I live about 20 minutes north of Atlanta. For some time, and particularly since last October, we have been in the midst of a severe drought condition; although the condition has slightly abated, we are still faced with extreme, some would say draconian (look it up -- it'll be your word of the day), water restrictions -- in essence, pretty much all homeowner outdoor watering is prohibited.
Although some slight relief from the ban is expected in the coming months, thanks to winter rains, we are all going to have to reduce our water consumption so that we have something to drink next Summer. To that end, here are some suggestions; some you've seen and a number, I'll wager, you haven't.
But first, some visuals.
First, an easy way to check for unseen water leaks. Make sure that all of the water-using fixtures in your home are not in service: faucets, toilets, dish and clothes washers and the like. Then head for your water meter and note the reading on the dial, and particularly, the location of the gallon "arrow". Now go somewhere and do something for at least an hour.
Upon your return, check the meter to see if any water has been used; if not, you are good to go; if so, you now need to start looking for previously unseen water leaks which likely will be hidden in a crawl space, garage, or the vicinity of outdoor faucets, etc. After finding and fixing these, and it will probably be a real chore, you can get on with the business of tweaking your water reduction program.
For the inside of your residence, my suggestions:
faucets -- low-flow nozzles
are a real advantage; also replace leaking faucet washers and don't forget to look under the cabinet for leaks. If you want to go really high-tech, look into infra-red taps
toilets -- you can use food coloring in the tank to determine if water is leaking through the flapper valve
into the bowl; a replacement flapper is a couple bucks. Additionally, if your fixture is not low-flow, put a gallon water jug, filled with water, in the tank to displace extra flush water. For my part, I have adjusted the float levels in my toilet tanks to fill the tank only about 1/2 full, but the water jug trick is easier. (For you more progressive types: I have seen, in the Caribbean, signs in the bathrooms that read -- "In this land of fun and sun, we don't flush for number one" -- 'nuff said.)
sinks -- when shaving, or brushing your choppers, don't run the water continuously.
showers -- I'm not a proponent of the Navy's "rain locker" shower program, wherein you get wet, soap up with the water off, and rinse down. In addition to having a low-flow nozzle, I put a five gallon bucket in the shower basin; it fills in about 6 minutes and is not only a convenient "get out of the shower" timer, but I then use the water on my outside plants.
I guess I don't need to belabor the point that you should only run your dishwasher with a full load.
clothes washers -- again, you should only run full loads; if you are fortunate to own a front-load washer
, know that you are using about half the water of top-loaders. (As an aside, if you note the instructions on a box of laundry soap, you will likely find that you don't need hot water to do all your laundry; generally, you can use a warm/cold setting. While this won't save you any water, it will save you some hot
water, with the attendant heating cost.)
I have a solar hot water heating panel
, which I can use from mid-March to mid-November; during the "shoulder" seasons, if the nightly temperature drops below freezing, I use the panel during the day, then drain it into my clothes washer at night, so as not to waste the water; it's already warm, and I can then run a load of clothes; it takes a bit of scheduling forethought to make this happen efficiently, but I got the hang of it.
hot water heaters -- conventional tanks won't necessarily save you any water, but if you locate them in a heated space, and insulate them, you save water by not running the hot side a long time to get the water to a distant site for use. Alternatively, a tankless water heater
(long used by our European friends) is a great way to cut down on water going down the drain while waiting on the hot water to arrive at the faucet.
Insulating the hot water lines throughout your home is a great way to save both energy costs and water; no sense heating up a crawl space or attic while waiting for the hot water to arrive at the faucets or clothes washer. Dollar for dollar, insulating has the best cost-benefit ratio for saving money, in my view.
For the outside of your home; really fertile ground (so to speak):
OK, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. Conserve water, save money, and help Mother Nature -- can it be better than that?