On a planet that’s surface is 80% water, there would seem to be enough for 6.5 Billion people. Though knowing that of the 80%, only 3% is fresh-water and of that only 1% is available for drinking changes everything.
As unfortunate as the modern lifestyle of consumption is to the health of the planet, awareness of conservationism is slowly taking a place at the forefront of our minds. That is why you are reading this in the first place and why you will take part in saving a precious resource starting right in your own home. Plus there ways to save on your water bill starting immediately and in the long run.
Unless you take unusually long showers or run a business washing elephants, toilets consume the most household water at up to 5 gallons a flush. On average the bathroom use of water makes up about 75% of your water bill and just toilet flushing is almost 40% of that use. In extreme cases, like droughts, only flushing when absolutely necessary and not at every use becomes a sensible, yet smelly solution. This is an extreme measure and even the Persian’s had a sanitary flush system toilet as far back as 1000 B.C.
The modern housing boom of the past 50 years created well over 50,000 public water systems in the U.S. alone. As nations strive to develop world wide, water conservation will become pivotal in the management of natural resources. One such measure is the Environmental Protection Agency passing legislation in 1994 that all household toilets installed operate at 1.6 gallons per flush. There are still millions of homes with an average of 2 -3 toilets older than 1994 and more likely to have leaks possibly wasting up to 200 gallons a day.
Leaky toilets are a good place to start in running a water audit on your home. If your bowl was built before 1994, you may want to install a newer low-flush model, or at least add a displacement device like a toilet dam. As with any cost in equipping your home to save energy and water, calculate the long-term savings as opposed to what you are spending now. The EPA estimates that the cost of installing a new low-flush toilet can be recovered in savings after 5 years. Here are a few no-cost or low cost tips for a tidy toilet:
-Check for leaks. Put a drop of food coloring in the tank, or some cities’ utility companies offer free tablets, and after a 30 minutes check to see if the coloring appears in the bowl, which indicates a leak. After checking for old, broken or worn parts you may need to get a Tank Repair Kit with all new valves, levers, gaskets and bolts. Inexpensive at $18 to $20, these parts are easy to install and available at hardware stores.
-Water Utility companies offer free water displacement kits, which includes the leak tabs. A displacement kit is a bag filled with water that hangs in the tank, but you can also use a plastic bottle filled with water or sand that enforces less water for flushing. A toilet dam is a similar device that can be purchased for under $10 at hardware stores. These should only be used on older toilets. If the tank is already flush efficient, you will have to flush twice with displacement, contradicting your intentions.
-Another way to check for leaks is to read your water meter on the side of the house. Use no running water for a least and hour or two and see if the reading changes. If so that may indicate a leak and you should check faucets, toilets and hoses.
Conserving in the bathroom is where you will most see the savings on the water bill. After you’ve dealt with the toilet make sure your bathing habits are in order. An active lifestyle can demand a shower a day, and not everyone can opt for the European way of every other day. Time your self at less than 5 minutes and with an ultra-low shower head up to three gallons a shower is saved. You can purchase some exquisite heads with varying pressure, but also a standard water saving head is available for under $10.
Other thoughtful habits at no-cost are shutting off the water in between soaping and rinsing, Navy style. As for timing, some people have actual timers, but you can play the radio and after 2 short songs its time to hustle. Now as much as doing this in your home saves you money, it also creates good habits to prevent indulging at the gym or a hotel. Conserving water is a committed effort you should apply everyday and not only in your home.
Showers use about 40 gallons less water then a filling the tub, but if you so choose, make sure to close the drain immediately and not after adjusting the water temperature. For guys, fill the sink when shaving and don’t leave the faucet running, just the same when brushing teeth or washing hands. To avoid smearing your sink knobs with soap while washing, turn them back on with you elbows.
More and more public bathrooms have sensors to assist in turning the water on while washing, this could soon be a standard for homes and is available now at a price. Make sure your sink faucets have Aerators too, and you can even upgrade to one with a restrictor of variable flows. Aerators sell for $4 and up and set of 6 for the whole house are about $10.
Most houses built after 1995, have all these appliances installed to conserve water, but older houses are easily retrofitted. To save in the kitchen start with drinking water. Fill a container with water and keep it in the fridge so not to run the faucet to make it cold. Designate an official drinking glass to use for the day so the dishwasher doesn’t fill as fast. When washing dishes, fill both sides of the sink if you have, using one for scrubbing and soaking, the other for rinsing. Sometimes rinsing water is reusable, as is water from washing fruits and vegetables and can be recycled to water plants, among other duties. Water from cooking vegetables and pasta can be recycled for plant, garden or cleaning use as well.
Letting the water run to adjust temperature can waste a lot and for about $200 you can purchase a compact instant water heater that fits under the sink. On that note when thawing meats or frozen goods, think ahead and set it out in the fridge or microwave, don’t let it sit under running water or in a filled sink. Just thinking about it and making the effort to save water will get you contemplating all your use. Upgrading to a new dishwasher may be useful for owners of models older than 1993, this also applies to the washing-machine. A big step is to install new energy saving machines that not only conserve water, but also electricity. Look for the EnergyStar® label and remember they are an investment and the savings are reaped in the long run.
Already you might be wondering how to remember all this, so making up itemized lists in each room of the house will help. An important list should make its way to the laundry room as over 20% of your water use can come from washing clothes. Creating mindful washing habits starts with making sure you only do full loads or use appropriate water levels. It is also useful to double check your laundry piles as some items may not need that wash after all. Most pairs of pants and shirts can make it through more than one wear and may just need to be ironed.
When outdoors there are some important watering techniques for maintaining a green lawn. Whether you use timers for sprinklers or manually water, try to do it only in the late afternoon or early evening. If it is necessary, watering in the early morning is okay, but the hot noon sun will dry it up quickly. It is best to remember NOT to water between 10a.m. and 5p.m. during summer hours. Watering lawns and most plants during peak sunlight hours not only wastes water, but does not do much for their nourishment. Water stays cool throughout the night keeping lawns and plants moist so they soak up all they need and more.
If you are a serious gardener remember to reuse clean water from the house. Gardener’s might also consider installing a drip irrigation system, for about $40, which will save hundreds of gallons throughout the season. If it is installed with careful thought the drip irrigation system can also offer direct water sources to the roots and hard to reach crops.
There is much being done as agricultural industries and governments come to meet the challenges of resources and population growth. As a result of the increased attention more innovations will appear in the homes of consumers. If we take our part to help now, it won’t be because of dire need as some draught prone areas may face. It starts with the little things, such as the no-cost methods mentioned herein. That little bit extra you let the sink run adds up to millions of gallons when everyone in the neighborhood does it. As your consciousness about water use stimulates a greater awareness others will take notice. So the more people who are aware the better off everyone will be.