keep a jug of water in the fridge. Also, make sure you fix leaking taps, these can waste up 26 litres of water per day! Saving: 26 litres + 6p

Ok, so a lot of these savings may not sound like a lot, but they’re each for doing one activity once. Think about how often you flush the loo, wash your hands, have a shower & brush your teeth. Add them all up and you could certainly afford to treat yourself to something with your savings by the end of the year, and as the costs of water go up it will become even more worthwhile!

[Savings calculated using water costs of £0.8/m3 & waste costs £1.49/m3, as it is only usually clean water that is metered I’ve made the same assumption as the water companies & that clean water into a house = waste water out of the house]


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