With many areas of the country in drought conditions, all of us could use a reminder list of ways to cut back on our water consumption around the house.
You can go three weeks without food, but only three days without W.A.T.E.R.:
Waste: “Tighten plumbing leaks and prevent other needless losses of water.
Application: Where do you use water that you shouldn’t?
Teaching: It’s good you’re following these suggestions, but what about others? Pass these along.
Economy: Where do you need to use water that you could use less?
Reclamation: Where can you get extra water?
1. Fire Safety. Summer brings heat, dryness, and wildfires and winter sees increased house fires from additional heating sources. Since a fire would need hundreds or thousands of gallons of water to fight, any fire prevention steps are water saving steps.
2. Brick in the toilet. A brick in the toilet tank takes up space to replace water. If a brick uses half a quart of space, you save half a quart per flush. Hint: Since bricks can dissolve, paint it with basement water sealant.
3. Color coded conservation. You don’t always have to flush your toilet every time. To borrow an old adage, “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”
4. Buy a low-flow toilet. Though an expensive option, it’s easy to incorporate into your lifestyle, and some communities offer homeowners rebates for installing these water-savers.
5. Rain barrels. Rain barrels save rain water. While you can’t immediately drink this water, you can use it in food gardens, for outside washing, and you can purify it for bathing. Also, buy storage barrels to keep in the garage, and use them to store water saved by methods listed in this article. Mark the barrel as to whether the water is drinkable.
6. AC condensation. If you have central heat and air, you have a drain line that carries away the condensation that collects from your air conditioner coils. If yours is not connected to sewage lines you can collect and use this water. DO NOT DRINK THIS WATER! It can be used to water your garden, outside washing, or watering the house plants. You can collect up to two quarts per day during humid weather.
7. Squeeze-handle shower head. You can buy shower setups that have the squeeze-lever-activated head on a hose. This will let you wet down, lather up, and then rinse off without leaving the shower running. If you don’t like the squeeze-handle variety, you can find low-flow shower heads.
8. Faucet restrictors. Like the low-flow shower head, you can also find low-flow faucet restrictors.
9. Liquid soap. For hand washing, nothing saves water like liquid soap since it lathers more quickly than bar soap. Squirt a small dollop of liquid soap, give a quick burst from the faucet, lather, and turn the faucet back on briefly to rinse.
10. Spray bottles. Keep a small spray bottle of water by the sink. When washing your hands (with liquid soap), or wetting your toothbrush, all you need is a quick spritz from the bottle instead of using the faucet.
11. Plastic gloves. Plastic food service gloves come 100 to a box for just a couple of dollars. If there’s anything you’d do that would make you wash your hands before, during, or afterwards (like painting, etc.), then wearing gloves will save a hand washing.
12. Paper plates. During a drought; water takes temporary precedence over other resources. Using paper plates saves dish washing water. Paper towels will also help by cutting down on the number of cloth towels you have to wash.
13. Keep a jug by the sink. Keep an empty water jug by the sink to catch and save cold water coming from the tap while you’re waiting for the hot water. If you collect a lot of water this way, put it in your storage barrels.
14. Consolidate heavy work. Do you do things at different times of day that make you sweaty? Consolidate these efforts. If you work out and also work in the yard, try to work out and then immediately do your yard work. Stay sweaty, take just one shower, and wear just one set of clothes.
15. Waterless car wash. Several companies produce “waterless carwash” products that let you spray them on and wipe them off leaving your car spotless without the use of water. (For one that benefits schools, see http://www.beatthedirt.com or call them at 601-503-8300.)
16. Disposable paint brushes. If you have to paint, try to use zero water. Wear your plastic gloves and use brushes you can just throw away.
17. No lawn watering. However, if you collected the rain water or AC condensation earlier, you might use a watering can to cure brown spots, or water shrubs or trees that might die.
18. Check faucet washers. However, know what you’re doing before tackling the repairs yourself since a plumbing accident could spew more water than your faucet drip.
19. Full dish washer. Letting the dishes pile up in the sink is okay if you’re waiting for a full load for the dishwasher.
20. Full clothes washer. Full loads of laundry are best as they’re more water-efficient. And if you have just one or two items to wash? Hand wash them in the sink.
21. Hand wash over dishes. If you’re letting dishes pile up and some need some presoaking, use the kitchen sink for hand washing. Let the soapy water accumulate and pull double duty by pre-cleaning your dishware.
22. Dig a well. If you live in an area where you can have a well, please dig one. Though pricey, it will give you an alternate source of water and will help conserve city water.
23. Dixie cups. These tiny cups can let you see how much (or little) water you need for things like rinsing after brushing your teeth. And since they’re disposable, you don’t have to wash.
24. Pass this list to a friend. It’s good that you’re reading this list. Passing it along to others helps them conserve too. With conservation, it really is “the more the merrier.”
