From Don McEnhill, Executive Director
I remember the 1976-77 drought as if it was a year ago.
My Dad set up five 55-gallon drums on stands outside the laundry room and we pumped water to the bathrooms through holes drilled in the roof to flush our toilets to save a bit of water for the garden. I went from mowing neighbors’ lawns to reading their meters for money. Everything changed in that drought when I was a kid and it’s something that stuck with me.
Saving water is a mindset I’ve had throughout my adult life having learned water is not to be taken for granted.
Over the last five years our family of four has used between 232 and 150 gallons per day on average or 58 – 37.5 gallons per person per day. And we have a nice vegetable garden each summer. Getting there was a simple matter of looking for opportunities. Saving water is like saving money using a budget, start with the numbers and look at your monthly water use on your water bill or read your meter on your well. Once you establish what your current use (water budget) you know how much you need to save and you can measure progress.
Our current home had a lawn and we removed that after moving in knowing how much water they use and how watering the lawn harmed the native oaks nearby. I’d also rather do anything than mow a lawn on weekends! We replaced the toilets with ultra-low flush units that work great. We replaced showerheads with low volume ones and added shut-off valves. Shower shut-off valves restrict flow but don’t mess up temperature and cost about $5. Those simple things saved us roughly 75-100 gallons per day in summer.
Beyond those steps we have long pipe runs so it takes a minute for hot water to show up so every sink and shower has a bucket or large pitcher to capture that all year. We use that water for houseplants, toilet flushing or cleaning in winter and more goes outside in warm months. The washing machine and dishwasher are always run full. We use dye tablets to check for toilet leaks which are frequent here due to the hard mineralized water and we’ve found that we have to replace tank flappers about every 3-4 years.
It’s easy to daydream or lose concentration when doing mundane tasks like showering or washing dishes. I’ve even found myself pondering some river issue or problem while water is running on cold winter days and then I snap out of it thinking I’m wasting water!
Our family was talking the other day about how easy it is to use less water if you pay attention. Paying attention to how hard the water is on, do I need a torrent or will a trickle do? That is our new game of 2021 in our house — how little water can you use and still get job done. It’s amazing how much more water I’ve been able to save by actively thinking every time we use water. One month in 2016 we got down to 35 gallons per person! We know we can get under 30 gallons per day, if we think about it!
How do you #SaveIt? Share your tips with us and we’ll feature in our social media.