Water conservation has become a way of life to those of us who live in dry regions. In fact, California is in its third year of drought, with 2013 the driest year on record as stated by (www.nrdc.org/living/water). This July, statewide water restrictions were implemented for outdoor water use. A growing population and a changing climate are factors making conservation measures critical for the precious commodity of water. In fact, in November, a statewide $7.5 billion water bond will be on the ballot as Proposition 1. All of us can contribute to saving our water supply. Following are some of the ideas we’ve incorporated to conserve water.
OUTDOOR WATER SAVING IDEAS
Sweep instead of wash. Use a broom on your driveway, balcony or patio instead of water. There’s a side benefit in sweeping rather than washing with water; think of all the exercise you get! You could potentially save up to 100 gallons of water a week.
Remove your lawn. One of the biggest uses of water is in the watering of lawns. You can go to www.todayshomeowner.com/calculating-lawn-irrigation-costs to see how much water you use to water your lawn and what it costs to water it. It is a very user-friendly site so I would encourage you to use it as it is very helpful. If you have a lawn, put out an empty tuna can and then water the lawn. When the can is full, you’ve watered your lawn enough!
About a year ago we decided to remove the lawn in the backyard. We replaced it with smooth multi-colored rocks, and a few stepping stones here and there, including cement “turtle” stepping stones. Check with your local water district to see if they have incentive programs for lawn removal.
Recently we removed the lawn in the front of the house and replaced it with the same smooth multi-colored rocks we used in the backyard. My husband loves the side benefit: we were able to get rid of our lawn mower!
Plant drought resistance plants and use mulch. To find drought resistant plants for your area, the website www.wildflower.org/plants is helpful. Another site, firstname.lastname@example.org will ask questions such as what area your plants will be going into, what are your height requirements for the plants, do you want them to have flowers, and so forth. The site provides the names of the plants, and pictures are included.
When we took the lawn out in the front yard we also removed the red apple ground cover on the adjacent slope. Then we added individual watering systems and wood mulch for each of the new drought resistant plants. Mulch helps the soil retain moisture and discourages weed growth.
Watering time is important. Watering in the early morning is the best time to water because you combat water evaporation that normally occurs during the day. Delay watering if it’s windy because you will lose much of your water to evaporation.
Also, watering in the early evening isn’t a good idea either. If you water this way, the wet plants will invite pests to feast on them during the night. It will also make the plants more susceptible to fungus and mildew.
Make sure your outdoor hose has an on-off nozzle. These are very inexpensive and are available at most hardware stores. When you water your plants by adding a nozzle you will help conserve water. “Garden hoses can easily run water at a rate of 8 gallons per minute. That can add up to 80 gallons in just 10 minutes, but if you add a nozzle you can cut that down to around 3 gallons per minute” (www.nrdc.org).
Washing your vehicle. Following these steps will help save water while you wash your car or truck. Wet the vehicle, turn the hose nozzle to off, shampoo the vehicle using a bucket of soap, rinse the vehicle and turn the water off. Washing a vehicle in the “conventional” manner of leaving the water run as you work, will use as much as 150 gallons of water. Even better, if your vehicle isn’t too dirty, you can eliminate the first of step of wetting the vehicle and just start by using a bucket of soapy water to wash. If you use a carwash, know that they are required to channel their used water to treatment plants, so this is also a good water conservation method.
Washing your pets. I have four dogs so I know shampooing needs to happen! Try washing them this way: wet them, turn off the nozzle, soap them up, turn the water nozzle back on, and rinse them. We save literally gallons of water this way, especially since we have such large dogs; a Great Dane, Swiss Mountain Dog, and a Pointer. Our fourth dog, a 10 pound terrier, is washed in a small tub in the service sink!
INDOOR WATER SAVING IDEAS
Check your toilet for leaks. “Put a little food coloring in your toilet tank. If, without flushing, the color begins to appear in the bowl within 20 minutes, you have a leak that should be repaired immediately” (eartheasy.com/live_water)
Lessen the water in the toilet tank. Most of us already know that to help save water we can put a brick in the toilet tank. But, if you don’t have a brick, you can put some sand or pebbles into a plastic bottle to weigh them down, fill the bottle with water, put the lid back on, and place the bottle in the tank.
Take a 4 minute shower. Long, hot showers may feel good, but they are not good for conserving water. Try setting a timer when you take your shower. A four-minute shower uses 20-40 gallons of water. You can also put a bucket in the shower with you. The bucket can capture two or three gallons of water that you can use to water plants in the yard or in the house.
Turn off the water when brushing. When you brush your teeth turn off the water. If you find this habit hard to break, write yourself a post it note for the mirror: TURN OFF WATER until it becomes second nature for you.
Turn off the water in the kitchen. Another time to turn off the water is when peeling or cleaning fruit or vegetables. You can rinse them in a pot or bowl of water instead of letting the water run.
SIMPLE CHANGES MAKE A DIFFERENCE
These ideas make it easy for everyone in the family to be involved with water conservation. It can be as simple as turning off the water when brushing your teeth. If you’d like to know how to calculate how much water you use and where it’s being consumed in your home, a good site is www.home-water-works.com/waterusage. This is an interactive site that you can use for indoor and outdoor calculation. I hope this Giving Back article gives you some ideas for conserving water as we work together in preserving our planet.