Water shortages brought on by droughts have caused water restrictions in many areas of the country. Many are seeing the excessiveness of their lifestyles and are finding that the landscaping around their homes and in-home water usage isn’t as conducive in minimizing their water usage.
The water consumed by the United States is among the highest in the world. On average, one household uses 350 gallons of water. Did you know that if a household started conserving water, you can reduce your in-home water use by 35%? This means the average household, which uses 130,000 gallons per year, could save 44,00 gallons of water per year.
Learning ways to practice the art of conserving water now, will help you make the most of your water sources during times of emergencies. An added benefit of water conservation is that it will also help lower your household energy costs and put the money toward your preparedness efforts. Further, finding ways to recycle your home water can be used to water your gardens.
According to Earth Easy, here are 22 ways to conserve water.
1. Check faucets and pipes for leaks. A small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 20 gallons of water per day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons. Check for leaks in hoses as well as this also wastes large amounts of water.
2. Be aware of how much water is used to flush a toilet. Every time you flush a cigarette butt, facial tissue or other small bit of trash, five to seven gallons of water is wasted.
3. Check your toilets for leaks. If you suspect your toilet is leaking, put a little food coloring in your toilet tank. If, without flushing, the color begins to appear in the bowl within 30 minutes, you have a leak that should be repaired immediately. Most replacement parts are inexpensive and easy to install.
4. Use your water meter to check for hidden water leaks. Read the house water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.
5. Install water-saving shower heads and low-flow faucet aerators. Inexpensive water-saving low-flow shower heads or restrictors are easy for the homeowner to install. Also, long, hot showers can use five to ten gallons every unneeded minute. Limit your showers to the time it takes to soap up, wash down and rinse off. “Low-flow” means it uses less than 2.5 gallons per minute. You can easily install a ShowerStart showerhead, or add a ShowerStart converter to existing showerheads, which automatically pauses a running shower once it gets warm. Also, all household faucets should be fit with aerators. This single best home water conservation method is also the cheapest!
6. Put plastic bottles or float booster in your toilet tank. To cut down on water waste, put an inch or two of sand or pebbles inside each of two plastic bottles to weigh them down. Fill the bottles with water, screw the lids on, and put them in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanisms. Or, buy an inexpensive tank bank or float booster. This may save ten or more gallons of water per day.
Be sure at least 3 gallons of water remain in the tank so it will flush properly. If there is not enough water to get a proper flush, users will hold the lever down too long or do multiple flushes to get rid of waste. Two flushings at 1.4 gallons is worse than a single 2.0 gallon flush. A better suggestion would be to buy an adjustable toilet flapper that allow for adjustment of their per flush use. Then the user can adjust the flush rate to the minimum per flush setting that achieves a single good flush each time.
For new installations, consider buying “low flush” toilets, which use 1 to 2 gallons per flush instead of the usual 3 to 5 gallons. Replacing an 18 liter per flush toilet with an ultra-low volume (ULV) 6 liter flush model represents a 70% savings in water flushed and will cut indoor water use by about 30%.
7. Insulate your water pipes. It’s easy and inexpensive to insulate your water pipes with pre-slit foam pipe insulation. You’ll get hot water faster plus avoid wasting water while it heats up.
8. Take shorter showers. One way to cut down on water use is to turn off the shower after soaping up, then turn it back on to rinse. A four-minute shower uses approximately 20 to 40 gallons of water.
9. Turn off the water after you wet your toothbrush. There is no need to keep the water running while brushing your teeth. Just wet your brush and fill a glass for mouth rinsing.
10. Rinse your razor in the sink. Fill the sink with a few inches of warm water. This will rinse your razor just as well as running water, with far less waste of water.
11. Use your dishwasher and clothes washer for only full loads. Automatic dishwashers and clothes washers should be fully loaded for optimum water conservation. Most makers of dishwashing soap recommend not pre-rinsing dishes which is a big water savings. With clothes washers, avoid the permanent press cycle, which uses an added 20 liters (5 gallons) for the extra rinse. For partial loads, adjust water levels to match the size of the load. Replace old clothes washers. New Energy Star rated washers use 35 – 50% less water and 50% less energy per load. If you’re in the market for a new clothes washer, consider buying a water-saving front load washer.
12. Minimize use of kitchen sink garbage disposal units. Rather than using considerable amounts of water to pulverize disposable items in the sink, start a compost pile to dispose of food waste.
13. When washing dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running for rinsing. If your have a double-basin, fill one with soapy water and one with rinse water. If you have a single-basin sink, gather washed dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a spray device or a painful of hot water. Dual-swivel aerators are available to make this easier. If using a dishwasher, there is usually no need to pre-rinse the dishes.
