Did you know that about 25% of the continental United States is in extreme drought conditions right now? Yikes. California, Texas, and other southwest states have it the worst, but in the past decade, drought conditions have meant water rationing in some states and higher food prices everywhere. That’s not all. The ’10s saw a long drought in Australia that led to deadly fires, and parts of central Europe are below normal rainfall levels right now. Climate change brings weather extremes, throwing once-regular rain patterns out of whack.
Even if your hometown is currently nice and wet, it might not be in the future. And besides, saving money on your water bill isn’t a bad thing. So try some of these hardcore hacks to save water…
If it’s yellow, let it mellow
Some will say “gross!” but, just put the lid down, and nobody will see or smell the pee (it’s the poop that smells). Toilet flushing uses the most water in all U.S. household activities at 26.7%, according to a recent study, so reduce the number of flushes and you’ll make a big impact. While newer houses have low-flow toilets or toilets with separate flushes for liquids and solids, that’s not as common in the U.S. as in other parts of the world. So go with this old hippie adage. And I don’t need to remind ya not to flush anything but pee, poop, and TP down the hole, right? It’s not a trashcan.
Smell-test your clothes instead of washing everything
Since clothes-washing uses 21.7% of household water, the fewer loads of laundry you do, the better. Re-wear your clothes instead of washing them — if they don’t smell or look dirty, they don’t need to go into the washer.
- Use a chair-pile or other system for sorting your once-worn/not dirty garments.
- Some clothes rarely need washing, like jackets, sweaters, even jeans, because the garment doesn’t come in direct contact with body oils.
- Go ahead and wash undies and socks after one wearing, but think twice about anything else.
- And when you do laundry, always wash a full load.
Shower with a friend
Saving water doesn’t have to be boring! Try a “Navy shower” with your partner (neither of you need to be in the Navy). Here’s how: get in the shower and get wet. Turn off the water. Lather each other up (…slowly). Turn the water back on and rinse (perhaps quickly, because, honestly, soap in your private parts isn’t nice). What you do next is up to your imagination. Since showers use 16.8% of household water, a short shower does a good deed while leading to a good time.
Turn off the tap
Any time you’re not directly filling a cup, bottle, pot, etc., turn off that faucet. Fourth in household water use, faucets drain 15.7% of your water, so use it needlessly.
- Don’t let it run while you’re brushing your teeth or washing your face.
- Don’t let it run while scrubbing dishes or wiping down the counters.
- Turn it on precisely when you need it, and then turn it off exactly when you’re done.
- Same goes for garden hoses. Speaking of which…
Get creative when watering plants
- Try greywater from your bath, shower, or dishes.
- Use a drip irrigation system.
- Water in the mornings or evenings when the weather is cooler, and the water won’t evaporate as quickly.
- Consider killing your lawn (yeah, our neighbors hated us at first, but who’s laughing now?).
- Replace non-native grass with drought-resistant ground cover or rocks.
Drippy faucet or showerhead? Toilet constantly running when you do flush it? Fix those babies! Leaks account for 13.7% of household water. If you rent, report the problem to your landlord, or fix it yourself (especially if you pay your own water bill). Offbeat Empire’s Kellbot shows how simple it is to fix a toilet, and check YouTube for tutorials on fixing leaks.
Install low-flow aerators and showerheads
These are inexpensive, and they’ll save a lot of water. Much like fixing leaks, these things aren’t that hard to install, and you’ll be gaining valuable life skills (so my mom always said). Aerators are only a couple bucks each, so not really worth asking your landlord if you can deduct it from the rent. You can take a new showerhead with you, if you want, and put the clunky old one back on before you leave a rental, but again, these don’t have to be pricey.
Don’t pre-rinse dishes
Make the dishwasher do the work — don’t double the water used. Pre-rinsing wastes 6,000 gallons of water per household each year, says Consumer Reports, and unless your dishwasher is 30+ years old, the action is unnecessary. Instead, scrape any food bits off dishes into the trash immediately after eating, then put dishes into the dishwasher.
Don’t fill the pasta pot
When boiling water for pasta or rice, you don’t need a huge pot full of water. There only needs to be enough water for the food stuff to move around a little bit — sometimes, you only need enough water to barely cover the food. Experiment with how little water you need. And when you do have extra water, let it cool off and then water plants with it.
Give one or two of these ideas a shot, and after those are established habits, try more. I learned a lot of these growing up as a hippie kid in the ’70s, so they’re suitable to families too.
Cutting back on your shower time? Shitting in the woods? What are the ways YOU cut down on your water usage?