Perth summers are getting longer and hotter while our winters are getting shorter and dryer. We are faced with a drying climate. We are constantly being reminded by Government agencies to save water, that the water levels in our dams are at an all time low, and that, with reduced rainfall, we could be in serious trouble.

Too cheap

Yet, it still seems difficult for the investment in water saving technology to be economically viable. The fact that water is (too) cheap does not help. Low costs have a significant impact on the amount of water that we use. While true cost pricing may seem like a simple solution, it is not a popular one. Water is one of the basic human rights. According to the United Nations everyone should have access to a minimum of 20L of clean drinking water each day. We believe, any price rises need to take this basic human right into account. When I think about it, 20L is one big water container. When we go camping it lasts us 2 days for 2 people, but as soon as we get home…

Water restrictions

We have become accustomed to the fact that we can only water our gardens at certain times or on certain days. Water restrictions are one of the most common solutions to achieving water efficiency in communities. We have been informed by Government agencies what the reasons are for the restrictions and what the benefits are. We expect that Western Australians will face much tougher restrictions in future.

What we do

You would expect that investment in water saving technologies are high on the Government agenda. Indeed there are programs where you can swap your showerhead for a water saving one, for free. There are also subsidies for rainwater tanks and certain grey water systems. Unfortunately red tape doesn’t make it easy to implement some of the simple technologies for developments where facilities and gardens are shared.

Plumbing fittings and fixtures

Taps. Our standard specifications include 6-star tapware. 6 star means a flow rate of 4.5L per minute. Not being aware of what is currently on the market I checked out some of the bigger plumbing suppliers the other day (late March 2011) and was surprised to find that the products they stock do not exceed 4-stars which means a flow rate of 7.5L per minute.


Toilet. When you buy a new toilet it is also important to look at the star rating. The star rating indicates how much water you will use per flush. All new toilets now have dual flush. Our new toilets use least amount of water per flush. Some toilets have the washbasis above the cistern so that the water that is used for washing your hands is re-used for flushing the toilet. We would have loved to be able to install a composting toilet in one of the houses. There are some fantastic systems on the market. Unfortutely government policies and guidelines do not allow composting toilets in urban areas that are connected to the sewer.

Rain water

One of the best things you can do to save water is install a rain water tank and use this water for flushing the toilet, the washing machine and watering of the garden. It is even possible to use rainwater throughout the whole of home. In winter, this would enable households to substantially reduce their water consumption as is evidenced by below copy of bill for one of the townhouses which is part of the development on 96 Rutland Avenue.water bill

Unfortunately Government guidelines make the use of these simple technologies difficult for larger, apartment style developments. The use of rainwater in the home for non-potable purposes (washing machine and flushing toilet) is currently classed as high risk). We recommend checking the website of the WA Department of Health for the latest.


Green Swing - 96 Rutland Ave, Lathlain-81_resizedSimilar red tape restrictions apply to the use of grey or alternate water. The Department of Health has published guidelines for the use of grey water which describe the risk classification and associated management and monitoring requirements. These guidelines make it very difficult to implement grey water solutions at a small scale. We continue to monitor and challenge the legislative framework and recommend to check their website for the latest updates. Unfortunately this red tape has created uncertainty about the value of investing in dual plumbing.

Ground breaking

Our project at 96 Rutland Avenue was ground breaking in relation to its water saving measures. While the technologies used are commonly available and nothing new, it was the first time the Department of Health supported a shared rainwater system and grey water disbursement system for irrigation of communal garden spaces.