As we begin Christmas preparations, water usage usually isn’t something we consider when making our to-do lists for the festive season. However, in all our activities: cleaning the house, cooking Christmas dinners and washing the mountains of dishes – we will be using water. In this Day 9 post, we are focusing on water saving measures specific to hosting Christmas events at home associated with meal planning, cooking and cleaning.

What’s our water like in Brisbane?

The dam level here in South East Queensland is currently at 58% meaning we have entered drought readiness and we are being encouraged to save water. It has already been a hot start to summer here in Brisbane and little rain has been forecasted. According to SEQ Water each day we currently use 200 litres per person and as we entertain our family and friends over Christmas, our water usage will increase. A decade ago our daily water usage was only 145 litres per person and together I’m confident we can reduce our water consumption again by implementing some simple water saving measures and being more water wise.     

Every person and every drop counts! There are many simple ways we can save water and reduce our water bill this Christmas. SEQ Water has some fantastic information on how to save water inside and outside your household on their website. Check out their short YouTube video below for some quick ideas:

1. Save water with what we eat and drink

My Grandad always loved the saying “save water – drink wine!”, however in actual fact it takes 120 litres of water to produce a 125 mL glass of wine so whilst he was definitely not saving water – he was at least enjoying his wine! Growing, processing and transporting food consumes lots of water – how much you ask? Well the World Economic Forum explores these aspects:

This means the greatest water savings you make this Christmas might be in your meal choices and minimising food waste ( see our post from Day 7 for tips to avoid food waste). We’ve done some back of the envelope calculations using globally averaged data from articles by Mekonnen and Hoekstra to compare the water footprint of three Christmas day meal options:

  1. Traditional British baked turkey dinner
  2. Aussie ham, BBQ prawns and salad
  3. Vegetarian Christmas Dinner

How does each option stack up in terms of water footprint? We’ve created a visual chart below and have a discussion of what these values translate to and what components contributed to these results.

The determining factor between the different meal choices was the difference between the water footprint for turkey (4325 L/kg), Ham (5988 L/kg) and vegetables (130L/kg for Lettuce, 250L/kg for potatoes). Broadly speaking, animal products have a much bigger water footprint than crop products: for beef, it is 20 times more than for cereals and starchy foods. For milk, eggs and chicken, it is 1.5 times larger than for pulses. Therefore, if you want to reduce your food-related water footprint at Christmas, one of the most effective route is to eat less animal products and a greater proportion of plant-based foods.

If you are interested in knowing more about the individual water footprint of different food items (e.g. It takes the equivalent of 10 bathtubs (1,700 litres) of water to produce one typical 100 g chocolate bar) , there are some great resources out there:

2. Save water while cooking

As you begin planning your Christmas holiday meals, Green Redeem has some great tips for reducing water in the kitchen:

  • Wash food in a bowl rather than continuously running water when washing fruits and vegetables or defrosting meats.
  • Thaw frozen fruits and meat in the refrigerator or microwave instead of running hot water over them
  • Save your non-starchy vegetable water for making gravies and stocks.
  • Use tight-fitting lids on pans when cooking. The food cooks faster and requires less water.
  • Don’t contribute to Christmas fatbergs in our sewers! Leave used cooking fat and oil to cool. Pour into a strong container with a lid and take it to the recycling centre with the rest of your Christmas recycling. Check out where to take your cooking oil here at  https://recyclingnearyou.com.au/cooking-oil/BrisbaneQLD
  • Buy a steamer basket for your vegetables. As well as saving water, veggies retains more flavour and nutrients when steamed instead of boiled or braised.
  • Invest in a pressure cooker for faster, healthier cooking using a minimum amount of water. Mashed potatoes in a matter of a few minutes!

3. Save water using reusable dinnerware

When having the entire family over for Christmas – purchasing disposable plates, cups, bowls and cutlery is a time-effective convenient option. However, do the disposable plates stack up in terms of water? You may have thought by using disposable dinnerware you would be saving water with no dishes to clean. But there is hidden virtual water in your disposable paper plate, bowl or cutlery.  

