Let’s Stop Wasting Water
Many of us still think of fresh water as something that we’ll never run out of. We turn the faucet, the water flows freely, and we expect that things will always work this way for the rest of our lives – and for coming generations.
But the reality could be much different. Potable water is already a precious commodity in many parts of the world today. And here in America, severe droughts have placed large portions of the country under watering restrictions for several years running.
A quick word to the wise… all of these simple improvements can be wiped out by a single leak. Fix any leaky faucets, toilets, or spigots as your first step. A single leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water a day. So, start by fixing your leaks.
Here are 9 simple things you can change in your daily routine to conserve water without cramping your lifestyle.
#9 Turn Off the Tap While You Brush
How long should you brush your teeth? Two minutes. Or at least that’s the company line from the dental industry. If you’re in the habit of running the faucet while you brush your teeth… stop it!
Get your brush wet if you want to, and then turn the faucet back off. No need to leave the faucet running while you brush. According to the EPA you can conserve 8 gallons of water a day by making this simple change. That’s about 240 gallons a month, and almost 3000 gallons a year.
#8 Turn Off the Tap While You Wash Your Hands
This time we’re only talking about 20 seconds. It might seem much less important than the 2 minutes of tooth brushing, but think about it. You only brush your teeth twice a day. But hopefully you wash your hands many times.
If you wash your hands 12 times a day for 20 seconds each – that’s the same as brushing twice for 2 minutes. Just get your hands wet first, turn the faucet off, apply soap and scrub – then turn the faucet back on to rinse.
#7 Take a Shower, and Time It
A bath can use up 70 gallons of water, while the average shower takes only 10 – 25 gallons. And if you’re feeling like an over achiever on this one, get yourself a shower timer.
I’ve seen some pretty fancy options out there that turn the water off after 5 minutes, but the only one I have any personal experience with is a simple sand timer that runs out at 5 minutes. There are smart phone apps for this… or, of course, you could just glance at the clock.
#6 Clean with a Bucket
When you’re cleaning your car, motorcycle, trailer, deck, porch, or whatever; clean it using soapy water in a bucket. A running hose uses about 6 gallons of water a minute, and almost all of it is going to waste. Use soapy water to wash, and then use the hose to rinse.
Or just let your car be dirty for a while. Try it, you might like it.
Read more: A Guide for Using Tap Water in Your Garden
#5 Water Wisely
Lots of people go for the hose when they see their plants “laying down” in the afternoon sun. This is the worst time to water. Depending on conditions, much of that water is probably evaporating before it does any good for the soil or the plants. Water very early or very late, if possible.
It’s normal for plants to lay down on hot summer afternoons. The heat is stressful for your plants, just like it’s stressful for most other living things in temperate climates. Animals head for the shade, people take a nap, and plants droop. Wait a few hours for the sun to get low, and those plants will probably perk right back up.
#4 Use a Spot Sprinkler
When you do need to water in the afternoon, use the right tool for the job. Oscillating sprinklers and irrigation system sprinkler heads are especially susceptible to evaporation during hot afternoon hours. And walking around with a hose is probably pointless. Unless you’re standing in the same spot for a very long time, you’re probably just getting the surface wet, and it is probably just going to evaporate.
Try a spot sprinkler for afternoon watering. I use one like this: spot sprinkler on Amazon. The key thing here is to only turn the water on just enough to wet the area around the plant you’re worried about – probably only a foot or two.
#3 Give Up on Your Garden
What?!? Did The Grow Network just say that you should give up on your garden? Well, sort of. But only for a few weeks. Here in Central Texas, there comes a point in most summers when we realize that we’re using more water than makes sense for the amount of food we’re getting. Over the years we’ve learned to plan our garden for a short rest through the worst of the summer. I wrote more about it a while ago here: The Best Raised Bed Cover Crop for Summertime.
Obviously, this only applies to places where the heat is intense enough that you end up in a losing battle. If you’re gardening up north, there’s no reason not to garden in July. But if you’re watering non-stop and your harvest is getting smaller and smaller… cut your losses. Just for a few weeks.
#2 Back Off the Water Pressure
In my mind, probably the single biggest thing people can do to conserve water is to back off the water pressure and use the appropriate amount of water for the task at hand. I see it all the time when someone is rinsing their hands, or a clean dish, with the faucet wide open. The task could be done just as quickly with the faucet barely turned on.
When this really gets to me is when I see someone watering their lawn with the sprinkler turned on too high. I can’t stand seeing water running down the street gutter on a hot day – it’s like nails on a chalkboard. And if I follow the water to the source, 9 times out of 10 it comes from a sprinkler that is turned on too high, so that it is literally watering the street. Just a tiny twist of the spigot handle back to the right, and that water wouldn’t be wasted.
#1 Kill Your Lawn
Nobody wants to hear it, but we’re wasting the most water on our lawns. They don’t feed us, medicate us, or provide shelter to any of our local wildlife – yet we spend billions of gallons of water on our lawns every single day. We put together lots of stats on this issue in this post: Replace Lawns with Edible Gardens.
Depending on your circumstance, homeowners’ association, neighbors, ordinances… getting rid of your lawn altogether might not be an option. But everyone can do something. Look at the square footage you have to irrigate, and think about ways that you could make it smaller – with rocks, native landscaping, xeriscaping, or even permeable pavement. Irrigate your lawn less, if you can.
So think about making some of these small changes in your daily routine. As you see, little things can make a big difference. Make a few of these small changes and you’ll be guilt-free next time you let your kids play in the sprinkler!