Water Conservation Tips

Don’t let L.A. drip dry.” I still remember this water conservation commercial from the ’80’s that showed a man turning on his bathroom faucet, and only drips came out. At the time, with my childish gullibility, I believed that those drips were imminent – maybe the next time I tried to brush my teeth. Los Angeles survived that drought, and several since then, but it’s always on the horizon.

I have yet to live in place that wasn’t short on water. One place I lived (surprisingly not southern California) had a countdown report on the evening news regarding how many days until the city ran out of water.

All this to say, conserving water has always been in my consciousness, but I’m still looking for ways to keep tightening the belt.

Beginning steps to water conservation:

This dual flusher on my toilets is a kit that fits any standard toilet. They are available at home improvement stores. You do not have to buy a whole new toilet to get this feature.

  • Take shorter showers – Don’t use your shower to wake up. Turn the water off while soaping up or shaving.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
  • Run only full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine. (Your clothes get cleaner with full loads in the washer because it relies partially on the agitation of the clothes against one another to clean.)
  • To wash dishes, use a sink of soapy water and a sink or rinse water.
  • In general, whatever you’re doing, don’t leave the water running.
  • Install a dual-flush toilet, which gives you two flush options for, well, heavy or light loads. (And don’t use your toilet as a trashcan.)
  • Find and fix leaks. I go out to the water meter at a time when I believe there is no water running. I note the numbers and then check again in 10 minutes. If they’ve moved, I’ve got a drip somewhere. Common spots in my house: hoses, faucets left on by kids, toilets which leak from the tank into the bowl, broken sprinkler heads.

Finetuning your conservation:

I keep my watering can under my kitchen sink, and my bucket in my master bathroom to collect water. I use it to water my potted plants, to fill the toilet, or to mop the floor.

  • Capture the water from the faucet as you’re waiting for the hot water to arrive. Keep an empty gallon jug or watering can under your sink for this purpose. Keep a bucket near your shower for the same. Water plants with it. Fill the dog’s water bowl. Use it to mop your floor, wash your car, wash your baseboards, add it to the bathtub, fill your toilet tank.
  • Do you have a half a cup of water leftover? Dump it on a plant. Don’t have plants? Get some. Especially keep them by kitchen and bathroom sinks, where you often have excess water.
  • Leftover cooking water. Let it cool and take it out to a thirsty plant. (You can’t do this with salted water.)
  • Do you have acid loving plants? (Think azaleas, blue hydrangeas, blueberries.) Take that ½ cup of coffee left at the bottom of the pot, dilute it with water and pour it on the roots.

Long Term conservation:

Drip irrigation comes in many forms. These adjustable spray heads work great on my strawberry pots. Around my yard, I have many different drip tip types, from bubblers to simple drip ends.

  • Landscape planning – Know your regional, low water plants. Sunset’s Western Garden Book is a great resource for west of the Rockies. Work with the climate and soil, rather than against it.
  • Get to know your irrigation system. Implement drip systems where you can vary the flow to each plant, matching its needs. Chat with someone at an irrigation store for a quick crash course.
  • Install rain barrels on your gutter downspouts – I haven’t done this yet, but I think about it every time we get a good rain (about twice a year). I sit there watching the water pour out of the gutters and think of the possibilities.
  • Look into greywater irrigation systems, which capture the water from your bathroom sinks and tubs and use it to irrigate your non-edible landscaping. This just became legal in San Diego county, although it must be permitted.

Even if Niagara Falls feeds your local reservoir, and drought has never and will never be a locally used phrase, waste is still waste. Consider lessening your consumption.

Please share more conservation techniques in the comments below!

7 thoughts on “Water Conservation Tips

  1. I save water by spot cleaning spills (or kitty accidents) on my floor with diluted vinegar or Sal Suds, rather than mopping my entire floor.

    Thanks for your fine tuning conservation tips. We actually keep our plant watering can on the windowsill next to the kitchen sink but it never occurred to me to use it to save running water. Brilliant and easy!

  2. I live in a trailer that I rent what I do is when I know it will rain I have alot of gray storage boxes that I buy from Walmart like 18 and 30 gallons containers and I sit them up under the roof so when it rains and hits my roof it drips into the container then me and my kids dump the storage containers into my rain barrels that I have here. I don’t have a gutter but that is how I save the rain water and if we have alot of water left we use it to flush the toilets. I enjoy being creative and saving the environment on a fix income. I am native america and I feel that this is a new way to honor the old ways of my ancestors. Hope you enjoy this solution. We all are one.

  3. Does Dr Bronner do anything for dishwasher detergents?
    I have searched the web and found nothing.

  4. Hi Clamdigger – Sorry for my delay with this one. As far as dishwasher detergents, not yet. This is something we have been working on for quite some time but haven’t come up with a great option yet. I will definitely post about it when we figure it out.

    All the best,

  5. I have been using a recipe with my castille soap for dishwasher liquid recipe. I have included the link for your review and was wondering if there was anything “theoretically” wrong with it? It cleans well but we have well water and i get a film residue that I am trying to overcome with not much luck. If I use this recipe and a store bought rinse aid it works but kind of defeats the purpose. I would love to hear your thoughts!!!

  6. Hi Lauri – The solution looks fine – be careful when handling the washing powder and borax not to breathe it. I think you’re still running into the issue of the castile soap reacting with the minerals in your water and leaving that mineral film. You can try vinegar in the rinse compartment, but it might just not work. We’re working on this one, too.

    All the best,

  7. Lauri and Lisa,

    For the past several months I have been using Dr. Bronners Lavendar Castille soap mixed with baking soda and salt in my dishwasher. The mixture is a little chunky but stays together (this is how I know my mixture is right). It cleans very well however does leave a white residue. I use white vinegar, or left over kombucha vinegar if I have any, in my rinse aid dispenser. As long as the dishes are rinsed well before going in the dishwasher and I have recently filled the dispenser the dishes come out nice. If not, there is a film however I know it’s only castille soap and baking soda so I’m not worried about it’s toxicity. We do have well water which contributes to a high mineral content but it still works good and I’m not putting icky stuff on my dishes or into the environment. Big bonus: it’s cheaper if not comparable to the pre-made chemical stuff. We only use a small teaspoon of the mixture for each wash. Oh, and double bonus…it smells awesome when the steam comes out the vents, like a lavender air freshener!

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