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Water Conservation At Home

Water can seem like an unending resource, but water conservation is important!  Here is how to conserve water and preserve this valuable resource. 

Clean water is crucial to our survival.  Without clean drinking water we would not live more than a few days.  While water can sometimes seem like an unending resource, water conservation at home can be very important.  It takes money and resources to make water safe for drinking and household use.  In areas that rely on ground water instead of rainwater we sometimes use it faster than it replenishes itself.  Here are some ideas on how to conserve water and preserve this valuable resource. 

What Is Water Conservation?

Water conservation means that we use only as much water as we need and that we manage our existing water sources responsibly.  There are several aspects to water conservation.  First, reduce waste.  Second, avoid contaminating existing water.  And third, improve our water systems that we currently have. 

There are also several different levels we can practice water conservation as a society.  Business and professional agriculture have many opportunities to reduce their water usage and improve water management systems.  Because they often operate at a higher volume than individual homes they have a great potential to conserve water. 

Importance Of Water Conservation

This doesn’t mean that our individual efforts do not make a difference however!  The EPA estimates that household leaks alone wastes 900 billion gallons of water each year.  That is a huge opportunity for improvement, not to mention that it saves you money!

Now obviously water doesn’t disappear just because we’ve sent it down the drain.  But, often the point that water leaves the treatment plants is not directly linked to the sources of our clean drinking water.  We’ve spent money extracting, treating, pumping, and cleaning water that we didn’t even need to use in the first place!  And in some areas that means there is less available for us to use next time.  

Why Is Water Conservation Important? Isn’t Earth 71% Water?

Every person needs clean water to survive.  Not only do we need fresh water to drink and cook with, but we also use water in many other household ways.  We need water to wash ourselves.  Most of us use traditional flush toilets.  We need water for our gardens and yards.  It also takes water to raise food. 

And ironically enough, even though we live on a planet that is predominately water, only about 1 percent of that is drinkable.  The rest is in glaciers or is seawater.  While there are desalinization technologies out there, none of them have been used in a cost effective and wide spread way.   It’s easy to see why should we conserve water!

There are secondary benefits to water conservation as well. First off, saving water saves money.  It saves your money, as well as the money of communities. When businesses and communities landscape with water conserving species they can have beautiful surroundings with less input needed. You are also prepared for drought years when there may be water restrictions on landscaping. Some areas, like where I grew up, have permanent water restrictions.

In some areas of the world, access to water and water rights can cause political conflicts. Saving water also saves the energy used in pumping water and reduces pollution AND it’s better for ecosystems. For example, low aquifers can create sink holes. 

Water Conservation Tips 

So how can we conserve water? There are lots of ways. Some are small, some are large. Some we can do as individuals, and others we can do on a larger scale.

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Buy Less

One water conservation tip is to simply buy less. Manufacturing material goods takes water. Cotton and other fabrics in particular can be water intensive to create. Any time you think you may need to buy clothes (or other items!) try a few different options.

First, shop your closet. Do you already own something that works? Maybe you just need to make a small alteration or repair or simply mix and match in a different way. Second, if it’s a one time use try to borrow the item you need.

Third, shop second hand. These clothes have already been made. The ecological costs have already occurred. Buying second hand means you are simply giving something one more stop on its way to the landfill.

Drive Less

Did you know that driving less saves water? Manufacturing gasoline takes water. In fact, according to Water Calculator, one mile equals about 3/4 of a gallon!

Recycle

Like most consumer products and gasoline making new products requires more water than recycling them. There are a lot of reasons to avoid using plastic, but purchasing recycled paper goods like toilet paper and printer paper will cut down our total water use. And of course recycle your own discards when possible.

Save Electricity

Want to save as much as 39 gallons of water PER DAY? Switch to solar power. Most of the ways we generate electricity, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear fuels, and hydroelectric use a lot of water. Here are some tips on having solar panels installed. Also, many electric companies offer an option for you to support their solar and wind generated energy.

Eat Pastured Meat

Most of the meat in the United States is raised on corn and soy based feeds. Both corn and soy take a lot of water to raise. Dairy and meat animals that are raised on pasture require a lot less water. Plus they have a much better quality of life! Whenever you can, choose to buy pastured animal products over conventional.

Water Conservation Projects Around the House

One of the best ways to conserve water at home is make sure you have repaired all leaks and drips. Do you have a hose that sprays from the faucet when you turn it on? Tighten the hose, replace the hose, or repair the hose bib. Drippy sink? Those drops add up. Replacing basic fixtures is an easy skill to learn. Insulate pipes and your hot water heater so it doesn’t take as long for water to heat up.

Of course, whenever you are doing home improvement projects, be prepared for the inevitable things going wrong and a million trips to the hardware store! A few weeks back, I pestered my husband into my husband decided to repair a small leak in the kid’s toilet. For some reason the screw that attaches the tank to the toilet had a tiny drip. It was barely noticeable, except when getting back there to clean the floor would be slightly damp.

This should have been an easy fix with simply a rubber gasket, but our toilets are fancy schmancy toilets with two buttons to flush instead of a lever. So of course no hardware stores keep the right pieces in stock to repair them. We decided to hack it with some water tight cement stuff, and all in all it was a quick and easy repair. All it had to do was stay dry for 24 hours!

