I spent most of my childhood growing up in drought years, or near drought years in Northern California. Even though the exact location that I did was serviced by a very deep, clean and ever plentiful well, we were constantly bombarded with news from the San Joaquin Valley area cities about the booming population, agricultural demands, dwindling Sierra Nevada snow pack, etc. As children, we would see our beloved river rise and fall, ( the south fork of the Cosumnes River ) but it was always accessible to us. The overall color of Northern California at that time was some green, with some beiges and tans being the majority. Something like this color. Anyways, this news always frightened me as a child. What if the river went down too far? I would have lost the best playground that any kid could ask for. I guess it was this that started me off doing things unconsciously to preserve water. I get asked a lot, "What are you doing?" when it comes to water use, and it always catches me off guard, until I realize that most people simply take for granted that since it has always been around, that it will always be around. I would like to illustrate the ways that you to can help reduce water usage. This will not likely translate into any significant reduction, but I cannot see it hurting, and when it becomes "second nature" to you, perhaps it will become second nature to your children, and so on. In no particular order:
#1. Brushing your teeth. Some people leave the sink running when they brush their teeth. I have never been able to figure this out. During the 2-3 minutes that you brush your teeth with the sink running, you are wasting at least a gallon of water. I have a cup that I exchange on a weekly basis, fill it, and use that for the whole procedure. Just a quick splash at the end is the only time I turn the faucet on again. Savings per week average: 14 gallons.
#2. Washing dishes. We never had a dishwasher growing up. So all dishes were done by hand. Though I believe that hand washed dishes are using less water, most new dishwashers use about 10 gallons of water, not including your "pre-rinse routine". Just like in the tooth brushing principle, I could never fathom how someone would have a double sink, and simply have the tap running on one side, while they scrub away at something on the otherside. I would venture to guess that 10 gallons of water is wasted this way every day. If you have a dishwasher, DO NOT PRERINSE. Here is why we do this. Because about 25 years ago, dishwashers were crappy. And out of habit, we still do. Plus, the "energy efficient" cycle that most people like to use, often poorly washes the dishes. Here is my source. If you do not have a dishwasher, or use it infrequently, here is my suggestion. Get the largest dirty bowl that you have to wash, and place it inside the sink. Fill it with hot soapy water, and then begin to place your least dirtiest dishes (usually cups and glasses) in and scrub them, (with the water off of course), place the scrubbed and soapy dishes into the other sink. Go progressively dirtier until you are finished. Then, go to the other side, and rinse everything. This will cut your water use by 90%. Notice someone who is doing the dishes and you will see that only a few seconds is spent actually rinsing, and the majority of the time is spent scrubbing. Savings per week: 70-100 gallons a week
#3 Shaving. Nearly exactly like the toothbrushing scenario, gents will run the tap while they are lathering up, shaving and looking at themselves in the mirror. A large heavy coffee mug or deep corning wear bowl will work just fine, and save gallons of water every time you shave. It's easy.
Savings per week: 10 gallons a week.
#4-Laundry- I am like a lot of people in my position. I hate "Laundry day" Too much time is spent waiting for cycles to finish, then waiting for dryers to finish. So, a solution is to do the loads, "as they come in" throughout the week. This has a problem though. You end up washing loads that are "not full" or at best, you have a "load size selector", but I doubt that they save any real significant amount of water, and therefore, waste water. To beat this, I always make sure that I have exactly a full load in the basin. But, I also separate and bleach my whites. So how can I do this, especially as a often single or with one other person type guy? I found my solution watching people hand wash. I notice they utilize a soaking period in the washing routine, and there it was. So I have a bucket, that I put about 1.5 gallons of water in. Then I put a TBSP of bleach in. Next, I put my whites in and let them soak for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I put the washer to full, and fill with my usual colored clothing. Then, I dump out the water from the "bleached whites", and rinse them for 10-15 seconds. That about does it, then I toss them in with the regular load. I have never had any "residual bleach problem" and the whites are always brilliant when they come out. 20-50 gallons of water per week.
WARNING here is where I get "exotic" by some standards in water conservation
#5 Showering- First of all, if you take a bath in this day and age every time you bathe, you are outrageously wasting water. I can't see the harm in the occasional weekly "treat", but to do this day in and day out smacks of greed and insensitivity. Also, who the heck has the time to do this everyday, and what about the other people in the house that may need to use the bathroom? I digress. But we can do so much more with our daily shower than we believe.
1. Go into the shower.
2. Turn on the water and soak your head, then immediately turn off the shower
4. Turn on water and rinse, then immediately turn off the shower.
5. Soap up a loufa, or whatever you use if anything, and "soap up"
6. Rinse off and turn it off.
Not only can and do I complete a shower in less than 5 minutes, but I probably use 1/10 the water that most people do. I like a relaxing shower as much as the next guy, adn usually treat myself to one "normal" shower per week. My total "on time" for the water is usually about 1 minute or so, or about 3-5 gallons of water, saving: 24-45 gallons of water with each shower.
6- The Toilet.- Yes, I am going there. First off, I was an early adopter in the day, for putting a bottle of water inside the tank. Nowadays, the Johns are all low flow. Of course, if you have an older toilet, go ahead and stick a 2 liter jug of water inside it. You will reduce volume significantly. But as a child, I saw that this was not enough. This was never more apparent than going to the aforementioned river with my brother, and coming back home late in the afternoon. The first thing a kid does when he returns from the chh-chh-chilly snow pack fed river is pee. This routine went on, where one of us would get there first, then followed by the other one. Right there, is two complete flushes for a couple hundred MLs of urine. One day, I knocked on the door and said, "Hey, don't flush, I will". After all, 5-12 year old boys are not known for their modesty anyways. This tradition has followed my brother and I for years. I don't know if he adopted it, but I always request others if ever convenient, to let me "piggy back" on their flush. I can't see everybody doing this, but urine is the only product allowed for this maneuver! And it isn't really that gross. Urine is "sterile" after all. Savings: 20 gallons a week
It all adds up.