25. No new aquariums. If the kids come home wanting anything more than a fishbowl for a new aquatic pet, do what you can to talk them out of it. Unless of course, you fill it and maintain it with rainwater.
26. Nuke your water. For some hot water needs it’s thriftier to fill a cup with cold water and zap it in the microwave, rather than let the water run until the hot water shows.
27. Shave from a cup. One use for your cup of hot water is shaving. Rather than let the water run during a shave, just rinse your razor in the cup. Better yet, if possible, use an electric razor.
28. Skip a shower. If you’re not dirty and you’re not going to do anything but hang around the house, especially if by yourself, why take a shower?
29. Let the kids skip a bath. If you want to be a hero to your children, provided they’re really not dirty and don’t need it, let them skip every other day’s bath or shower.
30. Baking soda for Fido. Your dog’s baths can be a little farther apart too, if you give them a dry rubdown with baking soda. Rub it in their fur and then brush it out thoroughly. They’ll smell lots better, and be happy they skipped a soaking.
31. Nuke a washcloth. Wet a washcloth with a quick blast from the faucet, add liquid soap, and zap it in the microwave for a few seconds. You could wash your face and hands, and probably take half a bath. Wet another washcloth and microwave it a few seconds for a quick rinse cloth.
32. Paper towel dry-off. After your sponge bath with your microwaved washcloths, dry off with paper towels.
33. Kiddie pools. If you’re lacking rain barrels and want to catch a few drops, get some rigid plastic “kiddie pools.” They’re inexpensive and will hold gallons of rain runoff from your gutter downspouts.
34. Solar showers. Have a private back yard? Like being outdoors? You can get “solar showers” at almost any camping supply store. Use your collected rain water for that occasional warm-weather outdoor shower.
35. No swimming pool. You save lots of water by not filling your pool. But how could you use existing pool water? The chlorine will evaporate in a few weeks if not maintained, but not enough to drink the water. Use the water for outdoor washing, outdoor showers, flushing your toilet, or as a firefighting water reservoir if your home is in a wildfire area. (See http://www.disasterprep101.com/wildfire.htm )
36. Check your meter. Check for leaks at your water meter. If yours is leaking, notify your local water authority.
37. Check for a leaky toilet. Put a few drops of food coloring into your toilet tank’s water. If you see the colored water in the bowl after a few minutes you have a leak and might need a new tank valve.
38. Tie up a tarp. If you’re really serious about collecting rain water, tie a few tarps in place to where they drain into your kiddie pool or other collection point.
39. Frozen water bottles. Keep plastic bottles of water (about 4/5 full) in your freezer. When using your cooler, use a few frozen bottles of water to keep food cold.
40. Water at restaurants. If you don’t plan to drink it, don’t let the waiter leave you a glass of water at the table.
41. Dishes: wipe vs. rinse. If the dishes are too dirty to stick straight in the dishwasher, wipe them off with newspaper rather than rinsing them. You save water and get double-duty from your newspaper.
42. Let Fido lick the bowl. If you have a dog, let Fido clean your dishes before they’re put in the dishwasher. (Don’t give Fido too much, or anything bad for a dog.)
43. Aluminum foil. When cooking at home, line your pots and pans with aluminum foil. When you’re done cooking, remove the foil to make cleanup easier.
44. Buying your water. If you buy your drinking water, go for the gallons of distilled water rather than the smaller bottles of mineral water. The distilled is a better value and is actually more pure than the “designer waters.”
45. Bug sprayers. Your lawn and garden store will have 2-gallon pump-up sprayers. These will help you use your collected rain water or pool water for washing (and even fighting small fires).
46. “Go Jo.” Go Jo is a waterless hand soap that mechanics use. It’s rather effective on dirty hands and can be used without water. Similarly, use the little bottles of clear hand sanitizer.
47. In-line water heater. In-line water heaters can be installed closer to the faucets or tubs they’re to heat, and use less energy. If you get one don’t do away with your old water heater (even if you cut off the gas or electric to it) since it’s a great backup reservoir in water shortage scenarios.
48. No mopping. Most households now have a “Swiffer” or comparable cleaning aid intended to replace old-fashioned mops. If you haven’t made the switch, doing so will save a few gallons of water per year.
49. Skip a laundry load. Once in a while, some clothing really doesn’t need to be washed. In mild weather, outer shirts that were only worn briefly might need just a “fluff in the dryer” or another ironing to be perfectly ready to wear. Bachelors have known this secret for years.
50. General safety. We started this article with fire safety and we’ll close with general safety. Each time you prevent a trip to the hospital, you prevent the extra water that would be used during your visit.
Water is like money. Learn to save it well and spend it wisely.
Paul Purcell is an Atlanta-based security analyst and preparedness consultant with over 20 years risk management experience. He’s also the author of “Disaster Prep 101” at http://www.disasterprep101.com, and a partner / advisor with 1-800-PREPARE. © 2007 Paul Purcell.
Photo. Samad Deldar