Why should you conserve water? Like many things around us, we seldom appreciate what is plentiful and easily accessible. What could be more accessible and apparently plentiful than water? All we have to do is turn on the faucet any time 24 hours a day and there is plenty of water for our use. Water doesn’t just magically appear. It costs money to draw water from a lake or river or to pull it up from an aquifer. It appears in our homes only after it has traveled through miles of pipes and perhaps even a treatment process. Communities like ours draw water from wells drilled deep down in the earth from a source that is now dwindling – the aquifer. Due to decreasing amounts in our aquifers, water systems such as ours may be required to reduce our dependence on this source of water – another demonstration of the need to conserve. Water is simply a valuable resource that shouldn’t be wasted. Only 1% of the entire water supply on earth is available for human use – the remainder is salty or locked in ice caps and glaciers. It is just this 1% that keeps all of the world’s agricultural, manufacturing, community and personal household and sanitation needs operating. We actually drink very little of our processed and treated “drinking water” – only about 1% of all treated water. The remainder goes in our washing machines, on our lawns, and down the toilets and drains.
- GENERAL TIPS
- THINGS YOU CAN DO IN YOUR KITCHEN AND LAUNDRY
- CONSERVATION MEASURES FOR YOUR BATHROOM
- WATER CONSERVATION OUTDOORS
General Tips for Water Conservation
- As much as 80% of domestic water usage occurs outside the Home on lawns and gardens.
- Adjust your irrigation timer monthly – lawns require different amounts of water in winter than in spring. Thus irrigating with the same amount of water results in an incredible waste of water.
- The most efficient time for watering is early morning or late evenings, when temps are cooler and winds lighter.
- Desert Landscaping is another way to reduce watering. Replace lawns and water consuming plants with attractive native and drought tolerant plants. Desert landscaping is a great way to enhance the beauty of the gardens while conserving water and protecting the environment.
- Avoid installing ornamental water features unless the water is recycled.
- Don’t water the pavement. Set sprinklers so that water lands on lawn and gardens, not on pavement, and stop sprinklers when puddles or runoff occur and allow the water to soak into the soil before resuming watering.
- Use a broom or blower to clean sidewalk/driveways, not gallons and gallons of water.
- Wash your car on the lawn. Don’t allow the water to run continuously. Turn on and off to soak down and rinse off. Water will be absorbed by the lawn. Use a commercial car wash that recycles.
- Cover your swimming pool, this helps to reduce evaporation. A pool cover can reduce water loss by 90%.
- Studies have shown homes can waste more than 10% due to leaks.
- Check your indoor water-using appliances and devices for leaks. The largest water user inside the home is the toilet.
- Check your toilet for leaks. A leak inside the toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day. Check by adding a few drops of food coloring into the tank. If there is a leak, color will show in the bowl in about 30 minutes. Check for worn out, corroded, or bent parts. Replacement kits are relatively inexpensive and easily installed.
- Faucet leaks are usually visible; however there are some unnoticeable leaks in areas like the on/off handle or in the pipes below the basin.
- Drips of 60 drops per minute = 192 gallons per month; 90 drops per minute = 310 gallons per month; a 3” stream = 1095 gallons per month. This increases your monthly water and sewer bill.
- Install low flow aerators and showerheads.
- Listen for dripping faucets and toilets that flush themselves. Fixing a leak can save 500 gallons a month.
- Don’t let the water run while brushing teeth, shaving, or washing hands/face. This can save more than 100 gallons a week.
- Running your washing machine or dishwasher only when full could save you hundreds of gallons a month.
- Check your water meter and bill to track your usage.
- Use a timer to keep showers to a 5 minute limit; this can save 1000 gallons a month.
- Store drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting the tap run every time you want a cool glass of water. Things you can do in your Kitchen and Laundry
- Keep a container of water in the refrigerator to avoid running water for a cool drink. This also allows any chlorine taste to dissipate.
- Avoid running water to thaw food. Place food in refrigerator overnight or defrost in the microwave.
