Thursday, December 13, 2007

Being frugal (and green) with home water usage in the kitchen and outdoors

Please read the earlier posts Part 1 and Part 2.

In the kitchen, I wash dishes by hand and only run water to rinse them when I have a clean, soapy dish. I also save a gallon or so when starting to fill with sink with soapy water. I start washing dishes even with only an inch of water in the sink and then rinse the dishes in the same hot water I am adding to the dish soap to get sufficient depth for more dishes. I can get a few dishes done in this method without separate rinsing that just goes down the drain.

In the summer, I take water I have boiled for various purposes (e.g., cooking pasta) and pour it in the cracks in my cement driveway. The weeds are cooked with the boiling water and die off. No chemicals used and I have not poured the hot water down the pipes.

Outdoor usage is a challenge. One painless reduction in use: I do not water my lawn. It can bounce back after drought and stress when rain hits it even if it looks brown. The only plants I water are my newly planted trees (less than two years on my property), my landscaping plants and my vegetable garden. This is where rainwater harvesting and storage systems will come in handy. Your utility is unable to measure your usage of rainwater, which saves you money. Many gardening web sites also state that the naturally softened rainwater held at ambient temperature does not shock plants like the cold, unsoftened utility water does. Most rainwater systems are based on gravity so soaker hoses and watering cans are generally used. I can imagine a pump could be used to give more power to the water dispensing and use the rainwater in more traditional sprinkler systems. However, that adds more cost to the rainwater usage. Consider that the water that comes out of the outdoor faucet is potable--drinkable. Do we really need to be wasting drinking water on our lawns? Would you take bottled water and water your plants with that? Graywater and rainwater are perfectly acceptable methods to reuse water outdoors and preserve drinking water.

These are just a few of the ideas that can be implemented without much change in your routines. Consider how you might conserve water and what might work for you. Even taking an old soda bottle and using it to chill tap water in the refrigerator would save a few gallons from being run down the drain just to get water cold enough to drink. Small steps can add up. My average water usage a month = 1,200 gallons. This is significantly less than the average on my street and the number quoted to me by the water softener serviceman (average usage: 100 gallons per person per day).

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