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Monday, July 11, 2011

Water - Waste Not Want Not

Right now Oklahoma is going through one of the worst heat spells that it has had in many years. For over the last 40 days we have had at least 99 degree temperatures to an actual 108 (in some parts even higher) along with heat indexes of well over 100 degrees. This is causing many cities to now ration water, as the lakes that supply our cities are extremely low. Right now they have gone to Odd/Even watering days for your lawns and gardens. The next step will be asking us to try and lower our indoor water consumption. Once you read this you may be astounded at how much water we use on a daily and monthly basis and will want to put some of these ideas into practice, if only to cut down your water bill.

First of all did you know that most water heaters are set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit?
For each 10 degrees that you reduce the water temperature, you can save between 3%–5% in energy costs. Most households only require a water heater set at 120degrees.If you have a dishwasher, without a booster heater, it may require water temperature within a range of 130 degrees to 140 degrees for optimum cleaning. By reducing the water temperature down to 120 degrees you will also slow down mineral buildup and corrosion in the water heater itself as well as pipes.  By reducing the heat inside the tank itself, you will soon learn that you don't have to run the hot water faucet until scalding hot water comes out and then turn on the cold water to bring the temperature down. This will save on the amount of water you use in the first place.

You can also reduce the water that goes to waste when you use your washer, by setting up a "gray water system" with a hose out the drain that goes outside and puts the water out on your lawn. The detergent (most are bio-degradable nowadays) will not hurt your lawn but feed it.  The average washing machine will use between 21gallons for a front loader to 37 gallons for a conventional top loading machine. If you have a large family and do several loads a day, think of all the water that is just going down the drain into the sewer that could be utilized elsewhere.

Add low flow fixtures to your faucets and shower heads and cut water consumption. With shower heads you can go from 3 gallons per use down to 2 1/2 gallons and on shower heads from 5 gallons to2 1/2 gallons.

Chill your drinking water. Fill pitchers of water and place them in your refrigerator rather than letting water run from the faucet until it gets nice and cold. Also put closed pitchers into the freezer (fill about 3/4ths full) and let the water freeze. If you have a freezer that isn't full of food, this will also help keep the freezer from running all the time once it is frozen and help cut down the electric bill as well.

When brewing your morning coffee, only make enough for the amount you usually consume, not a full pot and then throw half of it away!  Or if you feel you must make a full pot, put it into a container in the refrigerator and either reheat it in the microwave or enjoy a cup of iced coffee on a hot day.

 Instead of washing dishes after each meal, place a pan of water with some dish detergent in it in the sink, or if you have a double sink, just use one side and put some water in it. After eating, take your dishes and rinse them off in the sudsy water. Either stack them to wash after the final meal in the evening, or place them into the dishwasher to be washed when you have a full load. You will save both water and electricity doing this.

Most of us have cats and dogs and we put out clean water for them every day. Rather than just flush that water down the sink when you change their water daily, put it into a bucket until you have saved the amount desired and then use it to water your favorite flowers, your garden, or to fill the bird bath.

Use liquid detergent in your washing machine and wash with the "cold water only" feature. By using liquid detergent, you don't have to worry about powdered detergents not dissolving in the cold water and clinging to your clothes. If you really prefer powdered detergent, just put the amount that you would use per load into a container, add enough hot water to dissolve it well before putting it into the washing machine?

Tub bath, shower or sponge bath? Tub bathing requires a lot of water and not something you might want to do on a daily basis if there is already a water shortage. You might shower most of the time during the month, and then take a leisurely tub bath as your splurge and retreat time. Even showers can use a lot of water if you aren't careful!  The average person can usually shower in five minutes or less and that includes shampooing your hair as well. Try setting an egg timer to five minutes (especially for children who seem to lose track of time easily) and see if you can stay in that limit. Another thing that works well to save even more water is to get in and get totally wet. Turn off the water, lather yourself up from head to toe and then turn the water back on to rinse off.

Then there is the sponge bath or as my grandma used to call it, a "spit bath." Instead of getting in the tub, fill the bathroom sink with water, wet yourself well, lather up and rinse off actually using a sponge or a wash rag. Guess you could always go ahead and jump in the shower to rinse off all the soap if you still felt slick and sticky.

Oh hot humid days; some people think they need to shower more than once a day, which I guess is fine when there isn't a shortage of water. But why not just make yourself a bowl of water and periodically as you feel overly warm, dip in a wash rag, wring it out and wash down your face and arms?  You don't even have to towel dry, let it evaporate and it will help cool you off even more. You can use that same bowl of water all day long. When you are done, toss the water out on the lawn or the garden or in the birdbath.

Now this next suggestion is going to sound gross I know and I read about it on one of the conservation websites. That is don't flush the toilet every single time you use it. Their saying was "if it's yellow let it mellow, but if it's brown flush it down."  Every time you flush that toilet you are sending 5 gallons of water down to the sewer.

So for example, it is calculated that each person uses 100 gallons of water per day.  A family of three uses approximately 1303 gallons of water per month. If you have small babies and little children that like to get dirty all the time, that figure needs to be increased. These figures are calculated on just one load of dishes washed per day in a dishwasher and the washing machine being run through one cycle, which used 37 gallons per load with a conventional top loading machine.

Hopefully I've given you some ideas on how to be water conservative not only for these hot summer days where water is at a premium but all year long so that you can lower your water bill.

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