Clean water forms the basis of life on our little planet, yet we find ourselves perpetually concerned with the water supply. Agricultural concerns and power plants shout their claims at the same time we’re losing pure water supplies to corporate polluters. If you’re feeling as though it’s a “no win” situation, think again. Small changes in our habits, like making sure the faucet is turned fully “Off” can make a big difference. Here are a couple of strategies to help you reduce your household water consumption and save money.
1) Hand washing
Eliminate wet counters and puddles on the floor by waiting until you’ve squirted the liquid soap in one hand to turn on the water with the other. Rather than dripping water all over the area as you reach for the soap, you’ll reduce mess and save water at the same time. Those few seconds the water is running while you get the soap add up over the course of a year, leaving you with a bill for water you didn’t really use.
2) Tooth brushing
Two steps will save water when you’re performing oral hygiene. The first step mimics the hand washing tip – put the toothpaste on the brush and then turn the water on a little and gently moisten the head of the brush. Step two is, turn the water off immediately. For the time that you’re brushing your teeth running water is a waste. Once you’ve completed the brushing, turn the water back on to rinse and turn it off as soon as you’ve finished rinsing.
Watering plants can use a lot of water and not always well. Many people think a little water every day provides the best plant care. Actually, that pattern encourages shallow root growth, since the plants are always reaching up to get the water. A single deep watering once a week allows the plants to go deep to reach the moisture they need, and slows evaporation since the water isn’t just on the surface.
Think about it for a moment: 15 minutes a day (that’s a total of 75 minutes a week!), or one hour once a week and better for the garden. Even more accurate than watering by time is a rain gauge. Simply water until an inch of water accumulates in the gauge.
Next year, look for plants that don’t need so much water. Your local extension service can provide information on appropriate varieties for your area.
If you use a dishwasher, don’t run it unless you have a full load.
If you’re washing by hand, you can cut down on water usage by some easy methods. First, don’t overload the sink. Put the least dirty items in the sink with about two inches of water. As you wash those items, rinse them over the wash water. You’ll gradually build up the level of water there and you’ll be putting the suds back into the place they’re needed. Once you have enough water in the washing side, cut down the volume of the rinse water to a trickle and turn it off while you’re washing.
5) The Basic Functions
Okay, we all know the toilet is a real water guzzler. But here are a couple of ways to make a dent, short of buying a new low flow unit.
First, displace some of the water in the tank. A brick will displace a little water, but only once because of the fill ranges in the toilet tank. You need something taller yet thin enough to clear the float arm. Something about the size of a quart milk bottle or a two-liter soda bottle, for example. Weight the bottle and cap it. Next time you flush the toilet, uncover the tank first so that you can judge where to put the bottle. Place it before the tank refills to cut down by a pint or more the amount of water used for each flush.
The second strategy has a little bit of a “Yuk-k-k” factor, but it works. Back when Jerry Brown was Governor of California, he publicized a little rhyme to reduce water usage: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” It’s called selective flushing. When someone in the household urinates, toilet tissue goes into a covered garbage can and the urine sits in the toilet until the next user. The second user (or the third) flushes the whole works. Anything solid gets flushed immediately.
And don’t forget to use hint number 1 when you’re washing your hands afterwards!