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Developing Healthy Water Routines
Linda Cauchy
Métis Women's Circle
April 28, 2022

Having grown up on the shores of Lake Ontario, I shamefully admit that I thought very little about water; it was always there in abundance! But, water is in the news and can't be ignored. We hear stories about horrific levels of water pollution, floods and drought, the commodification of water, unequal global distribution, and appalling sub-standard water supplies on reserves. As my awareness of this global water crises grew, more and more I felt powerless to do anything about it. Moving to the country brought my personal water use into sharp focus and was the catalyst to do something, albeit small, to reduce my contribution to this water crisis. You see, I now depend on a local aquifer to supply my household water and all my household waste water is filtered through septic tanks and a septic field. Any accidental septic leaks and all the pollutants find their way to the lake onto which my property fronts.

Shortly after relocating I began to examine my water use routines and needs (personal hygiene, cleaning, cooking, recreation). If I were to rinse “away” paint, cleaning chemicals, dyed and scented body washes and shampoos, they would not go anywhere but onto my property and potentially into the lake. Weed killers, fertilizers, car oils, fire ashes all wash down to the lake menacing the beavers, mink, weasels, turtles, frogs, herons, loons, and many other creatures who populate the water. This stark realization that everything I put into the water has an impact on everyone and everything in my immediate surroundings compelled me to adapt and learn to use water more cleanly, efficiently, and respectfully. Consider the following.

There are major household water routines that have important implications for septic systems in particular but are easily generalized to household water routines using municipal infrastructure. The first routine I examined was laundry. Presently I use a top loading washing machine. These water hogs can use up one-third to one-half more water per load than the front loading machines (https://home.howstuffworks.com/washing-machine-water-usage1.htm). A new front load washing machine is not presently on the shopping horizon so in order to reduce the water load on my septic system, I have decided to wash clothes more consciously by reconsidering the number of times I can wear an article of clothing before it is “dirty” and by washing larger loads less frequently. There are numerous eco-friendly laundry detergents available which have eliminated the unnecessary perfumes, dyes, optical brighteners, petroleum solvents, and phosphates. A lot of ingredients are not finding their way to my septic system. I had forgotten what clean laundry smelled like, apart from the perfume additives. You might consider researching and purchasing locally produced laundry cleaning products to reduce the carbon footprint of getting the product to you, supporting a local business, and minimizing the overall environmental impact of doing laundry.

The next routine I examined was showering. There is no consensus as to whether showering uses more or less water than filling a bath tub. What is obvious is that shorter duration showers using low or restricted flow shower heads help reduce water consumption. Have a look at this site for numerous household water savings tips https://learn.eartheasy.com/guides/45-ways-to-concerve-water-in-the-home-and-yard/. Another interesting idea posited by Harvard Health Publishing (https://health.harvard.edu/blog/showering-daily-is-it-necessary-2019062617193), asks if showering daily is at all necessary. But water consumption is not my only concern. I am disturbed by the proliferation of dyed and scented shower gels and shampoos. These heavily marketed products are absolutely non-essential and studies have shown the damage that dyes and perfumes cause to our health and waters. A quick google search found article after article outlining the harms of shower gels from their petroleum derivatives that end up in our water systems to microbeads found in aquatic life (http://healtheatingfood.com/harmful-ingredients-in-shower-gel/). Note that Canada banned products containing microbeads in mid-2018 (https://globalnews.ca/news/3047732/plastic-microbeads-will-be-banned-in-canada-effective-mid-2018). Considering that Canada already banned microbeads, it might be a fruitful exercise to write our MPs to pressure them into presenting a Bill to ban all shower gels and shampoos made with harmful non-essential ingredients. A bit of political action; worth a try?

The last two household water consumers I examined were the dishwasher and the toilets. I was delighted to learn that using the dishwasher consumed less water per full load than washing dishes by hand. As counter-intuitive as this sounds it is true. Numerous reports show that handwashing uses 4 to 5 times more water than the dishwasher. Search handwashing vs dishwasher, you'll be surprised. I am still on the hunt for an effective eco-friendly dishwasher puck the actually cleans the dishes. I'm confident that there is a product out there.

As for the toilets, we immediately replaced the old 13 litre per flush models in our house with new 4.8 litre flush toilets. They are efficient and don't leak. The low volume flush toilets are configured differently than the older 13 litre flush toilets so, unfortunately, simply reducing the amount of water in the tank will not produce the same efficiency as a newer low flush model. Some bad flushing habits to eliminate are: cleaning your hairbrush and flushing the hair down the toilet; tossing a Q-tip or a kleenex in the bowl and flushing; tossing unused medications into the bowl and flushing. This list is far from comprehensive so have a look at this site listing 16 items to never flush down the toilet (https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/cleaning-tips/a21992808/what-not-to-flush-down-toilet/). It is also encouraging to know that there are numerous eco-friendly cleaning products that do a good job of cleaning the toilet (an important consideration for the bacteria life required for a septic tank to do its work).

I regret having neglected my responsibility toward the waters of Lake Ontario for so many years. I can only hope that the small actions I now take will help reduce any negative impacts on my precious water supply and encourage you to think about the water where you live, inspiring you to make some changes in your own water routines.


Some products I have used- no affiliate links: Kool Splash Lotion Soap for Hand, Face, Body & Hair- no dyes, fragrance free, Canadian made
Nature Clean Toilet Bowl Cleaner- biodegradable, no petroleum, phthalates, dyes, perfumes, Canadian made



April 29, 2022 To Apologize
April 28, 2022 Developing Healthy Water Routines
April 25, 2022 Water is Not a Noun
May 12, 2021 The Flower Beadwork People
May 1, 2021 Good Riddance Beyak
April 1, 2021 Another Day in Paradise
March 1, 2021 All My Relations Matter More Now Than Ever
January 21, 2021 "Look Out The Window, Quick"


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