Wednesday, December 13, 2006

In the last nine days, we’ve had 90mm of rain (the monthly average is 92mm) which means that 90 litres has fallen on every square metre of land leaving everything decidedly soggy! This does not seem the obvious introduction to some water saving measures we’ve taken this week but water conservation really is becoming a big issue environmentally and, as we pay for our metered supply, an economic one as well.

At the Saturday organic market at St Pern, between Plouasne and Becherel, a friend of ours, Béatrice Méra, has a stall selling natural cosmetics and essential oils; she also sells some water saving devices and water filters. Due to her snappy sales technique or perhaps we were feeling sorry for her on a cold autumnal day, we bought two devices to screw into the end of a tap (one each for the mixer taps in kitchen and bathroom) and an economising shower head. I’ve come across the tap fittings before but was wary about the showerhead, as I love the sensation of a getting really wet under power shower (both hot and cold water are mains pressure in France, so the effect is the same). She assured us the shower jet was strong and très agréable .

Fixing them all was easy. The mixer taps already have a diffuser screwed into them, easily removed with a pair of pliers, and there was an extra spacer ring that therefore gave two thread sizes to choose from and it was obvious what to do. Do be careful if your mixer head is plastic, as I almost cross-threaded the one in the bathroom, which would have made me very cross-headed! The showerhead was a direct replacement; thankfully all these plumbing fitting must be reasonably standard. The tap fittings aerate the flow, so you get the same sensation of getting wet, but using a lot less water. The shower was great, so much so that I was not at all convinced that with was saving any water and thought we might have wasted our 30€ (£20). Hence the measuring jug and watch experiment you can see in the photo above.

The taps changed from around 12 seconds a litre to 20 but the shower, of which I had my doubts, changed from 10 seconds to 28 seconds a litre. I haven’t worked out how long it would take to recoup our costs, which would depend on water usage and the price of water but Béatrice assures me that, on average, it would be well within the first year. What was interesting, apart from working out the savings, was how quickly a tap gets through a litre of water. Apart from water shortages, there is also the issue of how much energy and chemicals go into treating all water supplied to the house to drinking standard and makes the collection and use of rainwater for the garden and, e.g., car washing, such a good idea (see blog of Friday 4th August). You will find Béatrice most Saturdays at the St Pern market and you can email her at For everything you ever wanted to know about water, why not ask Santa for a copy of Judith Thornton’s The Water Book (pub. by The Centre of Alternative Technology)?