Water Conservation For Real

How many times have you seen a list of water-conservation tips that includes “Turn off the water when brushing your teeth”? I’m not sure about you, but when I read that I think “Really? Can’t we do a little better?” Turning off the water while brushing or scrubbing is the least we can do. I say, let’s take it up a notch. Here are a few rambling thoughts to get started:

  1. What’s this about five-minute showers? If you turn off the shower will sudsing up you can easily get it down to 90 seconds, including time to get the water warmed up.
  2. Do not shave in the shower.  Use the sink (yes ladies, you can shave your legs in the sink) or plug up the shower while first getting wet, and use the water in the tub for your shave.
  3. Save yourself some time on laundering and reconsider whether that garmet can be worn a second (or third, or eighth) time before it goes into the hamper.  Levi Stauss is in my camp on this one – see this piece from the NY Times.
  4. Don’t flush until you have to.  Radical, I know.  Alternatively you can use the shower, per a national campaign in Brazil. I guess the idea is really just to use a little flush of cold water from the shower rather than a full tank from the toilet.
  5. If that idea was too radical for you, don’t read this one….. Skip the toilet and shower all together, and use a watering can.  Diluted urine is, according to eHow, an excellent source of N and P for your garden.
  6. For the water that you put into that watering can DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT using the public water supply.  Your rain barrel is the perfect source.  If you don’t have a rain barrel, put a bucket under your downspout.
  7. Make good use of your dehumidifier water.  Don’t dump it down the drain!  It can be used for gardening, of course, but because it’s basically distilled water you can use it for the water in your iron or even for your fish tank.  I’ve done this numerous times, and the fish thrived. It’s probably better than public water because it has no chemical inputs.
  8. While we’re on the subject of fish, if you have a freshwater fish tank, don’t drain the old water down the sink.  The nutrients (aka fish pee) that make the water dirty also make it excellent water for you plants.  (See #5 above)
  9. Back to laundry issues …. Do you really need all those towels? I am astounded at the number of towels I see people use at the gym I attend.  Each of those towels has to be washed in hot water and dried.  Save a towel, save water and energy.
  10. Use solar power (“Clothes line”) to dry your clothes.  The clothes dryer in your basement uses electricity and/or natural gas, both of which use a lot of water to make your energy.  Saving energy saves water.
  11. Oh yes – this one is from my late grandmother Sallie Harris. She came of age in the Depression, and was careful with her resources.  In the summer, after cooking corn or anything with boiling water, she’d tell you to take that super-hot water outside and pour it on the cracks in your sidewalk or driveway.  It’s an instant, non-toxic weed killer (very satisfying to watch, I must say) and keeps all that hot steam out of your kitchen. (On a cold day, keep that heat in your house rather than dumping it down the drain. Let it sit on the stove until it becomes tepid before re-purposing it or discarding it.)
What’s your favorite tip?

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