Will buying water butts save money?
And is a ‘cash’ measure the best way to take a decision on the worth of water butts? This post will look at both questions.
Will water butts save money – cash savings?
The answer is ‘definitely no’ for anyone simply paying water rates (ie no water meter)! For people with water meters the short answer is also ‘definitely no’, when considered strictly on cash terms and defining a ‘good investment’ as one that pays back within three years (a common measure for businesses).
Here is a quick calculation based on 2012 water prices in the UK.
- Water consumption
The more water you take out of your water butt the more money you save on metered water. Taking a start date of mid-April through to the end of September (22 weeks), and assuming enough rainfall so that it is always possible to use water from a water butt, a 200 litre water butt could realistically provide between 50-100 litres of water a week. Converted to an ‘annual measure’ this would be about 1,100-2-200 litres a year.
- What this would save in charged metered water
Savings come from two parts: the cost of using the water and the cost saving from having less wastewater disappearing into your drains (assuming it does, rather than go into a soak away). Looking at my last water bill in 2012, 100 litres of charged water is £0.125. Waste water is significantly less at £0.065. Using the water consumption assumptions shown above, this would give a saving range in the region of approximately £2.09 to £4.18 each year.
- The cash cost of water butts
This depends on the brand you buy, aesthetic taste, whether they are fitted by DIY and any tools that are required to be purchased. A typical price range for a complete water butt ‘fit’ including butt, stand, lid and rainwater converter kit would be in the region of £60-80. Therefore the worst pay back scenario would be break even after 38 years and the best pay back scenario would be 14 years.
Will water butts save money – other considerations?
It is clear from comparing cash outlay on water butt equipment, compared to cash saving on water bills, that it is not the case that water butts save money. However, even if it’s not true that water butts save money, there are other considerations:
- Water is becoming a scarce commodity in the UK at certain times of year and, unpredictably, in varying parts of the country depending upon weather patterns. It is likely that water bills will increase over time as water companies address contingency scenarios, upgrade the water mains network, and invest in extra storage capacity. Reducing the amount of mains water each household uses has the potential to make a big difference on a national scale.
- Rainwater is better for plants then tap water. This is particularly true of plants that prefer a slightly more acidic environment – like roses or blueberry bushes.
- In times of water shortage using water from water butts helps ensure that the regional reserves of water supply last longer
- The convenience of having water butts next to the plants you need to water
- The satisfaction of knowing that you are harnessing nature’s power to grow your garden
The reasons above are why I have water butts at home. In truth, although I like to believe that water butts save money, purchasing them was more an emotional decision that a rational one.
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