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Water, water… everywhere? Day 6 of No Impact Week

January 9, 2011

Didn’t post last night, since it was Date Night In, and today was our usual gaming get-together with two couples who are our neighbors and close friends.

Growing up in southern California, I learned quite a bit about water conservation. Replace your showerheads with low-flow showerheads, change your toilets for efficient low-water usage ones (or use the brick or 2-liter bottle in the tank trick), the catchy “if it’s yellow, let it mellow”, do full loads of laundry. Don’t water the lawn during the middle of the day, and only water a few times a week. Don’t use water to wash your driveway off, use a broom and sweep it instead. Don’t wash your cars, or if you must, use the absolute least amount of water you can. Always turn off the water when not actively using it (washing your hands, rinsing your toothbrush, etc). Yeah, I heard it and absorbed it, and took it with me. I remember being a young adult, newly married, and making sure we did as many of these things as we could so as to keep our water bill down and make sure we weren’t using more water than we should be.

Then I moved to western Washington, where drought conditions weren’t as desperate, and I relaxed in my stance some. Now I’m in Colorado, and again, not as serious in the drought department, so some things have slid to a place that I’m not happy with. In the middle of the night, we totally let the yellow mellow, but not so during the day. We don’t wash our car, at all, preferring to let the rains take care of that – no water usage, and no soaps being washed into the water supply. We do turn the water off while brushing teeth, but it runs more than I’d like while we’re doing stuff in the kitchen. It gets turned on with a fair amount of pressure, and left to run while dishes are being put in the dishwasher… or while the coffee pot is being filled (and we’re waiting for hot water to warm the carafe)… or while other things are being done. We do 3-4 full loads of laundry a week, but our machine – which belongs with the rental house we live in – is a several-years-old, top-loading, not energy or water efficient model. We have a water-saving showerhead on one of the showers, but not on the other, and neither of the toilets is low-water or set up to use less water per flush. We run the dishwasher once a day (at night while we sleep, so not peak energy hours), but again, it was installed by the owner of the house, and though it’s a newer model, but I’m not sure how water or energy efficient it is. When we water the lawn, it’s in the later afternoon, 3 times a week. 

Then I look at other things. What we eat actually winds up using water in the growing/feeding of it, and we do eat a fair amount of animal foodstuffs: cheese, meat, dairy, eggs. That meat and dairy consumption increases the amount of water we consume by a pretty fair amount, and then you add in other food things like grains and produce and there’s more water consumed, though much less than the meat/dairy amount. What about clothes? Well, we don’t buy organic clothing nearly as often as I’d like to be able to (thus helping to limit the amount of pesticides making their way into our water supply), but we do try to limit our purchases of new clothes, and try to get as many items from the thrift stores as we can. That way, we’re helping to use up clothes that are already out there (keeping the thrift stores from dumping them into landfills if they don’t sell) and being able to stay within our monetary limits.

So what changes can we make to help get back on the water conservation track (especially important since we’re planning to move back to California sometime this year)? We can start by doing dishes by hand… fill one sink with water and a little soap, put dishes in throughout the day, fill the other sink with a few inches of clean water for rinsing, and use the dishwasher as a drying rack. Put a water displacer in the tanks of our toilets, so less water is used per flush, and let it mellow so we’re not flushing as often thus using even less water. This next week, we’re going to pick up a second low-flow shower head to replace the one that isn’t. I can’t do much about the laundry – the loads are already full loads, we use cold water on all the loads (except the whites), and we use an environmentally friendly soap. We can try to reduce the amount of meat/dairy that we eat, and supplement with more grains and produce (though produce is limited in Colorado at this time of year). I’m sure there are other things that I’m not writing about right now, but as I think about them, I’ll be writing about them.

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