Thinking About Water



Water is becoming a more precious commodity day by day in our world. Other than air to breathe, it is the next most important element to keep us alive. In my varied life I’ve learned to conserve water for many reasons: such as carrying in and out all the water we consumed due to camping or plumbing considerations; living in the desert; or melting snow when the power went out in winter. These experiences have made me more conscious about waste water and wasting water.

Even so, I have become more aware of water use and misuse in my home recently. I find I still have some habits that need to change, some ways of using water that are better (or worse) for conservation of one of our most precious resources. One way I alert myself about how much water I just let go down the drain is to put a basin or dish pan under the tap whenever I am playing in the sink. This has created some unexpected changes and some ideas about how to save more water in the future.

I am reminded of my Mother and my Grandmother with some of these ‘savings’ and it’s been handy to have these memories surface. I can see her throwing the dish water out the back door onto her flowers, putting it in a bucket for the chickens or pigs, and hand washing the cleanest clothes first so the wash water can be used for all the clothes with just an addition of some more hot water. So when I want hot water and have to run the tap to get it, I fill jugs with the cold water until it is the temperature I want to use. This water sits to release the chlorine and is then used to water plants, fill a fish tank, for pet water, drinking water and ice cubes. I also fill my coffee pot with the cold water from the hot water tap in the morning to ‘get to the hot’ faster.

In the shower, I run the tap into a bucket for watering outside until I have hot water. I’d love to have a recirculating system for this water – flick a toggle and the water goes back into the system instead of down the drain. When it goes down the drain, it then goes into a grey water system for outside watering. All in good time…

One of my worst habits has to do with brushing my teeth. I stopped running the water endlessly awhile ago. Now I find I need to remember to just barely turn on the tap to rinse my brush, not turn it on full tilt! When water is really scarce you can use a cup with water in it for tooth brushing, preferably outside over the flower bed. Dip the brush in the water, brush teeth, take a mouthful to rinse out the mouth, spray it on the brush to clean it and repeat with the rest of the water, all the while watering the flowers. Kids love to do this!

Another big waste of water is letting it run while doing dishes, even at a trickle. Use a dish pan, large pot, or bowl to run water into. You’ll be suprised how fast it fills up! When you’re finished, empty the pan, pot or bowl on the lawn (use bio-degradable soap), into a bucket, or onto the compost pile if it’s dry. When I lived in the desert, I kept a dishpan in the kitchen sink to catch all the water I could, using it anyway I could. This is also an eye opener for how much water runs down the drain!

The most important thing is to keep track of what you use. Then you can decide how to save more, how to reuse it, and what habits to change. Most of us know about the brick in the toilet, fixing leaks, keeping the toilet from running, and shortening our showers to 3 minutes or less. This is just the next piece and may take some thought to start with. After awhile it will be second nature, a new habit you can be proud of.  Just remember everything counts!



Thanks Kate! These are brilliant tips. I first learned some of these tricks working on an off-the-grid farm in Santa Fe where water was such a precious resource. I try to bring that way of life into how I live now; not always easy so I definitely appreciate your tips! One other thought . . . I use the water from my fish bowl on our compost pile and water from rinsing greens on our outdoor plants.


Absolutely! These are fabulous suggestions, Susan. Thanks for sharing them with us. I just remembered that cleaning your feet/boots after gardening in a bin or basin instead of with the hose, allows you to use that water on the lawn as well. I think integrating the best parts of our various ‘lives’ into the greenest whole possible at this time, is key.

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