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 more creative.

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:

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 really work. (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:

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.

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 to use.)

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 tough dirt. 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.

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Last change: 10 September 2005

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