Water is a very valuable commodity. Many states can no longer assume that they will get enough rain to cover their consumption needs. California and many other regions are having droughts that are lasting for several years. Mandatory cutbacks are in effect for 2015 and probably beyond. Water bills are sky high. Time to save water and money. Here are some tips to help you conserve water.
In the Bathroom
- Replace older toilets with water saving dual flush toilets or stick a displacement bag in your old toilet. These will have a half flush for liquid waste and a full flush for solid waste. Fix or replace leaky toilets. Don’t flush trash away. A high efficiency toilet will save roughly 19 gallons of water per person per day. Check for leaky toilets.
- Install low flow water saving shower heads with aerators. Average 10 minute shower uses 40 gallons of water. A bath can use 30 to 50 gallons of water. Look for shower heads with aerators that use 2.5 gallons a minute or less rather than the usual 5 gallons per minute. They can cost $5 or less.
- Fix leaky shower heads. Shower less and use more deodorant. Keep showers under 5 minutes. You can save up to $65 a year on water and water heating with low flow heads.
- Turning off the shower while you are washing your hair will save you almost 150 gallons a month.
- Collect and reuse water in the shower that comes out as the water warms up.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving.
- Turn off the water while soaping up or shampooing in the shower
- When rinsing a shaver or razor, plug the sink and fill it with water instead of letting the water run. You can save up to 300 gallons of water a month.
In the Kitchen
- Fill a bowl and then wash fruits and veggies
- Keep a jug of water in the fridge to keep cold water
- Collect and reuse water from unfinished glasses, pasta cooking, etc. Use it in the toilet or to water plants.
- Install a gray water system to reuse water.
- Replace water inefficient dishwashers, clothing washers with efficient ones when they break.
- Wash clothes in cold water. Do only full loads of laundry.
- Use your dishwasher instead of hand washing. Do only full loads. A modern dishwasher uses less water and can sense when dishes are clean. They can use as little as four gallons per cycle, while handwashing will easily use double or triple. No need to rinse dishes ahead of time.
- Whenever you drop ice cubes on the floor, toss them in a plant or outside instead of throwing them in the sink.
In the Garden
- Redo your garden with drought resistant plants and lots of mulching. Green lawns require a lot of care. Ditch the lawn or replace it with artificial turf. Lawns use 50-80% of a household’s water. During hot weather, lawns need 1/2″ of water ever other day. Flowers use less water than grass. Pathways use no water. Mulch prevents soil erosion, helps keep moisture in the soil, and keeps weeds away.
- Water your garden in early in morning (3AM) to lessen evaporation, but not at night or else lawn disease many occur. Water more deeply, not more often. Water every other day. Allow water to soak into soil by watering in intervals. (Instead of 10 minutes, do 5 minutes, wait 15 minutes, water another 5 minutes) check for leaks and broken sprinkler nozzles. You can save 25 to 50 gallons of water easily every time you irrigate.
- Verify the aim of your sprinklers. Install a smart irrigation controller with rain shutoff sensors. You can save up to 15 gallons by preventing any runoff from occurring.
- Clean outside with a broom rather than a hose.
- Switching grass or other plants to hardscape such as paver stones will save you water and money forever on.
- Wash your car in a carwash, they recycle water.
While you are at it reduce water heater energy use and see if your local water district has water use Audits.
EBMUD Free Water Conservation Survey
Alameda County residents: East Bay Municipal Utility District has free water conservation surveys of homes with in their service area. Free showerheads and faucet aerators are offered if existing fixtures are not low-flow models. Such a deal!
Check with your local water utility to see if they have similar programs.
Water Generator – Pure Water from Air
dewpointe makes some interesting machines that makes water from atmospheric moisture in the Air. It uses purification to output some very clean water. At 70º and 60% humidity, the Dewpointe creates more than four gallons of pure water a day. Units start at $1595. Clean Water is becoming more rare and expensive all the time, so machines like this may become commonplace soon. It does not function well in low humidity regions.
- 11 stage filtration process
- Average cost of $.60 (USD) a gallon
- Up to 8.4 gallons of water per day
Fresh drinking water is only going to get harder to find. Consider that only 1% of the world’s water is fresh and unfrozen. Most is underground in aquifers. Only 0.3% of world’s water is fresh surface water.
Lower Your Water Bill with a Grey Water System
Grey Water home systems or gray water systems divert waste water from laundry machines, showers, sinks, etc through filtering systems and recycle water onto a home’s landscape irrigation system. Toilet water is not part of a graywater system. These systems are great way to save on water and reuse wastewater and reduce water consumption by 10 to 50%. Some systems require filters, others are more simple, utilizing gravity. Complex graywater systems can filter and disinfect graywater before it is used to flush toilets. They are expensive to have professionally installed, so some renegade sites have popped up with plans on how to roll your own cheaply.
On August 4, 2009, California changed its grey water standards, following Arizona, Texas, and other states. The new code lets you install basic, inexpensive systems yourself, with no permits needed for most. No expensive filters or pumps are needed.
- Grey water cannot stagnate or pool up
- It cannot make contact with animals or humans
- Cannot touch fruits or vegetables, nor can it run into other people’s yard
- The pipes need to be several inches underground or under mulch
Grey Water Resources:
- This site has more information on Laundry to Mulch Basins systems.
