A lot of the focus of Essential Environmental projects are on encouraging and implementing Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) practices at subdivision, local structure plan and regional scales. i.e. the bigger ones which allow government and developers to plan and implement catchment scale infrastructure and systems!
But well may you ask……………what about little old me?? What can I do at my own home to contribute to sustainable water management and maintain/improve the hydrological cycle in my neighbourhood? (I’m sure you all ask yourselves that a lot! Right?!)
Well my fellow hydrophiles! There are many ways in which you can do your bit around the home and garden to help maintain our wetlands, waterways and groundwater systems. Some are obvious and some may be not so much. Using less of our precious water, clearly. But how (other than singing less in the shower)? Try a combination of these actions:
- Replacing your taps, shower heads, fixtures & noisy white goods with water efficient, high WELS ratings equivalents. You could even be really nerdy and install flow regulators on existing taps.
- Install a rainwater tank! You can use the water you collect to water your garden OR even plumb it into your bathroom and use the water for toilet flushing.
- Install a greywater system! That’s a system which collects water from your laundry, shower/bath and bathroom sink (i.e. not human waste). Depending on the level of treatment, this water can be recycled and reused for watering your garden (in a drip system) or flushing your worries away (in your toilet)!
- Put a cover on your pool. Don’t let evaporation suck up all those bombie opportunities.
- Check whether your water bill has gone up a lot recently – maybe you have a leak or two?
- Get a smart meter for your house. These little computers collect water use data to help you figure out where all your water is going & how to reduce your consumption (with neat graphs & emails to alert you to leaks).
- Get an awesome toilet. You know, one of those ones that has a hand basin on top of it that you can find in hipster restaurants.
- Get an even more awesome toilet. One of those toilets that don’t even NEED water. If you want to get really hardcore, you can even get one that converts your leavings into fertiliser (then you could basically be like Matt Damon in The Martian)!
- Don’t be a drip – get drip irrigation down in your green patch.
- Speaking of green patches, make sure yours is made up of native/waterwise/fertiliserwise plants which require less irrigation and nutrients which would otherwise escape into our waterways.
The less obvious way to get your WSUD on at home is infiltrating as much of the rain that falls on your house and garden. i.e. let the soil soak up as much of that wet life-giving goodness as possible! This allows the rain to recharge our groundwater systems and more closely mimic the natural hydrological cycle.
This can be done by:
- Reducing the hard surfaces and infiltrating that rain. Think grassed/vegetated/gravel areas over soak wells instead of paving over every square inch of front yard like your old Italian grandma loved to do.
- If you really can’t let go of those hard surfaces, you can buy porous paving which is designed to allow water to soak through and seep into the ground beneath.
- You can even install a funky permeable driveway using structures that can take the heavy traffic load but incorporate porous gravel or grass for infiltrating rain water.
When maintained correctly, the grass driveways are indistinguishable from a regular lawn. But don’t forget to check with your local council (remember that little incident in Perth?)! If they make a fuss, make sure you let them know they need to get up to speed with WSUD and approve it for the benefit of the community and environment!
- Get the coolest house on the street and make your neighbours jealous by installing a living green roof and green walls to reduce the runoff and/or recycle greywater from your property. You will also obtain the added benefit of cooling your house and increasing your green space at the same time as living in what is essentially a hobbit hole (and you never know, a wizard may even come by for tea and propose an adventure).
- No naughty (illegal) cross-connections of your gutters with your sewer! You know who you are…….just surreptitiously call your plumber and get him/her to whack in a soak well or re-direct your drain pipe into somewhere for infiltration (see (1)).
- Install your own rain garden to infiltrate and improve the water quality of stormwater running off your roof/hard stand instead of directing all the pollutants into the big drains down the road, and ultimately the local waterways. You can build them in waist high planter boxes or as in ground features with roof downpipes directed into them.
- Everyone hates being bitten by mossies right? So why not make a little wetland using local native plants for some local frogs and dragonflies to live in and eat them up for dinner! Not only will you get rid of those annoying bugs and create a new pad for some froggies, but you will provide a system for stormwater runoff to infiltrate into the local groundwater system at a higher water quality (when the plants take up nutrients in the runoff for their own personal growth, which we could all use, really).
If you want some more expert advice, you can always head over to the New WAter Ways website or the Federal Government’s YourHome website and guide to environmentally sustainable houses. Your friendly local government environment officer should also be able to point you in the right direction towards the installation of approved, good quality infrastructure such as greywater systems and rainwater tanks. They may also be running their own environmental initiatives to help you get started!
And if you really need another reason to get WSUD into you home, just listen to this model: