It’s ironic that the West Coast has been hit with prolonged drought versus the East Coast which is trying to mitigate the floods as a result of Hurricane Florence. Water is our most vital resource in life. The earth is largely made up of water.
Almost everything we do requires water to some degree. Water is required for the human body to function, it’s required to grow the produce we eat, to make products at large manufacturing plants and to make public facilities clean and available to us. Water is required in virtually every product that we buy, because it takes water to process and transport it.
Water scarcity isn’t promoted with much urgency. In fact, the experience I’ve had living in this consumer country is the opposite. I have caught myself wasting water because it freely comes out of the faucet and I haven’t had to experience lack. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I experienced a different urgency being promoted in El Progreso, Honduras, where the government regulates the hours in which water is available. I’m not sure that the whole country has the same time regulations on water but in this particular city, the water company shuts off the access to water for most of the day. The people are partly responsible because they were not taught how to properly manage their water supply. Due to an excessive amount of waste, the water gets turned on only twice a day; it flows for a couple hours in the morning and a couple hours in the evening.
California hasn’t become this drastic yet and hopefully never will. Living in a mountain town and seeing our main lake attraction start to disappear has opened my eyes to the real need we have in learning to conserve the little water we still have.
Continue reading for some easy and unique ways on how we can conserve water in every area of our lives. Together we can reduce our impact on the world’s water footprint, one conscious and proactive decision at a time!
PERSONAL WATER CONSERVATION
1. Limit yourself when ordering cups of water. Only order water at restaurants and coffee shops if you’re planning to drink it.
2. Eat less meat and dairy. Going vegan is not only heathy but also helps save a lot of water. Raising farm animals requires producing large quantities of soy and corn, both of which are water-intensive crops. Producing cow’s milk leaves the largest water footprint when compared to other non-dairy milks, like almond and oat milk. If you don’t want to alter your diet completely try to limit your meat and dairy intake, opt for pasture-raised and grass-fed products, and go vegan just once a week.
3. Limit the amount of processed food in your diet. Everything that is processed requires large amounts of water and often includes unhealthy ingredients. Try making a homemade version of your favorite processed snacks. Although it could require more time and ingredients in the beginning, you’ll notice personal benefits while helping the environment.
4. Limit the amount of food you waste. It’s sad that there is so much waste where food is abundant in consumer countries. We have almost everything we want at our fingertips so we should be grateful and conscious about eating everything we purchase. Of course food is going to go bad from time to time but a constant waste of food makes us ignorant consumers. Wholesale stores like Costco and Sam’s Club only sell items in bulk sizes so if you notice yourself wasting a lot of the food you buy from there, consider shopping for perishables at supermarkets.
Like I said earlier, food requires a lot of water to grow and produce. In essence, when we waste food we also waste the resources that took to produce it. Check out this guide to learn how to be better about not wasting food.
5. Compost leftovers. Leftovers are my personal favorite but I know lots of people who won’t eat them and that’s okay. If you’re one of those people, or have veggie or fruit scraps, compost them instead of throwing them in the garbage. Compost, when turned into soil, provides incredible nutrients for your plants. Continue reading to see how compost is used to help conserve water in the garden.
PET WATER CONSERVATION
6. Repurpose and reuse collars and toys. Before buying more toys than your dog needs or another collar remind yourself that the production of these products involves the use of water. Your pet will probably not even notice they didn’t get a new leash and besides, if what they have is not broken why do you need a new one?
7. Get a dripless water bowl. Sometimes pets are sloppy or dust gets in their water bowls and it has to be changed often. Avoid this problem altogether with this cool spill-proof bowl!
INDOOR WATER CONSERVATION
8. Upgrade to energy and water efficient appliances. Any appliance that uses water nowadays, such as washing machines and dishwashers, probably have a high-efficiency version. Check what is currently available and upgrade as necessary. (Continue reading for an important tip on obtaining high efficiency appliances that can save you lots of money.)
9. Fix indoor water leaks. Repairing a dripping faucet might be as simple as changing a washer. If the problem isn’t solved after replacing the washer, finding the source of the problem may require a visit from a plumber. Fixing a leaky toilet is just as important because this alone can cause roughly 200 gallons of water to go to waste per day.
10. Replace aerators in all household faucets. Most faucets come with aerators but there are some aerators you can purchase which provide a stronger or weaker restricted flow, depending on what you need. An aerator will significantly help to reduce the gallons per minute of the faucet’s water flow.
11. Insulate your water pipes. A broken water pipe as a result of water freezing inside the pipes can not only cause you thousands of dollars in repairs, but can also waste countless gallons of water.
12. Turn off your water main when you go on vacation. Don’t risk your home getting flooded! I know someone who made the mistake of leaving the water main on while leaving his house vacant for several months. In the time he was gone, a water pipe broke and flooded several rooms in the house. Not only did he receive a hefty water bill for the water that was wasted but it also cost him and his insurance company a fortune to fix.
13. Upgrade all your faucets (in the kitchen and bathrooms) to low-flow fixtures. The modern faucets that are energy and water efficient should release 1.8 gallons per minute (gpm) or less. A traditional faucet used to release up to 5 gpm so a lot of water is being saved thanks to the newer technology. The US federal government has instituted regulations on kitchen and bathroom faucets however some states, like California, have stricter regulations for drought purposes.
14. Defrost frozen food overnight in the fridge. It’s popular to defrost food in a pinch by putting it under a constant flow of lukewarm water. This obviously wastes too much water so if you need a last-minute defrosting solution, just nuke it in the microwave as directed on the package. Otherwise, leave it in the fridge overnight.
15. Be water wise when cooking food. For pasta, you only need enough water to cover the noodles. For veggies, use a steamer instead of submerging them under water. This requires a lot less water and your veggies will taste just as delicious!
16. Don’t let the water run while washing food or dishes. When washing produce, it’s recommended to put the fruits and veggies in a bowl filled with water. Wash them in the bowl and if necessary, use fresh water for rinsing. When washing dishes, get your sponge soapy and do your dishes but don’t let the faucet run until it’s time to rinse.
17. Collect grey-water in a bucket or container. Any water that you can’t repurpose for personal use should be recycled in a bin. The leftover water you used for rinsing or boiling food can later be used to water your garden.
18. Avoid using the garbage disposal. Running the garbage disposal often wastes a lot of water. Deposit fresh food leftovers in a compost pile and throw everything else in the trash. Occasionally it’s okay if you throw the peel of a lemon in the disposal to refresh the smell of your kitchen, but daily use is not recommended.
19. Install an energy and water efficient dishwasher. We use approximately 27 gallons of water when washing dishes by hand, whereas using an energy efficient dishwasher can take as little as 3 gallons per load. Be extra water wise by making sure the dishwasher is completely full before running it.
20. Replace your shower head. The modern low-flow shower heads reduce the flow of water to 2.5 gpm or less, whereas just a few years ago the standard models would deliver up to 8 gpm. That’s an incredible improvement!
21. Collect shower water. If you’re anything like me, you won’t get in the shower until the water warms up. A lot of water is wasted in the waiting so use a large bucket to collect it and use it to mop your floors, flush the toilet or water the plants.
22. Take quicker showers. Although a warm shower is always a relaxing way to end the day, consider how much water is being lost by just hanging out under the shower head.
If you want to spend a relaxing time, take a bath instead where you can control the amount of water you use. Then, you can re-purpose this water to feed your non-edible plants.
Note: Baths should be a treat for you and not an every day kind of thing.
23. Don’t let the water run when shaving or brushing your teeth.
24. Upgrade to a high efficiency toilet. In many states this is already required by the law and newer homes are built with them. A low flush toilet uses about 4.8 liters of water whereas the regular toilets use up to 6 liters. Imagine how many times you flush the toilet every day and you will see that a significant amount of water is saved with newer technology like this.
25. Reduce the toilet water volume. Adjust the toilet float (located in the tank) to reduce the amount of water that is used per flush. Make sure that your toilet is flushing completely once it’s adjusted. Having to flush more than once will make this process inefficient.
If you’re into DIY projects, you can do this instead. Fill a plastic water bottle or jug with water (and rocks to weigh it down if necessary) and place it in the center of the toilet tank. Make sure the jug does not block the operating parts of the toilet. This little hack can save up to 10 gallons of water a day!
26. Only flush human waste down the toilet. Use a bin to dispose of make up wipes, tissues, or trash rather than flushing them. The toilet should only be used for what it was intended for: pee and poo. If you want to be extra water wise then let the “yellow mellow”.
27. Use the washing machine when you have a full load. Most machines have load-size settings but several gallons of water are wasted per load regardless. If you only have a handful of garments to wash, wait until you have a full load or wash your clothes in combination with your spouse’s or roommate’s.
28. Purchase a high-efficiency washer. If you’re looking into purchasing a new washer, look for a water efficient model. Keep in mind that high efficiency soap should also be used with these kind of washers.
Tip: Do this before replacing or updating fixtures
Contact your local water department and inquire about the benefits they offer when upgrading to low-flow fixtures and toilets. Oftentimes the water department will give you free plumbing fixtures, free installation services, and credits toward your bill.
These freebies are dependent on your city so don’t take my word for it but this is the experience I have had and I know people who had similar experiences like me. Usually the water department will come out to your residence to check your old fixtures to verify that they’re non-efficient before they install anything new. Before you decide to upgrade anything, it could save you a lot of money to contact them first.
