Water is one of our most precious resources. When I was in college I had a roommate who would leave the water running while she brushed her teeth. It bothered me because the thought of wasting it and not being able to have water for future generations is scary.
So here's what my family and I are doing to keep our water bill down and some more ideas for me (and you) to use in the future.
Ways to Preserve Water
1. Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth
Ah, you should have known I was going to go there! Seriously, though, water comes out of the faucet at two and a half gallons per minute. Just use the water to wet the brush and rinse!
2. Invest in a Rain Barrel
If your house is a thousand square feet and the water is falling off your roof, you would be able to collect six hundred gallons of rain water from one average-size rainfall. For many areas, a simple permit is required to install a rain barrel. We have one that collects off our greenhouse and we use the water to help the plants grow.
Very often our community has a drought warning, so we are only allowed to “water our lawn” every other day. We don't care much for watering our lawn because that is extra mowing; however, this ensures that our plants do not go dry and we are helping keep the water levels for the city up.
3. Don't throw things down the toilet
Just like with brushing your teeth, for toilets – it takes a minimum of seven gallons of water to flush the toilet. If you are using the toilet as a waste bin, you are being even more wasteful. Instead, why not add a trash can next to the commode, and just throw the excess in there?
4. When replacing you toilet
If you are building a home or when it comes time to replace your toilet, why not add one of those that has the easy flush for number one and harder flush for number two. I offer this as an option because many people say, “If it's yellow, let it mellow”. Um. No. My girls and I will go back to back in the restroom and I still make them flush. It's a personal decision but when we purchase a home, that will be my way of contributing – purchasing a two flow toilet.
5. Check to make sure you don't have any leaks
I recently started teaching at a new school. One of my four sinks had a fairly even leak. My principal informed me that they have yet to fix it and the leak was costing them upwards of five hundred dollars extra per year. I threw a bit of a fit along with another teacher who had never seen it until we did a luncheon in my room and we got it turned off. When they opened up the cabinet (it was sealed with screws), they found the entire base had rotted. Not only does having a leak cause a problem with water conservation, but it also costs you money. If you have a house with a crawl space, I recommend investigating under your house to make sure that all pipes are good to go.
When they opened up the cabinet (it was sealed with screws), they found the entire base had rotted. Not only does having a leak cause a problem with water conservation, but it also costs you money. If you have a house with a crawl space, I recommend investigating under your house to make sure that all pipes are good to go.
Not only does having a leak cause a problem with water conservation, but it also costs you money. If you have a house with a crawl space, I recommend investigating under your house to make sure that all pipes are good to go.
6. Go Low-Flow
Investing in a low flow shower head is a great idea. This means you will be using less flow than your sink faucet per minute while you are in the shower. The good news is it does not affect the water pressure coming out of the shower head, so you still feel good and feel better because you are saving money and conserving water! Added benefit? It doesn't cost too much either.
7. Reuse pasta water
This was an interesting one I had never thought of but a friend suggested it to me. She said that when we drain the water from our noodles, we should collect it in another bowl and let it cool. Once it had cooled, use it to water plants. This seems like a good idea to me because the plants get extra nutrients from the starch in their food source.
8. Fill the water bottles up with sand
This is one I think we have all heard of, in some fashion. I normally hear bricks being added to the toilet in order to not use as much water but I worried about the discoloration. When somebody suggested I use water bottles with sand instead I said “yes!” Be careful here though because you can use too many water bottles. If you do it will be hard for your toilet to flush and one flush is better than two. We currently use only one bottle but two would be the maximum to get the full effect.
In addition, I just read that the brick idea is totally out because it will break up over time, causing the particles to get in the pipes and that might damage them.
9. Insulate Your Water Pipes
When I read this, I thought about the winter months when our former landlord would put heat on the pipes to keep them from freezing. Instead, this is used to help you get hot water faster. So while you're down there checking that there are no leaks, why not put some foam over the pipes to reduce the amount of time wasted to get hot water?
10. Top and Bottom Dishwasher
Here's the good news, it is actually more efficient to use a dishwasher than to wash dishes by hand. That being said, this is only the case when the dishwasher is actually full. So what to do if you live in a household where it is only you or you and your significant other? Invest in a dishwasher with a top and bottom layer.
