Jerry Peek's Water-Saving Tips You've Heard (or have you?)
I'll start with tips that have gotten a lot of publicity.
These might still be news to you, though.
The next page has related ideas that are a bit
Turn it off!
If the water is running from a faucet and going straight down the drain,
it's being wasted.
(If it's hot water, it's also raising your gas or electric bill!)
At first, it's hard to think of turning the water on and off several
times while you're brushing your teeth or shaving.
But soon -- especially if you have a long faucet handle that's easy
to turn -- it's second nature to tap the handle on when you need it,
and off when you're done.
If it's too hard to turn water on and off, think about drawing enough
water into a bowl or glass:
To brush my teeth, I half-fill a (plastic) glass.
I dip my brush in to wet it, brush my teeth, and rinse my mouth with a
couple of sips.
To clean the toothbrush, I pour the last bit of water over it
as I fan the bristles with my finger.
To shave, fill a bowl with hot water and put it in the washbasin.
(This can keep water hotter than simply filling a metal washbasin...
because the hot water doesn't lose its heat into the metal.)
Wet your face from the bowl.
Swish your razor in the bowl to wet it and to rinse it as you're shaving.
Only turn on the water faucet at the end, to rinse your face.
Toilets use a lot of water.
Old ones use maybe five gallons (20 liters) a flush.
New ones use 1.2 gallons (5 liters).
The first "low-flow" toliets were pretty awful, but a lot of the newer ones
(Ask friends in new homes, plumbers, on the Internet, etc., about which
models work best.)
Your local water agency might give rebates or discounts to
encourage you to install low-flow toilets.
Otherwise, try the following tips to take up room in the toilet tank
-- so the toilet will use less water.
Experiment to see how much water you really need for the usual flushes.
And test these a few times, with the lid off the tank, to be sure they're
steady and don't move as the tank empties or fills:
Try putting tightly-closed plastic milk jug(s) or tall glass
jars -- quart, half-gallon, whatever size will fit --
into unused parts of the toilet tank.
Fill them with sand to weigh them down.
Be sure the jugs won't block the mechanism in the toilet; you might
use plastic cord, twist-ties, or strips of wood to anchor them, if needed.
You can also use big stones (hard rock from stream beds, not soft rock
that will crumble) if you can find rocks that are big enough and will fit
without rolling onto the mechanism.
Saving in the Shower
Cutting the amount of water you use in the shower doesn't just save water.
It cuts your energy bill.
And, if you always seem to run out of hot water before the last person's
shower, cutting hot water use can give everyone a good shower
from the same tankful.
Try turning off the water while you soap up.
You can buy shower heads with quick cutoff valves that let you restart
the water, at the same temperature, with the flip of a lever.
Like low-flow toilets, low-flow shower heads have gotten a bad name.
Some of them really work, though, and give a solid stream of water.
The best ones I've found are small, solid metal; if you look inside
their nozzle, you'll see a round metal plate with small holes around
These little holes cut the water use but still make a powerful stream.
Do you really need a big lawn?
If you live in an area where you have to water (irrigate) your lawn,
how about a smaller, well-tended lawn --
with big areas of low-maintenance greenery in the rest of your yard?
(Cut your mowing time and the money you spend on fertilizer and water.
Maybe you can even use a hand-push mower; for small lawns, they're a breeze
Replace part of your lawn with a vegetable or herb garden, a few fruit trees,
or something else attractive.
Install a drip irrigation system that waters just the roots of the
plants and trees; use an automatic timer if you go out of town a lot,
or simply lay down a set of small buried hoses that hook to the garden faucet.
Maybe you'd like to upgrade the outside of your home at the same time:
a makeover to give your yard a whole new life.
No matter how you do this,
it won't just save water: it'll save the time you used to
spend on your lawn for enjoying your yard (or something else)!
If you want to keep your big lawn, water it when the sun isn't shining --
so more water goes to the roots instead of evaporating.
Experiment to see how much water the lawn really needs:
time your watering, keep notes, and water for the shortest time the
lawn needs to stay green in each season of the year.
Make a game of seeing what positions you can set your sprinklers
to best cover the lawn without watering the sidewalk or street.
If you have an automatic timer, make a mental note to cancel it when
the weather is rainy.
Check out the
Google directory of Xeriscaping.
Washing Your Car Without Waste
Wash your car in the shade or during a cool time of day.
Instead of running the hose all of the time, get a spray nozzle
with a handle you squeeze (or a barrel you turn) when you need water.
Fill a bucket with water and use a long-handled rag mop to sweep away dirt
(but don't let the mop handle scratch the finish!); use a sponge for
Use the hose only to pre-wet the car and do the final rinse.
Washing (not Flooding) Your Pavement
Do you wash your sidewalk, driveway, or street with a hose?
Think about using a push broom to quickly knock away the big pieces
of dirt, rocks, etc.
Then, if you still need to wash, use the hose for a final touchup.
I've found that this works faster than trying to push away the big
stuff with only water pressure from the hose... and, of course, it
saves a lot of water.
Wash full loads
When you use a washing machine, set the water level to match the
amount of clothes you're washing.
If you can't set the water level, try to wash full loads.
If you don't have enough clothes to make a full load, maybe
you need more clothes?
For instance, if you buy more underwear (to make a full load),
you won't have to wash as often -- and each piece will last longer,
too, because it isn't being washed as often.
If you've got other creative water-saving ideas, please let me know
by clicking on the "contact" link below.
[Off-the-wall (but simple) ideas]
Last change: 10 September 2005
Contact Jerry Peek