Water Conservation in the Home

Wasted Water Rushing to the Ocean
Wasted Water Rushing to the Ocean | Source

I watched water racing down the gutters in our city streets when it rained the other day, and was furious at the thought of all that water wasted. Where I live in Southern California we are in a drought. Humans and the earth both need water, so why do we throw so much fresh water away and then complain we don't have enough?

Then I started looking at the extent of the waste and noticed that we throw away excess irrigation water the same way, sending runoff down the sidewalks into the street gutters, out to the storm drains and on down to the ocean. Irrigation water comes from our groundwater, the aquifer, our long-term underground natural storage tank. We are sucking out the aquifer and throwing away what we don't want, while blocking its replacement with hard-surface cities. We are draining the earth of its long term storage. This cannot continue.

Water Dessication Near Edwards AFB, California
Water Dessication Near Edwards AFB, California | Source

Why should we use water more efficiently?

Throughout the centuries man has tried to understand and control life, to reduce its threats and increase prosperity. One of the threats most common to most of the world is the drying up of water. Without water we cannot live.

Where lack of food starves us in a matter of months and lack of air can snuff us out in a few minutes, lack of water dehydrates us in a few days or hours, depending on external conditions. When we carelessly throw water away, we are not honoring the life-giving role it plays, either for ourselves or for our fellow inhabitants of the earth, including all plants and animals.

Irrigation leaks waste a lot of water, especially those underground that we can't see.
Irrigation leaks waste a lot of water, especially those underground that we can't see. | Source
Trees from Brazil are tropical, needing lots of water to stay alive.
Trees from Brazil are tropical, needing lots of water to stay alive. | Source
Trees that don't get enough water blow down in storms and cause damage.
Trees that don't get enough water blow down in storms and cause damage. | Source
Certain kinds of sprinklers throw water into the air, which evaporates, instead of dropping to the ground.
Certain kinds of sprinklers throw water into the air, which evaporates, instead of dropping to the ground. | Source
Concrete-lined dams create sheets of shallow water that heat up and evaporate, instead of sinking into the ground to refill the aquafir.
Concrete-lined dams create sheets of shallow water that heat up and evaporate, instead of sinking into the ground to refill the aquafir. | Source

How are we wasting water?

I once had an upstairs neighbor who would turn the water on in his bathroom sink, then go into the kitchen while the water heated and forget that it was on. After a time, water would come dripping down into my apartment and, if I wasn't home to stop it, flood my bathroom mirrors, sinks and carpet. This was not an efficient use of water.

Consider this:

  • We use water once, then discard it, even if it's still clean.

  • We use drinking water for watering the lawn and filling swimming pools, then don't maintain them to keep them running efficiently.

  • We plant vegetation that belongs in countries wetter than ours, that can't grow here without giving it extra water.

  • We plant grass and trees, but water the trees as though they're grass, so roots grow shallow and the trees blow over in storms or burn up because they're so dry. A tree's roots are meant to grow deep and wide, to open the earth up to absorption of water.

  • We water farms and yards in the middle of the day in the heat, throwing water up into the air so it evaporates.

  • We build giant water parks and outdoor swimming pools in dry desert areas, like Nevada and Southern California, requiring multiple refills to replace water evaporating like crazy.

  • We build giant dams to support and provide electricity (instead of using solar) for a population that's growing out of control. Dams are the biggest water evaporator of all.

  • We transport water uphill on the way to cities across the state, which uses more electricity to justify the building of more dams.

We are all wasting water that could be better used to flow through living bodies, instead of storm drains.

Conserve Water by Changing Behavior: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

We can all cut down on water use in one way or another. When we ask ourselves, "What could I do to increase efficiency in my own household?" the answer will come. Here are some ideas to start you thinking.

Reduce, reuse, recycle applies to saving water as well as things. Although it may seem daunting, if you start with one item at a time from the following list, you can contribute to a water-efficient society in no time . . . and save money on bills as well.

Save on Leaks

The most immediate, cost-efficient water savings measure anyone can take is to fix all leaks everywhere in and out of the house. A homeowner can lose up to 250 gallons a month from a leaky faucet or even 200 gallons a day from a leaky toilet, according to online news source AZCentral.com. Even more is lost from a leaky irrigation system.

Save on Showers

Reduce: Shower less often or take shorter showers. Alternate with sponge baths.

Reuse: Catch the warmup water in a bowl and water houseplants.

