Thursday, June 20, 2013

25 Easy Ways to Conserve Water (and Save Money)

My husband and I spent the last few days away celebrating our wedding anniversary (ten years!). It was lovely. However, one not-so-lovely thing that greeted us upon our return was this:

Apparently, our city is running out of water, saying that if water usage stays at its current level, we'll have water outages. Yikes! I'm still wondering why they're only letting us know this now. I have to say, too, that we're all pretty bummed at our house about how this latest water emergency has basically put the kibosh on our new slip-n-slide. At least we got to use it once this summer...

At any rate, water conservation is something we should all be doing, whether you live in a desert (like me) or where rainfall is plentiful. It's always wise to conserve natural resources, especially when it's a limited one like water. A nice byproduct of water conservation? Saving money! Even though water is fairly cheap (the average price for tap water in the U.S. is $2 per 1,000 gallons), the little ways you save add up over time (I seem to say that about a lot of things, don't I? I'm feeling like that's sort of my motto for this blog.).

Here are 25 easy ways to save water, both indoors and outdoors. And none of them include that adage of "when it's yellow, let it mellow...". That one always sort of grosses me out.


1.  Try to wash only full loads in the washing machine. If you do a smaller load, try to match the water level to the load size. This simple step can save up to 1,000 gallons of water a month.
2. Wash clothes only when truly dirty. My family routinely re-wears clothing (especially when it comes to church clothes and school uniforms; also especially applicable in the colder months when my kids aren't playing outside all day). If it's not stinky, dirty, or stained, it doesn't need to be washed just yet.
3. Wash your towels and linens less. You don't need a new towel every day (my mom color-coded ours. Each kid in my family got two towels per week in our color; mine were purple. If we left ours on the floor and forgot to hang them up to dry, we were out of luck.). You can also wash sheets less and just switch out pillowcases more often; pillowcases are the dirtiest and most germy part of your bedding, after all.

4. Bathing isn't necessary every single day. I don't shower every day (unless I've worked out or gotten particularly dirty in the yard). My boys don't get a bath every night (again, unless they really need it. Some weeks, they seriously need a bath every night).  Just switching to every other day can make a difference.
5. If possible, bathe your kids together. Not only is it fun for the kids, but it saves a lot of water. The average bath uses about 30-50 gallons of water; if each kid gets an individual bathtub of water, that can translate to lots of water (and money) going down the drain. (This tip also can apply to couples...wink, wink.)
6. When running the water for the bath, plug the tub from the get-go. No need to wait for the water to get hot to start filling it; even if the water's ice cold, the hot water that comes later will balance it out.
7. Use a low-flow shower head. I know, I know...low-flow shower-heads have a (deservedly) bad reputation. The key is finding the right one; ours is awesome. Read here about our low-flow shower head. A four-minute shower uses about 20-40 gallons of water; installing a low-flow shower head can reduce that by 40%.
8.  Shorten your shower by just a minute or two. Shaving 1-2 minutes off your shower can save up to 150 gallons of water (per person) a month. Even I, the girl who loves ridiculously hot and long showers (I do my best thinking in there!), can handle shortening my showers by a minute.
9. I just learned this tip: keep a bucket in your shower. While you're waiting for the water to get hot, let the cold water fill the bucket; use the water in the bucket for other uses, like watering houseplants. I'm honestly thinking of keeping my green watering jug in the shower so I can water the pots on my porch.
10. This is the obvious one: turn off the tap while brushing, washing hands, and shaving. 
11.  The biggest water user in your home: the toilet (as much as 27% of the water in your home is used here). Watch out for leaky toilets. A leaky toilet that runs all day into the bowl can waste hundreds of gallons. To check if you have a leaky toilet, add some food coloring to the tank (as pictured below). If you see that color in the bowl within 15 minutes of not flushing, you have a leak. Such leaks can be pretty easily fixed and most often don't require a plumber's help.

(the food coloring test in action)

12. Stick a filled jar or water bottle in your toilet tank. The jar/bottle displaces some of the water and the tank doesn't refill with as much. As you can see in the picture above, I just reused a pickle jar full of water; it always stays full, even when the tank empties.
13. Don't use your toilet as a garbage can. Put used tissues, smashed bugs, and other things into the regular trash can.
14. Take care of leaky faucets. It usually only requires a new washer (which hardly cost anything -- maybe a quarter) to stop a leaky faucet. If a faucet leaks one drop per second, that's 3000 gallons of water per year that's completely wasted.

14. Store drinking water in the fridge. No need to let the water run at the tap and go to waste until it gets cold.
15.  Reuse drinking cups. My mom got tired of washing tons of cups every day so used to color-code these, too. We each got two cups in our designated color for us to use every day; if we just threw it in the sink after a drink of water or didn't rinse it out after drinking milk, we were out of cups for the day. Totally worked.
16. Instead of running the water and using the disposal for kitchen scraps, trying composting them instead. This doesn't work for everything that goes into the disposal, but it can definitely make a difference. I just keep this compost bin on my counter, next to the sink, to hold scraps for my compost pile outside and my worm composter in the garage. It holds any smells in very well.

