1. Ten Ways to Avoid Water Waste
- Do not over-water plants and lawns. Avoid water runoff into streets and gutters.
- For best results, water in the morning. This minimizes fungal growth in the grass and evaporation loss is at a minimum.
- Avoid washing down paved areas. Sweep and blow driveway and sidewalks for cleanup.
- When washing the car, use a bucket of water. Use the hose only to rinse.
- Repair faucet leaks. As much as 15 gallons of water can be lost each day with a slow drip. This adds up to 450 gallons in one month.
- Do not use your toilet as a trash disposal. This can damage the sewer system and unnecessarily wastes water.
- Avoid long showers. An extra five minutes in the shower could mean another 50 gallons down the drain. This adds up to 1,500 gallons in one month.
- Fill your automatic dishwasher before running it. Half loads cheat you out of full water use.
- Watch those laundry loads, too. Up to 35 gallons of water are used to wash a load of clothes. Make every load count.
- Don't run water continuously while shaving, brushing teeth, peeling vegetables, or washing dishes.
2. How to Check for Leaks
While you're carefully watching your water usage, it's important to make sure that water is not slipping away due to undetected leaks in your private plumbing. Here's a simple procedure that can tell you if you have a leak and how much water you're losing.
- Locate your water meter. It is usually located near the street in front of your home.
- Read the meter twice – first at night after the day's water use has ended, and again in the morning before any water is used.
- Subtract the first number from the second reading to tell how much water (if any) leaked out overnight.
- If you suspect a leak, your pipes and connections should be checked and repaired quickly.
The toilet is a common source of unnoticed leaks. Undetected, hundreds of gallons of water can be wasted each day. Often leaks occur when the toilet is out of adjustment or parts are worn. Food coloring or a dye tablet added to the tank will reveal water leaking into the toilet bowl. Drop it in the tank and don't flush. If the water in the bowl turns color, you have a leak.
3. Wise Water Use in the Kitchen and Laundry
More than 10% of all water used in the home is used in the washing machine. An automatic clothes washer, at full cycle and highest water level, uses 30-35 gallons of water. The dishwasher is also a potential heavy user, requiring 25 gallons for a full cycle. Dishwashing with the tap running takes five gallons per minute – approximately 30 gallons per average washing.
Here are some tips for saving water in your kitchen and laundry:
- Instead of running water continuously, fill wash and rinse basins with water.
- Run only full loads in the dishwasher. Avoid using the extra cycle.
- Chill drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap.
- Use your garbage disposal sparingly, using a garbage can for most kitchen waste.
- Wash only full loads of clothes on the short cycle in your washing machine.
- Check faucets and hose connections for leaks. Repair or replace whenever necessary.
4. Landscaping and Conservation
In the average household, water use doubles in the summer, primarily due to landscape irrigation. But, conserving water does not have to mean a dry, grown landscape.
Some Myths about Drought-Resistant Landscaping
- Drought-tolerant landscaping isn't colorful. In truth, many drought-tolerant plants are prolific bloomers. In addition, by carefully choosing foliage colors and textures for contrast, you can bring color interest to the garden year-round.
- Drought-tolerant landscaping doesn't require any water at all. Even drought-resistant plants require some initial watering to become established. However, once they are established, drought-resistant plants will get by on considerably less water than typical landscaping.
How to Conserve
In the garden, try these water-conserving techniques:
- Use a variety of attractive low-water-using plants.
- Use a drip irrigation system to apply water slowly, reducing run-off and promoting deep rooting.
- Lay mulch, which can be made from readily available wood chips or leaf mold, act as a blanket to keep in moisture, and help prevent erosion, soil compression, and weeds.
- Preserve existing trees. Established plants are often adapted to low water conditions. Porous paving materials such as brick, decomposed granite, or gravel used in patios and walk-ways help keep water in the garden rather than in the gutter.
- Set automatic timing devices, which allow efficient watering on a schedule suited to each area of the landscape.
More Ways to Save Water in Your Garden
- Add compost to your soil to improve its water-holding capacity.
- Check for and repair leaky hose connections and sprinkler valves. Small leaks can be very wasteful.
- Ask your nursery person about low-water-using turf, and raise your lawnmower cutting height. Longer grass blades help shade each other and cut down on evaporation.
- Don't over-water – water only when the soil is dry.