Recycle: Send the used water through a greywater system out to the yard for the lawn.

Rinse the dirty dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, so you don't have to use the pre-rinse feature.
Rinse the dirty dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, so you don't have to use the pre-rinse feature. | Source

Save on Dishes

Reduce: Briefly rinse each dish before putting it in the dishwasher, so no pre-rinse is needed. This helps a lot when waiting for a full load before washing.

Reuse: Fill sinks with biodegradable soapy water and hot, clean water to wash & rinse dishes. Discard the used soapy water. Add soap to the rinse water and use it to clean the stove, refrigerator, or floor.

Recycle: Send to the lawn through a greywater system, along with the shower water.

Save on Laundry

Reduce: For spotted dirt or grease on clothes, wet and soap immediately (don't rinse) and throw in the laundry basket. Once there's enough laundry for a full load, wash on a normal or even shorter cycle. The soap on the spot/s will already have them half cleaned before the load starts. Also make sure to reduce the water level for small loads. If a load consists of mostly underwear, consider washing by hand.

Recycle: As with the two above, send this used water through a greywater system to the lawn or flower beds outside.

Save on Washing Floors

Reduce: Use water in a bucket, rather than running it constantly from the sink, or save the dishwater to use on the floor.

Reuse: Don't throw it down the tub, throw it out on the lawn instead.

Home irrigation controllers look similar to this school one, but are a little smaller.
Home irrigation controllers look similar to this school one, but are a little smaller. | Source

Save on Watering the Yard

Reduce: Reprogram the sprinkler system's controller to water more deeply, but less often. This encourages plants to grow deeper root systems, which softens the topsoil (the roots stop matting at the surface) and lets water penetrate deeper, instead of running off the surface. Also, watering in the early morning hours when the air is still cool, prevents water loss from evaporation. And most importantly, reduce the amount of grass and replant the landscape with plants that don't need much supplementary water, if any.

Reuse: Dig a depression in the yard to catch water runoff and plant it with whatever flowers need the most water. Or shape the lawn so it slopes down toward the flower beds or vegetable garden. This way, the excess lawn water will be used, instead of running off into the street.

Recycle: Water with a greywater system first, using irrigation water only if needed.

Water Conservation Fixtures to Install

There are many fixtures, machines, and other devices available to install in and outside of a house to cut down on the amount of water used. Many of them have up-front costs that can be fairly quickly recovered from savings on water bills. Water suppliers often offer rebates on many of these to help with installation.

Greywater System (GWS): Greywater systems collect used water from inside the house, run it through a simple cleaner/filter to upgrade it, then either send it to the lawn or flower beds right away, or save it to water the landscape when its programmed time comes up.

High-Efficiency Toilet (HET): HET's have been reshaped to use much less water than they used to. Instead of the old 3.5 gallons or more per flush (pre-1992), they now use 1.28 gpf or less. Most of them are dual flush, so they use less water to flush liquid waste than they do solids. Even better, there are no-water compost toilets available now. They bring even more water savings (1/3 of the bill) and create great compost for the garden.

Low-Flow Faucet Aerator/s and Shower Head: Faucet aerators are made for bathroom and kitchen faucets. They and the showerheads work by including air with the flow, so less water is used, but they still have the same pressure.

Energy Star Dishwasher: Anything with the Energy Star label, meaning it's made to use energy efficiently, is also designed to use less water, if it does at all. Its cleaning sensors let the machine know when dishes are clean, so it stops when no longer needed.

Water Sense Washing Machine: These machines roll the clothes differently than the old ones did, mixing them with water much more efficiently, so less is needed. Because of the changed shape of the drum inside, the machine absorbs more water during the dry cycle, so the clothes don't have to stay in the dryer as long. This saves money on energy bills too.

Drip-System & Bubbler Irrigation Nozzles: Choosing the right type of irrigation nozzle and setup for plants can save a lot of water. Read up and redesign.

Weather Based Irrigation Controller: The way to make efficient watering of the landscape easier is to install a WBIC. Soil or air moisture sensors (sold separately) tell the controller when water is really needed, so it refrains from turning the sprinkler system on unnecessarily. This can either save or use more water, but the plants and/or lawn will be healthier in either case.