17. Wash your produce in large bowl or pan instead of rinsing produce under running water. I did this today after my shopping trip (as you can see pictured above) with all my produce. After I was done, I emptied the water into my flowerpots on the porch.
18.  Reuse cooking water. I've done this a little in the past, but I got some great ideas from this article I found. For example, if you've cooked vegetables, save the water for stock. If you boiled or steamed  some vegetables for a rice or pasta dish, use that water to cook the rice or pasta. Water that has cooked pasta can be used to thin out sauces. Before you save water from boiling vegetables, taste it; only save it if it has some flavor. If the water is tasteless, use it to water plants somewhere.  One other cooking water reuse I employ around Easter: water that's been used to hard-boil eggs is excellent for watering houseplants because of the beneficial calcium.
19. If you use an automatic dishwasher, only turn it on when it's full. If you don't have/use an automatic dishwasher, fill one side of your sink with the rinse water; rinse that way instead of under running water.


20.  During the summer months, let your lawn grow longer (around three inches). Longer blades of grass shade the roots, making it need less water.
21. If you're going to wash your car at home, wash it on your lawn. Also, use a bucket and sponge instead of letting the hose run the whole time. Just five minutes of the hose running uses around 60 gallons. If you do opt to get your car washed professionally, look for a place that recycles its water; the carwash by my house does.

22. Mulch. Mulching has been my gardening revelation this year; I don't know why I haven't mulched in years past. A 2-4" layer of mulch helps your garden not dry out nearly as quickly. I've noticed a big difference in my garden and its need for water since I started mulching.
23. Instead of cleaning your porch and driveway with the hose, use a broom. 
24. Collect rainwater. My dad just starting doing this a month or so ago -- it only took a couple rainy days to completely fill the water barrel by his greenhouse. I'm sure if you live in a wetter climate than ours, your water barrel would fill even faster. I read that during an inch of rainfall, 900 gallons of water flows off a 30 x 50 foot roof! You can find more information from the articles I've pinned, here and here. But it's awesome -- my dad just has a pump hooked up to the water barrel by his greenhouse (he just built it -- I'm soooo jealous) and he waters the plants in there with collected rainwater. Awesome!

25.  Finally, one great way to save water is to spread the word! Share these tips and others you've come across or that you use already. Sure, this step doesn't really save you money but everyone benefits. A little conservation on all our parts can go a long way!

How do you save water in your home? 

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

{This post is linked up to Frugal Days, Sustainable WaysFrom the Farm Blog Hopand Little House Friday}


Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

FABULOUS ideas, Parsimonious. Well done. I need to read up on how you compost. I really need to start... Would also love a rain barrel. I'm a big fan of lowering hygiene standards to save money as well -- also do the wash pillowcase only trick. I rarely wash our towels even once a week. If they start to smell a bit b/c someone left a wet one wadded up on the floor, my husband hangs it outside on the clothesline and voila - no more smell!

Samantha S. said...

Firstly, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog title!!
Secondly, great tips!

Emily DeGraaf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
This Place is a Disaster! said...

In utah, where I live, it is actually illegal to collect rain water. All water that falls from the sky belongs to the state...not that I agree with that stupidity, just sayin, it's the law.

Heather said...

I've looked it into and it's totally legal in Utah now! Hooray for the legislature coming to their senses!

judith said...

Great tips! And what's the difference in catching the rainwater running off your roof to water a garden with? It's going back into the ground. Good that that crazy law was revoked. In our part of Texas we currently down to once a week watering with sprinklers, soakers or hand watering. I gradually phased out any and all plants that weren't native to my area, and we did a lot of xeriscaping. I've gone to the old method I'd heard about long ago, we put a 5 gallon bucket in the shower and catch water while showering. That's how I water my potted plants daily.

Lorenza Coon said...

Great tips over there, Heather! There are lots of ways to conserve water. Like, for example, recycling water for multi-purpose use. The water you used to wash your fruits can be used to water your plants as well. Never put something to waste, unless you have used all its benefits.


BBD-Lite said...

Great tips! I do some of these already but I will definitely be rinsing my veggies in a bowl of water now, and try to get my hands on a rain barrel. I've heard plants like rainwater better than tap water too. Here's a tip of my own - everyone thinks to turn the water off when brushing their teeth/shaving, but I also do it while showering. It's called a navy shower - and what I do is get wet under hot water for 1-2 min, turn the water off while soaping up, then turn it on again to wash the soap off. Soaping up takes about 3-4 min (more if I'm washing my hair) so this saves a ton of water. It's a bit strange at first but now it's just become a habit for me. Do give it a try!

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