OUTDOOR WATER CONSERVATION
29. Examine your well pump on occasion. One way to tell that you have a leak is if you notice the pump automatically turning on and off when the water is not in use. Another way is to check the water meter. If there’s no water usage in the house the meter should not be still but if there’s a leak it will be spinning.
30. Repurpose gray-water to feed your outdoor trees and plants. Gray-water refers to recycled water from boiling vegetables, washing produce, soaking legumes, and any other relatively clean waste water. Rather than letting this water go down the drain, it’s wiser to let your plants have it.
31. Install plant watering bulbs in pots. Other than making your plants look pretty, these aqua globes give your plants a consistent flow of water without over-watering them.
32. Choose drought-tolerant crops for your veggie garden. Look into the many vegetable and herb plant options that tolerate drought conditions.
33. Plant native plants in your yard. Choose shrubs, trees, grasses and other plants that require little to no water and will improve the look of your garden. After they have successfully acclimated to their new environment, they will require less attention and are likely to survive through periods of drought. Learn how to create a xeriscape garden. If you do install plants that require more water, group them together in the same area of your yard.
34. Water your lawn during the morning or evening. Cooler temperatures help retain moisture. During the middle of the day, much of the water is lost to evaporation. Avoid watering your garden during windy days, if possible, because this too causes rapid evaporation.
35. Cover the base of your garden plants with mulch or compost soil. Mulch and compost retain a lot of moisture and prevent the root of the plants from drying out too quickly. They also help in keeping weeds from growing.
36. Install water efficient irrigation devices. Sprinkler and drip-irrigation systems help reduce the amount of water that is wasted by traditional irrigation hoses (unless you’re watering by hand). Drip-like irrigation methods allow the plants to absorb all the water because they’re set on a timer to limit the amount of water being used. Inspect your irrigation systems periodically for leaks.
37. Get a rain moisture sensor. This cool technology reads the moisture level in your soil. If it’s below the set moisture threshold, it will allow the normal watering cycle to continue. If the soil is above the threshold, it will suspend that day’s watering cycle. This way water does not get wasted and your plants don’t get overwatered on rainy days.
38. Don’t mow the lawn too short. Longer grass helps to retain moisture.
Water toys and swimming pools
39. Limit the use of toys and slides that require the constant flow of water. As fun as these are for the kids, they waste too much water and should be avoided if possible during droughts.
40. Play with water toys in the lawn. If you do play with water toys, do it over the grass that could benefit from the water rather than on the driveway or street where the water is otherwise wasted.
41. Cover your pool when not in use. Water evaporates quickly especially on sunny days. Don’t fill the pool too much otherwise a lot of water can be lost due to splashing.
42. Cover your jacuzzi to retain the heat. I’m sure you can see the steam of the jacuzzi anytime you get in. That’s the perfect visual example of water being evaporated. Keep your jacuzzi’s temperature lower when you’re not planning to use it and crank it up before use.
43. Inspect for leaks periodically.
44. Install a squeeze grip for your hoses when you’re washing your car at home. Rather than letting the water run needlessly, use a nozzle that can control the water flow. If possible, wash your car over the lawn so that water doesn’t get wasted.
45. Opt for using car washes. Usually these services use less water than we would if washing manually. They also have recycling systems to repurpose that water.
46. Install rain catchment devices. If your country and state allows for it, install rain barrels directly under the gutters to recycle the water that lands on your property. This water should be filtered and can be used in multiple ways such as in the home, for bathing and lawn irrigation. You can also direct the rain gutters to irrigate trees and plants.
OTHER WAYS TO CONSERVE
47. Install energy efficient light bulbs. Also remember to turn off the lights when they’re not being used.
Tip: Sometimes the electric company gives these out for free in exchange for your regular bulbs and Christmas lights.
48. Install solar panels. Renewable energy is becoming popular in homes and businesses for good reason. Not only does it reduce water waste (some power plants use water to produce energy) but also cities compensate those who produce more electricity than they use. It’s expensive to get the panels installed but the benefits far outweigh the initial costs.
Some people go as far as installing solar water heaters. If you live in a very sunny place, this could be a great investment to look into as well!
49. Change your buying habits. Like I mentioned earlier, it takes a substantial amount of water to produce and transport products. We can make a great impact in reducing water waste if we decide to stick to three new habits:
- Stop shopping for things you don’t need
- Reuse what you already have
- Recycle and donate what you no longer want (such as clothes, linens, bottles, plastic bags, etc)
Many US states and other countries have started recycling initiatives to promote positive environmental changes. By changing our habits we are also helping to conserve large amounts of water that are used to get rid of waste.
I hope these tips become as useful to you as they have become to me. It often takes a little adjustment to incorporate new habits but the effort will greatly impact our future. Before pouring water down the drain, make sure there isn’t another better use for it.
Together we can become part of the solution to the drought problem and become conscious consumers at the same time.
In what ways have you reduced the water waste in your home? Share your tips with me in the comments below!
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