Did I mention this was the kid’s bathroom? Because bright and early the next morning I groggily woke up to the sound of running water and splashing. It was way too early for the big kids to tear themselves from their beds to brush their teeth. The early-rising small kids have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do any sort of hygienic activity. I stumbled into the bathroom to find the five year old happily filling cups of water and dumping them into supposed-to-be-cement-curing toilet tank. Okay then.

Thankfully, this home improvement story has a happy ending, because with some toweling off, re-cementing, and another 24 hours of uneventful curing time the leaky screw was completely fixed. (Obviously the moral of this story about repairing leaks is that children use a lot of water. If you want to conserve water and you already have kids, never ever sleep).

Install Aerators

Speaking of kids and saving water, another necessity is to install low flow shower heads and aerators on all your showers and faucets. This was one of the first things we did when moving to our new house. Not only do we use less water, but the shower heads are much nicer to use now too.

(This is absolutely essential if you have pre-teen girls who suddenly switch from resisting all forms of bathing EVER to wanting to live in the bathroom.)

Low flow shower heads and aerators mix air into the water coming out of your faucet to use less water per minute, while keeping a nice level of water pressure. Nobody wants a wimpy shower!

Generally installing these is a simple as unscrewing the old one, and screwing on the new one. (Unless of course something goes wrong, which it always will.)

Upgrade Appliances

Another way to conserve water is by upgrading older appliances. Of course, you need to balance this tip with the tip earlier about buying less. New appliances do take water to manufacture. Recycling the components of old appliances also takes water. If you don’t need to replace yours just yet, check out the tips in 20 Ways to Save Water And Cut Down Your Bill.

Remember those fancy schmancy toilets I was talking about earlier? This house came with dual flush toilets. One button uses only 1.1 gallons of water per flush; the other button uses 1.6 gallons per flush. They’ve been very handy and do save water, as most modern toilets use 1.6 gallons for every flush. (I know this post has talked a lot about toilets, but according to Water Calculator, they use the most water per day!)

HOWEVER, if you are in need of installing a new toilet, I suggest you spend a little extra and get a high quality water saving toilet, as they can use as little as 1.2 gallons for EVERY flush without clogging problems. Obviously this saves more money and water than my dual flush toilets. Plus, you get the added bonus of not needing specialty toilet repair pieces.

I’m a huge fan of dishwashers, which generally use less water than hand washing dishes. I say generally, because it is possibly to hand wash using very little water, (although most people use a lot). It’s ALSO possible to totally negate the water saving benefits of a dishwasher. Make sure to only run full loads and don’t pre-rinse your dishes. All you need to do is scrape them off into the compost bucket. Modern dishwasher detergents are enzymatic and will actually clean better with those tiny bits of food left on the dishes. Just make sure to periodically empty out any mesh screening you may have at the bottom of your dishwasher.

Just like dishwashers, new washing machines are more water efficient than hand washing or older models. Make sure to run full loads and use the coolest water setting in order to save electricity. Someday I will have personal experience in newer washing machines, however, our old top loader is still going strong. Feel free to share any tips or recommendations on water efficient washing machines in the comments!

5 Methods Of Water Conservation In The Yard

In addition to water conservation methods around the house, we need to make sure we are cutting back on our water use in the yard and landscape. Even if you live in a very dry area there are ways you can save water outside as well as inside.

Let Lawn Go Dormant

The easiest thing you can do is simply to let your lawn go dormant in the summer. Yes, it will go brown, but you won’t need to use gallons and gallons of water to keep it an unnatural green. Plus, you save time on mowing. Grass has very deep roots, and will perk right up during wetter seasons of the year.

Use Rainwater

If you just can’t handle the idea of a brown lawn, the next easiest option is to water it using rainwater. You will need enough barrels to last the longest dry spell your area has. It does cost a little bit of money to get a good rain barrel system going, but after that point all your water is free from the sky! Here are some other tips about how to use rainwater in your landscape.

Replace Lawn With Drought Resistant Plants

A larger project that can have very good results is replacing your lawn with plants that thrive in your climate. Often this is called xeriscaping. Other good choices for plants are natives. By replacing lawns with other plants you can provide lots of cover and food for other native species such as beneficial insects, butterflies, and birds. You can also choose plants that will provide a food source for you as well!

Plant Trees

Did you know that trees are vital not only for fresh air, but also for fresh water? Trees slow down rainfall and prevent flooding. Their roots hold in soil that would otherwise be washed into our water ways. They also shade areas under their leaves and decrease evaporation. And most impressively, through a process called transpiration, trees release stored water as water vapor into the air. A large tree can release as much as 400 gallons a DAY. As trees are cut down, entire areas become increasingly dryer. Here are some tips on how to plant trees on your property.

Mulch

And finally, give anything you plant a good layer of mulch. Mulches absorb and hold water so that it is available to your plants longer. They also block evaporation from the soil. There are many different options for mulch, many of which are quite attractive. Never leave bare soil! Plus, a good mulch cuts down on weeding too.

By making some small (and large) changes to our habits we can conserve water, save money, and make a difference in our communities.

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