Will Anderson: The Green House

Keep one eye on water conservation - even when the rain is chucking it down
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The Independent Online

The south London monsoon arrived today. Or so it seemed: a hurling, torrential rainstorm that flattened the crocuses and sent our cats scurrying for cover. After such a prolonged period of drought, any rain is welcome, but the uncharacteristic intensity of the storm was not reassuring.

I would never jump to conclusions without the usual dreary qualification that one weather event tells us nothing about the climate, but the central prediction of climate-change models - that the weather will become less predictable - gains ground every day.

If the climate is becoming more unpredictable, we have to become more strategic in our response. If we only start fretting about water metering and hosepipes after periods of drought, we will lurch from one all-too-predictable crisis to the next. However heavy our April showers may be, we have to act now to prepare for the next swing in the opposite direction.

Water conservation is a low priority for most people, not least because it makes no difference to their pockets. If you don't have a water meter, ask for one; it will help you to see the savings you are making from personal changes in your vie d'eau. These might include some of the following:

* Never take a leak for granted. You know very well that fixing a leak will never work its way to the top of your to-do list, so put it there straight away.

* Don't run half-empty. A washing machine with anything less than a full load is inefficient.

* Get more for less. Fit aerators and flow regulators to your taps to get a consistent, full flow for less water. Neoperl aerators with built-in flow regulators can be retrofitted on any tap with a screw thread at its outlet.

* Rain on the garden. Collect the rain from your roof and, if this isn't enough, plant drought-tolerant flowers and shrubs. Mulch beds and pots to retain moisture.

* Know your volumes. Buy a kettle with a clear volume indicator and experiment to see exactly how much you need to fill your mug, teapot and coffee jug.

* Fine tune your flushing. Put a plastic bottle (not a disintegrating brick) in your toilet cistern. Choose a bottle size that maximises your water saving without making you flush twice.

* Wash your body wisely. Shower often, bath infrequently and power-shower only when your boutique hotel has nothing else.

* Get what you want first time. Avoid letting taps run to get your desired temperature by insulating pipes, keeping pipe runs short and keeping a bottle of cold water in the fridge.

* Don't wash the air. If there is nothing to interrupt the water flow before it hits the plug hole, it shouldn't be on. This applies to lathering up in the shower as well as to brushing your teeth.

I could add: resist that outdoor, centrally heated hot tub with built-in minibar. It might be fun to sit in when the monsoon hits, but you'll end up looking like a stewed prune, garlanded with flattened crocuses.

* GREAT BUY

The Ifo Cera ES4 is the most robust low-flush toilet on the market. It's available from the Green Building Store (01484 854 898; www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk).

* GREAT WEBSITE

The Environment Agency's website offers detailed guidance on all aspects of water conservation and recycling ( www.environment-agency.gov.uk).

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