- Water trees and shrubs – which have deep root systems – longer and less frequently than shallow-rooted plants, which require smaller amounts of water or more often.
- When planting, remember that smaller-size container plants require less water to become established.
Use Recycled Water to Save Even More Water in Your Garden
Waste water may be the simplest way to stretch your water budget during the hot summer months. Gray water, which is recycled shower, bath, and laundry water, can be used to keep thirsty plants alive, but some precautions should be followed. Because gray water has not been disinfected, it could be contaminated. A careful, common-sense approach to the use of gray water, however, can virtually eliminate any potential hazard.
The following precautions are recommended:
- Never use gray water for direct consumption.
- Gray water should not be used directly on anything that may be eaten.
- Gray water should not be sprayed, allowed to puddle, or run off property.
- Use only water from clothes washing, bathing, or the bathroom sink. Do not use water that has come in contact with soiled diapers, meat or poultry, or anyone with an infectious disease.
Plant specialists warn that gray water should not be used on vegetables, seedlings, container plants, or acid-loving plants such as azaleas, begonias, camellias, and citrus trees. Gray water should be rotated with fresh water to leach out any harmful build-up. Chlorine bleach may damage plants, especially if it touches the foliage. Biodegradable soaps appear to have the least harmful effects.
For further information regarding the safe use of gray water, contact a licensed irrigation professional.
5. Low-Water/Drought-Resistant Plants
This list is a good representation of low-water consuming plants that are easily available. Please check with your local nursery for their suggestions about what is best suited to your area.
- Achillea (yarrow)
- Callistemon citrinus (lemon bottlebrush)
- Cassia artemisioides (feathery cassia)
- Centranthus Tuber (red valerian)
- Cistus (rockrose)
- Convolvulus cneorum (bush morning glory)
- Cortaderia selloana (pampas grass)
- Coreopsis verticillata
- Cotinus coggygria (smoke tree)
- Cytisus and spartium (broom)
- Echium fastuosum(pride of Madeira)
- Eriogonum (buckwheat)
- Fremontodendrom (fremontia)
- Garrya elliptica
- Kniphofia uvaria (red-hot poker)
- Lavandula (lavender)
- Lemonium perezii (sea lavender)
- Nerium oleander (oleander)
- Ochna serrulata (Mickey Mouse plant)
- Pennisetum setaceum (fountain grass)
- Plumbago auriculatta (cape plumbago)
- Poinciana gilliesii (bird of paradise bush)
- Romneya coulteri (Matilija poppy)
- Satureja montana (winter savory)
- Teucrium fruticans (bush germander)
- Arbutus unedo (strawberry tree)
- Artemisia (wormwood)
- Atriplex (saltbush)
- Centaurea gymnocarpa
- Dodonaea viscosa (hopseed bush)
- Pittosporum (some species)
- Portulacaria afra (elephant's food)
- Prunus lyoni, P. ilicifolia, P. caroliniana
- Rhamnus alaternus, R. crocea ilicifolia
- Rhus ovata (sugar bush)
- Senecio cineraria (dusty miller)
- Xylosma congestum
- Acacia (certain species)
- Casaurina (Beefwood)
- Cedrus deodara
- Certonia siliqua (carob)
- Cercis occidentalis (western redbud)
- Cercidium (palo verde)
- Cupressus glabra (Arizona cypress)
- Eriobotrya japonica (loquat)
- Geijera parvifolia
- Hakea (tree types)
- Heteromeles arbutifolia (toyon)
- Juglans hindsii (California black walnut)
- Lyonothamnus floribundus asplenifolius (Catalina ironwood)
- Melaleuca linarifolia, M. styphelioides
- Olea europaea (olive)
- Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo verde)
- Pinus (pines)
- Pistacia chinensis (Chinese pistache)
- Quercus (oaks)
- Robinia (locust)
- Schinus molle (California pepper)
- Sequoiadendron gigantrum (big tree)
- Tamarix apliylla (salt cedar)
- Campsis (trumpet creeper)
- Solanum hartwegii (cup-of-gold vine)
- Solanum jasminoides (potato vine)
- Tecomaria capensis (cape honeysuckle)
- Vitis vinifera (wine grape)
- Baccharis pilularis (dwarf coyote brush)
- Hypericum calycinum (creeping St. Johnswort)
- Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)
- Santolina chamaecyparissus
- Juniperus (juniper)