This is the label to look for. Products cannot use this label unless they are water efficient.
This is the label to look for. Products cannot use this label unless they are water efficient. | Source

Saving Money on Bills

One of the best parts of using water more efficiently is the savings on bills - not just with water, but with energy and sewage charges too. Sewer (sanitation) fees are commonly charged as a percent of water used in the house. When we cut down the amount used, we pay less for sanitation. If much of what we cut down is heated water, then we also save money on energy used for heating.

For houses that are highly populated, with kids and friends and relatives running in and out all day, that savings can be substantial. Like a hotel, we could save over half of the water bill each month . . . plus some energy and sewage.

Many of these tips can help people go green in an apartment too. The savings, combined with lessons the family and friends learn about resources, can make the changes financially worthwhile, as well as contributing to the well-being of society.

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Comments 15 comments

spartucusjones profile image

spartucusjones 4 years ago from Parts Unknown

Very informative and well researched hub! You shed a light on an important issue in connection with water conservation. I also appreciate how many of your tips involve simple and everyday things.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

Yes, there are so many things we can do that don't cost much money. Thank you.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

I LOVE your simple tips on how to reduce, reuse, or recycle with various water-using activities! I grew up in California (Riverside) as a kid and in the 80's we had a long period of drought. We once had a neighbor who was washing his driveway off with a hose - unbelievable! Water conservation is extremely important, particularly in the desert!


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia

I remembered many many years ago, Amway was selling their phosphate based detergent that they claimed, after washing clothes, the water can be used to water the plant. (as phosphate is a good fertilizer). Are they still selling this? I think some countries has banned this type of detergent. Any idea?


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

This is a wonderful hub, watergeek! Speaking of wasting water, in Thailand, we have a three-day summer festival called "Songkran" when people just get out on the streets and throw water at one another, using buckets, waterguns, hoses, etc. On one hand, I think it is a fun cultural celebration. But on the other hand, I hate to think about how much water is wasted during those three days. I don't want this annual celebration to be completely eliminated but I do hope there'll be ways to adapt it and make it more eco-friendly.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

I know what you mean, Leah. I live in Pasadena now, but lived many years in Lancaster CA. When I was a kid my family used to wash the driveway with a hose. It was common practice then.

Greatstuff, there was a big public controversy in the '70s and 80s about phosphate. For some reason, it didn't just work on land plants, but also water plants (lol). Our rivers and streams started filling up with algae. Enough cities across the US banned it, although it wasn't harmful, that the industry couldn't produce it here anymore. Check out this link.

http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/full_text_search/...


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

That sounds totally fun!! Don't you have a lot of water in Thailand though? We in the droughty areas need to remember that other parts of the world have an overabundance, so have a different way of handling water. In fact, it may be that we droughters are inadvertently driving rain your way by how we dry up the air with our cities. Water doesn't just stop evaporating . . . where does it go?


CassyLu1981 profile image

CassyLu1981 4 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

Now that we own our house I'm a bit more weary about conserving water. Even my kids know to shut the water off while brushing their teeth. Excellent tips :) Thanks for Sharing!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

Hehehe It is a fun festival indeed! :) And yes, we used to have abundant water but not anymore. I just read an article from the Bangkok Post website the other day, and it said certain parts of Thailand are very likely to experience water shortage in 2015.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

Good for you CassyLu! And congratulations on your new house.

Om, that's great (spoken cynically). My brother's about to move to Thailand from Lancaster CA . . . the desert. He's looking for WET (lol).


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

You've given me a lot of things to think about, watergeek. I wish that there were more elements of water conservation that were just BUILT into the products we already have. I hate that so many of our water-related devices are designed to produce unnecessary waste. Ah well- hopefully we'll begin implementing better designs soon. Until then, I'll be sticking to your tips!


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

Great Simone - Note that any equipment or fixtures you buy that have a WaterSense label on them will be water efficient. They're not allowed to use the label otherwise . . . which points out that I should have included a photo of the label in this hub. OK, I'll add it. Thanks for the inadvertent tip!


meloncauli profile image

meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

Very interesting hub. We have a water shortage in the UK right now and in some places a hosepipe ban for this summer. Our trouble in the UK is not helped by the fact that the services do not come and attend to water related problems very quickly hence we waste even more water!


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

Hmmm. Do your services provide any kind of handbook to residents about how to make simple repairs themselves? Like replace the washer in a faucet or rehook the chain in a toilet tank? That might be a good thing for water suppliers to do.


srishti 2 years ago

awesome..... got 10 on 10 in my assignment.. yo !

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