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4 Simple Water Conservation Tips

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Water conservation is not just for a drought! Today, it’s more important than ever to use our water wisely and not waste it. Of course, for everyone living in California (that’s me), conserving water is a constant year round event and with a few simple changes, I have managed to keep my household water usage under “budget” levels during some of the hottest months of the year (May, June, July and September). We are actually allocated the most water in September, as that is traditionally the hottest month of the year here in Southern California, but May, June and July are not too far behind and most months our family has been about 2000 gallons of water under what we are allowed. I haven’t done anything drastic really, just a few small changes to our normal routines and it has helped tremendously.

I first noticed how much water we were really using when we had a leak in our house and our water had to be shut off for an entire day, and again the next day while they were fixing the leak. Brushing our teeth, washing the dishes, taking showers – we use and waste a LOT of water on a daily basis – and we also take it for granted. I especially noticed where and how I was wasting water when I reached to turn on the faucet to scrub the pots and pans and remembered it was turned off. Normally I had been letting the water run while I was scrubbing the dishes, and I had no idea how much water I was using was until there was no water to do it. I still scrubbed the pots and pans, but I had to use bottled water to rinse the dishes. And I made sure to not waste a drop. I rinsed the dishes over a bowl and then re-used that water for the next few dishes…but it took a major leak in our house for me to realize that there was more I could be doing to decrease our water usage.

Before you start cutting back and conserving water, it’s always a good idea to know how much water you are using and how much you are allowed to use by your water district. This is clearly stated on your bill as “Actual” and “Budget” usage. Let’s look at some numbers first to get a rough idea of the billing system. 1 BU (billing unit) of water is approximately 100 cubic feet or 748 gallons of water. In a typical billing period, our family of 5 uses on average approximately 16 BU every month, so that’s roughly 12,000 gallons/month. 748 gallons of water is the equivalent of 29 showers (assuming that each shower is 10 minutes at 2.5 gallons/minute). I have been saving about 80 showers a month! How crazy is that? I mean 80 showers?!?!? That is a lot of water, but if I can do it with a family of 5 with only a few simple changes, I bet you can do it too.

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4 Simple Conservation Tips

You don’t need to flush the toilet every time! Yes, ok…I said it. We have 3 kids and they love to flush everything down. I have a new saying in our house to get them to stop and “think” about their flushing habits – “If it’s pee let it be…if it’s brown, flush it down.” Don’t laugh…they are 9,8, and 4 and I had to come up with something catchy. We have great low flow toilets, but every gallon counts in an extreme drought and the excessive flushing has saved us quite a few gallons!

Take less and shorter showers! Taking a shower and washing your hair everyday is not truly necessary, unless you are working out and all sweaty, then by all means, get in there and clean yourself! The kids usually shower everyday, but they wash their hair every other day, saving several minutes in the shower. Some days we just get a wash cloth with warm soap and water and scrub our bodies. Having warm water running over your body is nice, but when theres not enough water to last another year, a wash cloth works great and you have the potential of saving 25 gallons of water/shower/child. Those savings are significant and add up quickly. Taking a 5-minute shower instead of a 10-minute shower saves 12.5 gallons with a low-flow shower head, and 25 gallons with a standard 5 gallon-per-minute shower head. We also sometimes have the kids take baths together to save water and time…and they like having a buddy in the bath (at least for now they still do).

Turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth, washing your hands & doing the dishes. Instead of leaving the water running while we brush our teeth, we simply wet our tooth brushes, turn it off and then just brush. Instead of using a regular liquid soap, I have resorted to buying a natural foaming soap – no water needed to get a lather! Most of the time we use the dishwasher, but we do have several items that need to be washed by hand – cutting boards, knives, things of value. Don’t let the water run while you are scrubbing those items. Wet your sponge first, not the dish itself, then scrub them, and then turn on the water to rinse. There is absolutely no need to leave the water on the entire time. Better yet, soak all of your dishes in the sink and scrub them in the soaking water, then rinse them under slow running water. Doing these 3 simple things can save you approximately 10 gallons a day.

Re-set your sprinklers! During the peak hours of the day when temperatures are really hot, water evaporates at higher rates, and in Southern California, it takes a lot of work at high pressures (which requires energy) to push that water down to us. If you are watering during the middle of the day you are actually paying more money for that water! Also if you water at mid-day your grass and plants aren’t soaking up the water like they should because of evaporation, so you’ll probably find that you need to water more to keep it looking green. A small lawn of 1,000 square-feet uses about 35,000 gallons of water per year. Many homeowners over-water and end up using twice that amount of water. All you need to do is simply reset your sprinkler system to water earlier in the morning (3am-4am) and less per station. I set my sprinklers for twice a week to water the grass for 3 minutes and the planters for 1 minute. It was set to water 3-4 days a week and the grass was 6 minutes and the planters were 3 minutes. Sure, some of the grass isn’t as green and perfect as it use to be, but that’s ok with me. As long as the grass springs back when you step on it, it’s fine and doesn’t need extra watering.

These are all very simple and doable solutions to conserving water that have saved our family thousands of gallons of water every month. And the best part, in my opinion, is that our water rates through the district we are in are actually calculated as having only 4 people in our household. There are many more tips and ways to conserve, many involve spending money and replacing old appliances or removing live turf in favor of synthetic turf, so give these a try first and see if your water bill goes down.

And if you have other tips for conserving water, please feel free to share them in the comments below.

Tammi is a vegan wife and stay at home mother of 3 children living in Laguna Niguel. She is an environmental advocate and volunteer for Food & Water Watch, an avid recipe tester, and passionate about organic living. When she’s not cooking or blogging, she’s driving her kids around to karate, tennis, youth group, swimming, drama club or Kumon. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at GMO Free Girl.
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