The hottest months of the year are upon us! With recent increases on water costs due to the severity of the drought, every little drop you save counts. While there are larger water-saving projects you can take on this summer, such as setting up rainwater catchment barrels or installing a greywater recycling system, there are several easy changes you can make to reduce your water consumption. We’ve put together a quick list of tips to help get you started.
In the Kitchen
For food scraps, skip the kitchen sink grinder and instead opt for the compost bin (or your garbage can if you don’t compost at home or if your city doesn’t provide organics pick-up yet). A significant amount of water is often required to get the gunk down the drain. Plus, composting helps create a new resource out of the trash!
When doing the dishes, fill up one pot with enough soapy water to scrub all your dishes. A soap brush or sponge can go a long way, and you don’t need new, clean water to do the scrubbing!
If you have a dish drying rack, place it inside a large tub to catch the water that drips off clean dishes. You can use this to water plants.
Dump used water from boiling, straining, or from dishes (if you have the right soap) in a bucket and carry it out to the garden to water your plants. This takes some patience, but it’s exercise, and you’re saving a ton of water that usually gets lost to the drain.
Use leftover water or ice cubes from get-togethers to water indoor or outdoor plants. A great way to prevent over-watering your orchids is by putting ice cubes in their pots, which melt slowly enough to properly hydrate the roots.
Sometimes, fruit or citrus water is a byproduct of cooking or making a natural product at home, so use this water to make flavored or colored ice cubes. They’ll keep you cool when it’s hot, and they’ll add some pizzazz to your drink. Lemon water is great for your liver!
Run your dishwasher only for full loads.
Experiment with the amount of water necessary for cooking different pastas and grains on the stove. You often don’t need as much as you use. A great example is boiling a huge pot of water to cook a pound or less of pasta. Though it’ll take some trial and error, this video shows how to use minimal water to cook spaghetti.
In the Bathroom
Install water-saving appliances. Go to your local hardware store and ask for advice if you are unsure which fixtures will work best in your place. You can also get rebates from EBMUD and Contra Costa Water District for making the switch.
Don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth, washing your hands or face, or cleaning. This is a tip many of us have heard our whole lives, but if you consciously pay attention to it, you might be surprised how often you still do it.
Use the trash can to dispose of waste rather than the toilet. Why waste a flush?
In the same vein is the old idea that “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.” Although this may seem disturbing, it’s truly an effective way to save several flushes.
Fill up a bucket to water your plants while waiting for your shower to warm up. You can do this anywhere else in the house if you have the right bins and if you think ahead.
Around the House
Water your houseplants only when the soil is dry to the touch or when they start to wilt. You don’t have to water them as often as you might think! My favorite water-saving, low-light plants are snake plants and “ZZ” plants. When you do water, make sure it’s water collected from the shower or other activities where water usually might have run down the drain.
Wash only full loads when cleaning clothes, towels, and other linens.
Adopt the “smell test” into your laundry routine. After wearing a shirt out, smell the pits of the shirt to determine whether or not it really needs a washing. It’s tougher to get by this in the summer, but you often don’t need to wash your shirts if you’ve only worn them a short period of time one day.
Make it a habit to sweep more often around the house. Though mopping is still inevitable at some point to clean what a broom can’t, cleaning up crumbs and other droppings more often helps reduce the amount of gunk that builds up over time. And when that gunk gets bad, it often takes more water to clean!
Stop washing your car so often. Because we aren’t getting rain, there’s really no need for this, anyway. It’s okay to have a slightly dirty car sometimes (just ask anyone from a place where it snows!)
Opt for drought-tolerant plants. This is an easy tip, because so many nurseries are now making it obvious which plants save water which signs and stickers.
Group “thirsty” plants together - and away from more drought tolerant plants. This way, you won’t be over-watering hardy plants, and the water that isn’t sucked up by a thirsty plant can more easily get to another.
If you still have a lawn, aerate it. This helps water more easily access the roots, therefore decreasing water waste.
You can also save water with a lawn by fertilizing it only in the spring and fall. The grass won’t grow as quickly and therefore won’t be as thirsty for water.
Start a home compost bin! Mixing humus (what’s leftover from composting) into your garden ups the ratio of organic matter in the soil. This helps keep the soil well aerated, thus improving the soil’s ability to retain water.
Sweep your driveway, deck, and other walkways with a broom rather than hosing it down.
Scale back watering your lawn as often, and cut down watering time by just two or three minutes. Over time, this can produce significant savings.
Cover outdoor pools and spas. EBMUD says you can save 90% of the water you would have lost if you let the sun evaporate it!