Each section folds out separately and you can decide if you need to use just the top portion or when family or friends come over – the whole thing. You can purchase them individually or as a set and the set runs about twelve hundred dollars.
11. Front Load High-Efficiency Washing Machine
I have been mesmerized with a front load since the day I saw one. I love the fact that I can watch my laundry wash, although I don't do it often. But they use half the water than a traditional top loader uses. A top loader on large would fill all the way up. A front load on large fills half the way up and uses the spinning motion to get them all wet. Fox News has a great article about how front load washing machines save money on energy and water and goes into more details about this great new machine.
12. Don't use your garbage disposal as much
Garbage disposals use a lot of water but in addition to that, they can cause backups in your pipes because large chunks of food, and what-nots, are able to flow through your pipes.
Since meat with bones cannot go through the disposal, most of the time it is food waste that would be perfect for a compost pile that gets shoved down there. Why not save the food and create a compost pile to help the soil, and eventually new food, do better.
13. Cooling water off is just as bad
Cooling water off to get it to a decent drinking temperature is just as bad as letting it sit to warm it up for a shower. Instead, keep bottles of water in the fridge. This could be store bought bottles or a bottle that you got from the tap and added almost as soon as you turned the faucet on.
Either way, reaching for a cold bottle out of the refrigerator is a better step than waiting for the tap water to cool off.
14. Add Mulch
Adding mulch will help keep your soil moisturized because it provides a barrier between the sun and the soil. Without the barrier, the soil will become dryer quicker. It would be beneficial to add about two to four layers of mulch around the plants you want to retain moisture the best.
I also want to note that you do not have to purchase the brightly colored wood clippings either, straw and other ingredients work just as well.
15. Water in the mornings
The cooler weather will also prevent evaporation from our plants. I do not advise watering in the evening though because the lack of sunlight after the addition of water can cause mold growth.
16. Use that Compost
Use the compost we talked about a few sections up (when I told you not to use the garbage disposal) and give your plants an extra layer of nutrients. Just like with mulch, this gives a barrier between the soil and the evaporation from the sky.
The compost also helps the plant with water retention.
17. One for wash, One for Rinse
If you do have to wash dishes by hand, have the water filled up for rinsing versus turning it on and off over and over again. The saves quite a bit of gallons per load.
18. Only Order Water If…
Only order water if you are going to drink it. A couple of months ago my husband and I went on a mini-vacation to Kemah Beach in Texas. While we were there, I ordered a water and then an adult drink. I drank all of the adult drink and only half of the water.
That was wasteful. I should have asked for only half a cup of water because we can always get refills but we cannot put that water back.
19. Reuse Dehumidifier Water
This is not something I have ever personally dealt with, instead I was on the other side of the spectrum.
Anyways, the idea here is to take the water you are collecting and reuse it for things such as watering your plants or anything else you can reuse water for. Get creative, we are good at that!
20. Veggie wash
This is probably the best one I have read for reusing by giving them to your plants and that is to wash your vegetables in a bowl instead of using the faucet to run them under water.
Your saving water by not using the faucet as much and the water will have all the extra umph from the soil the original plant was in.
NOTE: This is not a good idea if you are purchasing conventional products because they contain pesticides and other residue that we do not want our garden having.
21. Use the same glass
My girls would use a new cup every time they got a new drink if I would let them. I stopped that quickly though by telling them that they were in charge of washing their own dishes (we don't have a dishwasher at home, I have one at work though).
I did this simply because I did not want to have to wash dishes all night long but there are more benefits to using only one glass. By cutting down on dishes, you are cutting down on water being used.
22. Know the water footprint of your food
Did you know mangos use more water than nectarines? Yep. This is a big one that is not thought of all that often. Since many of us grow some of our own food, we know which plants in our garden need more watering.
In turn, we might want to look at adding more of the less water foods in our diets, especially if we are going to the store to purchase them because there are other crummy factors involved. For example, in Texas that mango might have to travel further to get here than the nectarine did.
While I don't expect all of these rules to be followed, it does give us a solid foundation on where to begin when it comes to preserving the water that our grand children and great-grand children are going to need just as much as we do, if not more so.