Did you know it takes 30 litres of fresh water to produce enough paper for one paper plate? In other words, the water in a single paper plate is equivalent to two full dishwasher loads even before considering the hidden water in paper plate manufacturing and fuel for transportation. So from purely a water perspective washing your ceramic plate uses far less water than a single-use paper plate and also doesn’t produce waste.  

The hidden virtual water impacts of disposables are confronting!

Therefore, to save water this festive season, if you’re hosting Christmas and don’t have enough dinnerware, ask guests to bring their own instead of purchasing disposable dinnerware. Tell them you’re trying out some new low-waste living techniques to help reduce your impact on the environment.

4. Save water with dishwashing

It is a popular myth that washing dishes by hand saves water compared to using a dishwasher, however this is not necessarily true and depends on your washing technique and dishwasher water-rating. According to Can Star Blue, the standard dishwasher only uses 13 litres per load compared to washing dishes by hand which uses almost double with your average sink holding between 20 to 25 litres of water. In reality, whether using the dishwasher or hand washing here are some water saving tips from Green Redeem for both options, to help you win the water battle in your household:   

  • When using the dishwasher, always wait until you have a full load before starting a cycle and choose the eco setting if your machine has one.
  • Don’t bother to pre-rinse plates going into the dishwasher, just scrape off any clinging bits to avoid clogging the machine.
  • When washing up in the sink, always use a washing up bowl
  • Wash glass items first to make sure of a streak-free finish. With the rest of the plates and cutlery, wash from least dirty to most dirty to get the most from the water.
  • Really greasy pans can be left to soak in the remaining water before a final clean up with fresh water the next day.

Dirty dish chaos! Image sourced from Getty Images/Flying Colours Ltd

5. Save water by singing in the shower

With extra guests staying with you over the festive season, one way to minimise the impact on your water bill is to encourage short showers. To keep showers to 4 minutes or less and save water in the lead up to Christmas check out a Christmas playlist we’ve found. You can try a different tune every time you shower this month with the aim of getting out when the song has finished.

Rock along with your favourite tunes this Christmas! Image sourced from ISTOCK/ORBON ALIJA (click here to see more about this article)

6. Save water with toilet talk

Did you know toilet flushing accounts for a third of total household water use? With extra guests over Christmas a key way to reduce water is to reduce the amount of water used by your toilet. Old-style single flush toilets can use up to 12 litres of water per flush, whilst more water efficient dual flush average less than 4 litres per flush. A simple way to reduce the flush volume and save water is to insert a water displacement device (e.g. plastic bottle filled with water) into the cistern whilst being careful not to obstruct the flush mechanism. By adjusting your flush volume you can easily save up to 40,000 litres per household per year.

Another top tip by Green Redeem is to put a container or bin for waste products and a separate box for recyclables in the bathroom, so that people aren’t tempted to flush what they shouldn’t. Non-flushable items (e.g. tissues, dental floss, cigarette butts, makeup, toys, tampons, hair etc) coined “No. 3s” by Urban Utilities, not only ruin your household plumbing but also increase your water bill.

Last year, Urban Utilities removed 160 tonnes of wet wipes from the sewer network, that’s 20 times heavier than an elephant! These No. 3s costs millions of dollars every year to remove from the sewer. Watch this video to see what urban utilities’ removes from their Bunya Street Pump Station at Eagle Farm in a single day! Check out the loo challenge from Urban Utilities – to move as many items to the correct place within 60 seconds.

Share with us!

In today’s post we have touched on a several ways you can save water and minimise your water bill over the festive season. Another key aspect is the hidden water in energy which we will explore in an upcoming post. If you are interested in calculating your own water footprint – check out: https://www.watercalculator.org/

Today’s feature image is from Optimum Health Solutions, where they discussed, water as the forgotten Christmas fluid and the health impacts of dehydration over the silly season!

Please feel free to share any of your own personal water saving tips and tricks. We would love to hear from you! 🙂

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