- Run the dishwasher only when you have a full load. Automatic dishwashers use about 15 gallons per load.
- If washing dishes by hand, don’t let water run continuously for rinsing. If you have 2 sinks, fill one with rinse water. If you have only one sink, first gather all your washed dishes in a dish rack, and then rinse them quickly. Also, using the least amount of detergent necessary minimizes the rinse water needed.
- Use a bowl of water to clean and prepare vegetables rather than letting the faucet run.
- Use your garbage disposal less often and compost instead.
- When doing laundry, use the right water level to match the size of the load. Otherwise, wash only full loads. Each load of laundry normally requires 50 gallons or more of water.
- Check all hose connections for leaks.
- Clean up with a waterless hand cleaner. Not using a steady stream of water will save 7-19 gallons each time.
- Fixing leaky faucets and plumbing joints can save up to 20 gallons a day per leak. It is easy to do and can represent a substantial savings in plumbing and water bills.
- For cooking most food, use only a little water in the pot and put a lid on it. Not only does this method save water, but food is more nutritious since you don’t pour vitamins and minerals down the drain with the extra cooking water.
- If you are considering the purchase of any new appliances that use water, check the water requirements of the various models and brands. You’ll find that some use less water than others.
- Be sure your hot water heater thermostat isn’t set too high. Extremely hot settings waste water and energy when the water has to be cooled with cold water before you can use it.
- Just remember, every drop counts, and every person can make a difference!
Conservation Measures for your Bathroom
About 75% of the water in the home is used in the bathroom. Consider these
- Turn off water while brushing your teeth. There’s no need to keep water pouring down the drain. Wet your toothbrush and fill a glass for mouth rinsing.
- Rinse your razor in the sink. Fill the bottom of the sink with a few inches of water. This will rinse your blade as well as running water.
- A bathtub filled half full holds about 50 gallons of water. Consider showering instead.
- Shampoo your hair in the shower. It takes a little more water than for the bath, but much less than a separate shampoo will use.
- Check faucets and pipes for leaks. Standard faucets have rubber or plastic washers that wear out over time and are available from any hardware store. Some newer faucets use O-rings instead of washers.
- Limit showers to five minutes.
- Install water saving low-flow showerheads. Turn off water while soaping up or shampooing.
- Your toilet could be leaking without your knowing it. Try this: Add a few drops of food coloring to the water in the tank, but do not flush (about 15 minutes). Watch to see if the coloring appears in the bowl within a few minutes. If it does, the fixture needs adjustment or repair.
- Listen to gurgling sounds coming from your toilet. These noises indicate the flush valve needs to be adjusted to stop wasting water.
- Use a water stop/dam to reduce the amount of water used in a flush. Do not use bricks because they will eventually crumble and could damage the working mechanism of the toilet.
- Install faucet aerators to cut water consumption.
- Never use the toilet to dispose of cleansing tissues, cigarette butts or other trash. This can waste a great deal of water and also places an unnecessary load on the sewage treatment process.
- Don’t use hot water when cold will do. Save water and energy by washing hands with soap and cold water instead of turning on the hot water and waiting for it to run hot.
Water Conservation Outdoors
- To reduce evaporation, water your lawn in the early morning or in the evening– and never on a windy day. When you water during the heat of the day or on a windy day, the water just evaporates. Watering during the day can actually harm your lawn by causing it to “burn”. Use a sprinkler that produces drops of water rather than a fine mist, to avoid evaporation. Turn soaker hoses so that the holes are on the bottom to avoid evaporation.
- Learn to know when your grass needs watering. If it has turned a dull greygreen and when footprints remain visible as you walk across, it’s time to water.
- If small areas in your yard need more frequent watering (those near walks or driveways or in especially hot, sunny spots), use a watering can or hand water with the hose only in those areas.
- Learn what type of grass, shrubbery and plants do best in your area, and in
- which parts of your yard, and then plant accordingly. If you have a heavily shaded yard, no amount of water will make the roses bloom.
