Green Goddess Columns
Thursday, 6 February 2006

At this time of year I don't often venture out on my roof terrace except to tend occasionally to my worm compost bin. This is a complicated, fairly athletic procedure involving my climbing up a steep ladder and crossing onto my next door neighbour's roof, balancing a slop bucket full of kitchen waste.

I must admit I've been neglecting the worms recently as it's such a performance, plus the worm bin is quite overloaded and I'm terrified it will topple over and annoy my soigns neighbours. This would be very bad news as I don't want them to oppose my incredibly high-tech-sounding plans for wind turbines, rainwater harvesting systems and solar panels. I'm determined to get my wind turbine up before David Cameron's, and so far there have been no neighbourly objections, but a shed load of worms crawling over their roof might just make them reconsider.

Anyway, yesterday I had a load of coffee grounds and tea leaves that I thought might stimulate my worms into activity. I was slipping about on the soaking wet patio with the slop bucket when it occurred to me that it was still being automatically watered morning and night at summer levels, and I had no idea how to turn it down, or off. I know it has been dry recently but I definitely don't need to use this much water.

I admitted this to a green-minded friend, shocking him further when I confessed to having a shower in the morning and a bath at night.

"People are becoming paranoid about personal hygiene!" he spluttered. "Water is one of the earth's most valuable commodities and it's being used as a faux spiritual therapy. It's outrageous that we are exporting our extravagant and wasteful water systems to the third world rather than teaching them simple water-saving techniques instead."

He went on to explain that he and his family all bathe together to save water and, apparently, it's wonderful. Ugh!

My flat is already in danger of becoming some sort of middle- aged youth hostel, with air stewardesses, boyfriends and neighbours endlessly dropping in. The thought of our all sharing baths as well is too awful for words - the bathroom is the only place I can get away from them all' in fact I'm working in it right now.

Still I take his point and I celebrated World Water Day on 2 February (what do you mean you missed it?) by implementing some simple strategies at home

The plumber fitted spray mesh onto all my taps, which has reduced my water usage significantly. For example, the average person might use five litres of water to rinse their hands but with a spray tap this is now reduced to one. He is also building a rainwater harvester, to collect rainwater for me to water the patio and flush my loo with.

Every year 40,000 litres of rainwater falls off our roofs and drains away, only to become expensive drinking water. This "grey water" can easily be caught and used to flush loos and water gardens.

I'm also in the process of replacing an old lavatory with a triple-flush one that has the option of using two, four or six litres of water.

Last month was the driest January for 30 years and we are currently experiencing one of the driest periods on record. Many of our reservoirs are down to half their normal levels and the Environment Agency has even given Thames Water a drought permit to take extra water from rivers and lakes to the detriment of birds, plants and fish.

The link between my water profligacy and the needless suffering of wildlife is the incentive I need to cut back.

I've just had an idea. I don't want to share anyone else's bath water, but I'm sure my flatmates won't mind using mine. A landlady has got to have some rights - greenness is next to godliness, after all.



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