- Greywater Guerillas has some gray water suggestions.
- Greywater action helps educate homeowners on ways to reuse gray water
- Instructables.com has some detailed plans on how to construct them.
Rainwater Harvesting Systems
Rainwater harvesting or rainwater collection systems are simple ways of taking advantage of mother nature to reduce your water bill and become more green. Collect, store and dispense rainwater from your roof.
It looks like a possible drought year for the San Francisco Bay area again. Thoughts turn to capturing any rain we get to reduce our need for water and commensurately our water bill.
You can get started with an easy barrel or bucket under areas where rain comes off the roof. You could easily make a downspout feed into a barrel. Every 100 square feet of roof can yield 55 to 60 gallons of water per inch of rainfall. Irrigate using a shutoff valve and a garden hose. Amazon even sells Rain Water Harvesting Barrels.
Rainwater capture – Costco Eco Round Wooden Rain Barrel
Home Depot is keeping up with the green wave. They have a 57-Gallon Wooden Rainwater Barrel for $149 shipped Free. A lot more expensive than using a trash can but certainly a lot more elegant.
It has a connector that attaches to your rain gutter’s downspout. A heavy duty bladder inside actually holds the water. It even uses FSC Certified Canadian Spruce wood. A solid brass tab lets you access the water
Store harvested rainwater in the soil by diverting roof downspouts towards shallow basins full of water tolerant plants.
More complex rainwater harvesting can be done using a living roof full of plants or a street curb side planter.
HarvestH20.com is a site with lots of tips on capturing rainwater. Several interesting videos too.
ARCSA – American rainwater catchment system association has a link page with many useful resources and examples of what others have done.
Fixing a Leaky Toilet
How do you know if your home has a water leak? The most common method is by getting a HUGE bill. Having encountered that, here are some tips for finding water leaks.
This page has some good tips on finding your water meter, turning off water, and checking toilets for leaks. They key thing is to find your water meter so you can see whether water is being used, and how much has been used.
First turn off all water and see if the meter shows any use.
Check for sprinkler system leaks. To isolate leaks I turned off my sprinkler system’s water and then made sure no water was being used in the house. If use is being shown on the meter, you have a leak in the house. After an hour, I turned on the sprinkler systems water valved and checked the meter to see if it moved at all.
To isolate a sprinkler leak, simply turn off values on zones until you find the culprit.
Days when the sprinkler is on cause our water usage to jump almost 10x, so optimize your sprinkler’s water use and coverage. Fix leaks as they are costing you money and not helping your garden.
Check under all your sinks for leaks. Look for dripping showers or faucets. Fix them
Finding a Toilet Leak
To isolate a toilet leak, put several drops of food coloring in the storage tank, wait 20 minutes and see if any color leaks out into the toilet bowl. Replace the $5 flapper valve if a leak is found. The flapper valve should be replaced every 3-5 years. People have lost hundreds of dollars due to old flapper valves.
Who knows, you might have a small leak that is costing you some money.
I encountered a waterless urinal the other day. This would be a great way to save water.
As they put it: “A Waterless fixture saves up to 45,000 gallons of water and more per year per urinal and supports our intent for sustainability of our natural resources. ”
They have several versions for the home. Urine flows through their $5.50 EcoTrap drain insert down to a drain. They have a liquid barrier to prevent sewer vapors from escaping. It does need to be changed every 1500 uses. They claim it costs $1 per 1000 uses vs $2-$6 for a conventional urinal.
Kohler sells one for under $400.
McDonald’s in France has some of these waterless urinals installed. They said it would save 150,000 Liters of water a year.
Drain Water Heat Recovery Systems
Drain Water Heat Recovery Systems heat up water by using heat from your waste water. Not many people know about these interesting systems. They are usually hooked up to sinks, showers, dishwashers, and clothes washers.
Systems cost only $300 to $500 with paybacks ranging from 2 1/2 to 7 years depending on the particular situation. Some states offer rebate, making pay back even faster.
Flushable Wipe Pipe Clogging Problems
Are wipes flushable? When are wipes not flushable, when they are flushable wipes. Flushable wipes are clogging sewage systems, causing sewage overflows and clogging. They are designed to break down but do not. Kleenex has the same problem.
Kimberly-Clark, maker of Cottonelle and Scott flushable wipes, has done extensive testing to make sure the wipes won’t clog a properly functioning sewer system, but like other manufacturers, Kimberly-Clark advises customers to flush only one or two wipes at a time.
Kimberly Clark’s Dickson said it’s possible that people are putting too much down in a single flush or that the wipes are getting caught up with other materials, such as baby wipes that aren’t designed to break down. Still, he would not advise ignoring Raleigh’s plea. People need to follow guidelines and perhaps other items are also causing problems in the sewer line. They go on to say that bagging wipes and tossing them out as trash is better.
So toss rather than flush those wipes. It is better if you do not use them in the first place. Perhaps wetting some layered toilet paper can achieve the same results.
Water is a precious commodity that needs to be conserved and not taken for granted. With a little bit of time, all of us can change our habits to save money and water.