14. Don’t let the faucet run while you clean vegetables. Just rinse them in a stoppered sink or a pan of clean water. Use a dual-setting aerator.
15. Keep a bottle of drinking water in the fridge. Running tap water to cool it off for drinking water is wasteful. Store drinking water in the fridge in a safe drinking bottle. If you are filling water bottles to bring along on outdoor hikes, consider buying a LifeStraw personal water filter which enables users to drink water safely from rivers or lakes or any available body of water.
16. Plant drought-resistant lawns, shrubs and plants. If you are planting a new lawn, or overseeding an existing lawn, use drought-resistant grasses such as the new “Eco-Lawn”. Many beautiful shrubs and plants thrive with far less watering than other species. Replace herbaceous perennial borders with native plants. Native plants will use less water and be more resistant to local plant diseases. Consider applying the principles of xeriscape for a low-maintenance, drought resistant yard. Plant slopes with plants that will retain water and help reduce runoff. Irises and daylily are good for this purpose.
17. Group plants according to their watering needs. Herbs do not require as much watering as vegetables and fruits. Therefore, can be watered every other day as opposed to every day.
18. Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants. This reduces the amount of watering, slows evaporation, discourages weed growth and shades the sensitive root systems to allow for stronger growth. Adding 2 – 4 inches of organic material such as compost or bark mulch will increase the ability of the soil to retain moisture. Press the mulch down around the dripline of each plant to form a slight depression which will prevent or minimize water runoff.
19. Water your lawn only when it needs it and position your sprinklers so water lands on the lawn or garden, not on paved areas. A good way to see if your lawn needs watering is to step on the grass. If it springs back up when you move, it doesn’t need water. If it stays flat, the lawn is ready for watering. Letting the grass grow taller (to 3″) will also promote water retention in the soil.
Most lawns only need about 1″ of water each week. During dry spells, you can stop watering altogether and the lawn will go brown and dormant. Once cooler weather arrives, the morning dew and rainfall will bring the lawn back to its usual vigor. This may result in a brown summer lawn, but it saves a lot of water. Avoid over-watering plants and shrubs, as this can actually diminish plant health and cause yellowing of the leaves. Further, When hand watering, use a variable spray nozzle for targeted watering.
20. Water during the early parts of the day; avoid watering when it’s windy. Early morning is generally better than dusk since it helps prevent the growth of fungus. Early watering, and late watering, also reduce water loss to evaporation. Watering early in the day is also the best defence against slugs and other garden pests. Try not to water when it’s windy – wind can blow sprinklers off target and speed evaporation. Further, When watering the lawn, do it long enough for the moisture to soak down to the roots where it will do the most good. A light sprinkling can evaporate quickly and tends to encourage shallow root systems. Put an empty tuna can on your lawn – when it’s full, you’ve watered about the right amount.
21. Add organic matter and use efficient watering systems for shrubs, flower beds and lawns. Adding organic material to your soil will help increase its absorption and water retention. Areas which are already planted can be ‘top dressed’ with compost or organic matter. You can greatly reduce the amount of water used for shrubs, beds and lawns by soaker hoses, installing rain catchment systems, and drip irrigation systems.
22. Don’t run the hose while washing your car. Clean the car using a pail of soapy water. Use the hose only for rinsing – this simple practice can save as much as 150 gallons when washing a car. Use a spray nozzle when rinsing for more efficient use of water. Better yet, use a waterless car washing system; there are several brands, such as EcoTouch, which are now on the market.
List adapted from Earth Easy
Some other thoughts on conserving water is to give your dishwasher a break and use plastic cutlery and paper plates. Lizzie Bennett, writer for Underground Medic listed some great advice on re-using sink water:
Removing the trap under the sink and placing a bucket underneath means no water at all is wasted transferring from one receptacle to another. A sponge stuffed up the pipe will filter out any debris. You can do several things with this water:
* Flush the toilet (with bleach added)
* Wash down outdoor areas soiled by pets (with bleach added)
* Water the garden
* Soak heavily soiled clothes to remove the bulk of the dirt (with laundry soap
* Mop hard floors (with bleach added)
You can also recycle your shower water. Look for ways to recycle water. Place a bucket in the shower to collect the water while you are waiting for the water to heat up. A few ways to shift toward a simpler lifestyle and prepare for extended emergencies is to set up a water catchment system around the home and also take steps to conserve water in and around the home. This is ideal for times when drought affect our water consumption. Collecting water from a typical 40-by- 40-foot roof is capable of collecting 1,000 gallons of water from only one inch of rain.
Using as many of the above listed tips as you can, will significantly cut your water usage and help you find more sustainable ways to use resources. We recycle our trash, find ways to re-purpose items that we would otherwise throw away; but what steps are you taking to conserve water in your home?