- You don’t have to be a horticulturist to have an attractive yard, but do learn about the plants you have so that you can water just enough to keep them healthy, and not enough to waste water or injure the plants.
- Place a layer of mulch around trees and plants so more water can be retained by the roots.
- Aerate the soil in the spring and fall to reduce runoff.
- Plant in the spring or fall, when watering requirements are lower.
- Wash the car with soap, water, and a bucket, using a hose with a shut-off nozzle for a quick final rinse. Do this on the grass so water serves to irrigate the lawn.
- Adjust sprinklers carefully so only the lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street.
- Cover pools and spas to cut down on evaporation.
- Longer grass means less evaporation. Let grass grow taller in hot dry weather by the setting the mower one notch higher.
- Water trees & shrubs using a hand-held hose with a nozzle end or a drip system.
- Install irrigation systems with automatic timers. The times can be programmed to turn the system on and off. Check for leaks in your irrigation system. Make every drop count. If you don’t have an automatic sprinkling
- system, use a kitchen timer or buy a sprinkler timer. You can waste a lot of water in a short time if you forget to turn off the sprinklers.
- Adjust your irrigation schedule to accommodate changes in seasonal water demand.
- Replace sprinklers with drip irrigation systems whenever possible.
- Use a broom, never a hose, to clean paved areas.
- Design landscapes appropriate for our water-use zone.
- Water retaining basins also allow water to be concentrated around the plants.
- Install one or more rain barrels under your downspouts. (See details below)
Make your Own Rain Barrel
How much rainwater comes off of your house’s roof in a year? Consider a roof with a surface area of 1,000 square feet. One inch of rain, running off a 1,000 square foot surface, amounts to 625 gallons of rainwater. In our area, our average annual rainfall is 52.4 inches of rain. Therefore, in a year’s time, a 1,000 square foot roof will catch approximately 32,750 gallons of water that is free and which can be captured and used for watering your plants or lawn during the drier periods.
Calculate the runoff for your own roof. Take the area of your roof (assume 1,500 sqft for this example). 1,500 X 625 / 1,000 = 938 gallons per inch of rain. 938 gallons X 52.4 inches of rain in a year = 49,151 gallons of rainwater in a year.
Rain barrels can be purchased commercially, over the Internet, or you can make your own. Use a plastic trash can or other type of barrel that can be covered or screened (to prevent mosquitoes). Add one or two ¾” hose adapters, install with silicone adhesive to seal the openings, and you are capturing water that otherwise would be wasted. For thin wall barrels, such as trash cans, it is suggested that silicone caulk be used to seal the openings where hoses would be attached. A spigot can be added about 18” up for filling water cans.
If your home is not surrounded by trees, you can simply hook in a downspout. If there are trees, you may wish to install a screened opening for the downspout to empty into. This allows cleaning of the debris normally associated with trees, particularly in the spring. Barbed hose connector with hose shutoff valve added, Connect the overflow to a hose or tubing and drain it away from your house’s foundation. The hose connector can be hooked to a normal or soaker hose for watering your lawn and plants during dry periods.
The water is FREE!
Note that this water should only be used for irrigation, not human consumption.
- Use barbed hose adapter connected to hose for overflow. Use the overflow device
- to direct excess water away from your home’s foundation when the tank is full.
- Tie in to downspout or use screened opening in lid.
- Use a tight-fitting, light-blocking lid to keep children and animals out of the water
- and stop the development of algae.
- Add a screen to keep leaves and other debris out of the water if it is not otherwise
- covered and sealed.
- Monitor the barrel to ensure intakes and overflows aren’t blocked.
- Ensure the barrel is raised enough to have easy access to the spigot.
- It’s a good idea in the winter to drain the rain barrel and reconnect the downspout.
- Freezing water can burst the barrel.
- Rainwater Harvesting
- State of North Carolina
- North Carolina DENR – Division of Water Resources
- Water Wiser
- California Urban Water Conservation Council/EPA