I was asked this question by a completely strange man walking a rather unfriendly looking dog along our street a few minutes ago. It was not quite what I expected when I went out to put a container in the recycle bin at the side of the house.
We are water conscious, perhaps more water conscious than many people in the suburbs. We have lived in places where water was a rare and precious commodity. There are now six rain water tanks on our property. One is quite small, four are medium to large size and one is very large. They are not beautiful, although we have them partly hidden. They are not intended to be beautiful. They are there to serve us and the garden. They also provide water for the birds and animals that frequent our property in summer. It is the least we can do for them. Who knows whether the family of koalas may return looking for water if their gum leaves get too dry?
My father still gardens. He does it slowly and mostly placidly. He still reads gardening literature and experiments with new methods of growing cucumbers, tomatoes, broad beans, onions, carrots and spinach. This year he wants to try growing peas by a different method.
A friend now comes in for two hours once a fortnight to do the really heavy work. He will shortly put up the arrangement which will provide us with our 'green air conditioning' for the summer. This is a series of poles leaning against part of one side of the house. The vines grow up these poles and provide some protection against the worst of the summer heat. The vines do not get watered but survive on their own. Their roots must be far underground by now.
I wash and cook and clean using small water efficient ways that I have managed to learn over the years. We take short showers.
We probably still waste water but we endeavour to keep our water usage to a minimum. It requires some thought and organisation.
I suspect that most urban dwellers could and should use far less water than they do. For most people, despite all the requests and publicity, it is just there. We turn the tap on. Water flows out. The state government has even lifted some water restrictions this year, possibly because they have discovered that trying to restrict water usage has had little effect on actual consumption. Despite that few people we know try to grow any of their own vegetables. We do that with water from the tanks.
The man with the dog did not wait for an answer. He kept walking. I wonder how much water he wasted this morning?