Conserving water? This speaks VOLUMES!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Wednesday, May 9, 2012 2:21 PM

Conserving water has been a huge goal for me here at Havenscourt Homestead.  After all, I do have a lot of things that require extra water like gardening and raising livestock.  So I've made a lot of investments in water saving devices as well as adjustments to various activities in my life.

Let's take a look at some water use statistics and I'll break down some of the things I've done to reduce these figures.

The item that uses the most water in a home is the toilet, a whopping 26.7%.  By installing a low flow toilet, you can decrease the amount of water used by approximately 55%.  Want to improve that number?  Do what I did and install a SinkPositive over your toilet.  

This device cost me approximately $120.00 and took less than 10 minutes to install.  I use fresh water to wash my hands, but grey water to flush the toilet.  By doing so, I've cut the water used by my low flow toilet in half.  That means my toilet uses 77.8% less water than the average household unit.
The next water guzzler is the clothes washer, coming in at 21.7% of the average households water usage.

I installed an energy and water efficient clothes washer when I moved in.  Front loaders use less water than top loaders.  This one has a load sensor that adjusts the amount of water it uses based upon the size of the load.  It also has a speed wash setting.  Unless my clothes are super dirty from mucking around in the yard, this is the cycle I use.  At 22 minutes, it's saves me time, energy, and water.  And with all the sunshine we've been having lately, my clothes dryer hasn't been getting a heck of a lot of use, but the clothes line outside sure has been.

Another water hog in the average household is the good old shower at 16.8%. No, I haven't quit bathing.  But I have drastically reduced my water use in this area of my life as well.  I have a wonderful jacuzzi tub in my bathroom.  I used to relax in it with a good book and a glass of wine several times a week.  Although I still do this from time to time, I've switched to quick 5 minute showers.  I relax with a book and a glass of wine out in the garden instead.

Speaking of the shower and its close water use runners up, household faucets (15.7%) and leaks (13.7%), simple and inexpensive solutions are available.  If you order the free WaterSmart Home Survey Kit from EBMUD and return the form, they'll even send you FREE water saving faucet aerators and shower heads to replace your inefficient ones. 

I've installed a low flow shower head with a water shut off button.  I also have a low flow faucet on the kitchen sink with a water shut off lever.  These make starting and stopping the flow of water quick and easy.  I know what you're thinking.  "Why not just shut the faucet on and off?"  Because with a shut off switch, you instantly have the same water pressure and temperature available rather than wasting time and precious water re-adjusting it.  Water faucet aerators on all other household faucets reduce water usage as well.

Believe it or not, the average dishwasher doesn't account for as much water use as you might think, only 1.4%.  But that doesn't mean I don't conserve water and energy here as well.

I installed a water and energy efficient dishwasher.  It has a Quick cycle that only takes 38 minutes and does not include a dry cycle.  When I have a load of dishes that require a little heavier cleaning, this model has a Smart Auto sensor that adjusts the water usage as well as the cycle time.

Out in the yard, it's easy to conserve water as well.  A few years ago, I ripped out my front lawn and installed drought tolerant landscaping with the help of some amazingly wonderful friends.

Not only is it beautiful all year long, it barely uses any water at all.  This is what it looks like right now and I've only watered once this year.  Honestly, I didn't need to water.  But I needed to finish emptying out one of my rain barrels in order to elevate it higher than it was.  I have soaker hoses installed in the landscape so when I do have to water, the lines are already in place.  What you can't see in this picture is the 200 gallon water barrel in the side yard orchard.  It's set up so I can gravity feed the water into the front yard when necessary.

Speaking of rain barrels, I actually have two.  Each can hold 200 gallons of rainwater run off from my roof.  The one pictured here is the one I had to empty.  I decided to raise it another 18" and add additional cinder blocks to the supports so I could use them as planters.  The green hardware cloth has been wrapped around it so that the beans planted in the blocks will have something to climb.  Once they've grown, this will be a beautiful corner in the garden.  

Oakland has a Rain Barrel Program to encourage residents to harvest rainwater.  Right now, the program subsidizes the full cost of the rain barrel.  Residents only pay the tax and shipping.  I may have to do some serious upgrading soon.  Although I have 400 gallons of storage on site, it's just a drop in the bucket compared to what runs off my roof.

This rain barrel is used to water all the potted plants in my edible patio garden.  Most of these pots are home made self irrigation planters (SIPS).  They conserve water by holding it in a reservoir in the base of the pot rather than letting it flow out of the drain hole and onto the ground..  This also means I need to water these pots less often because they have a built in water supply.  The main raised garden bed is watered using a soaker hose.

Even my livestock participate in saving water.  The rabbits are on an automatic watering system so not a drop is wasted.  The automatic watering buckets used for the goats and chickens are emptied into the compost bins when they get cleaned.  Composting requires water, you know.  And what better water to use than grey water?  And the duck tub?  Once they've sufficiently mucked up the water, it is gravity fed into the side yard to water my orchard.  I call it liquid fertilizer.  

I haven't used a drop of spigot water in my orchard since the day it was planted.  Grey water, or in this case mucky brown water, does the job perfectly.


So what's the point?  Why do I go to all this effort and expense to save water?  No, not to save money on my water bill (although that is a nice added benefit).  It's because water, my dear readers, is a precious resource.  Only 1% of the water on earth is suitable for use by humans.  And here in California, our state's water supply and delivery system is in a crisis we can't ignore.  Unfortunately, water conservation isn't the answer.  But it is part of the solution.  And for me, I've made it a point to do my part.  

And the results of my efforts?  This is my current bill from EBMUD showing my water usage.

I have made a whopping 57.5% decrease in my water usage compared to last year!

Not bad, folks.  Not bad at all.  I hope this post encourages you to think about water usage around your own home.  There are simple actions you can take right now that won't cost you a dime and may even save you one.   Check out these WaterSmart Tips from EBMUD, and learn how to conserve even more water in your yard by practicing Bay Friendly Gardening.  Start conserving water today and help insure we'll all have some to drink tomorrow!

4 Response to "Conserving water? This speaks VOLUMES!"

Bee Girl Says:

Love it! Thank you for posting on this! We live in NM and have serious water issues, so it's always nice to hear other perspectives and ideas about possibilities! I am so excited about the sink over the toilet!!! That is amazing! Now, if I can just get the rest of the family on board, we'll be set ;-)

Kitty Sharkey Says:

I'm glad you have found this post useful. Are there any special tips or tricks you use to conserve water in NM? I also love hearing about the practices others have put in place. Who knows? Maybe you're doing something that others would find simple to do in their own homes. I'm always game for trying out something new.

One healthy benefit of the SinkPositive is that it encourages hand washing. "Some people" don't always take the time to stop and wash their hands after taking care of their business. However, when the water is already running right there the second they flush, it really doesn't take any extra effort at all. Those same "people" tend to go ahead and stick their hands in for at least a quick rinse.

shilo Says:

so awesome! the front "yard" is so beautiful! and the beans that will grow up the rain barrel! and using the duck pond to irrigate!!!! so awesome! thanks for all the great ideas. this is how we do it! xo