18 - 2008

Saving water

No weekly wrap-up, so this will have to do.

The other day I came across this excellent post about ways to save water in your home.

We have implemented most of these ideas, although I really wish we had an on-demand/tankless hot water heater. It drives me crazy when I turn off my shower (especially when it’s at night, just before bed … ergo, no one will need any hot water for at least 8 hours) and hear the water heater click on. However, our budget doesn’t currently allow for a new water heater, especially when our current one is a high-efficiency standard tank heater that’s just three years old (and for that matter, we replaced a “shorty” water heater at a cost of more than $1,000 at our old house a couple of years before we moved).

I’m intrigued by the idea of the recirculating water pump on some of our plumbing, like the kitchen sink, which takes forever to get hot; or the bathroom sink, which inexplicably takes a minute or more to get hot water, while the shower right next to it is hot instantly. But at $200 each, this isn’t in our near future.

We’ve been working hard to reduce our water use. (I wanted to post my spreadsheet, but I can’t get it to post — it’s a PDF. Sorry, nerds. 🙂

Our overall success has been hard to gauge. Our annual water usage the last three years has been:

  • 52,000 gallons in 2005
  • 71,000 gallons in 2006
  • 62,000 gallons in 2007

However, in mid-2005 we moved to a new house with a MUCH bigger yard (same size lot — about 6,000 square feet — but our new house has a garage with a smaller footprint, no alley, and a house with a 600-square-foot-smaller footprint). And at our new house, we’ve been doing a lot more gardening. Summer yard/garden watering accounts for a lot of our water use — there’s a big spike in the summer. 2006 also had a spring spike, but it didn’t recur this year.

I’ve seen statistics that say the average U.S. household uses 300 gallons of water a day. That would be nearly 110,000 gallons a year. So, in 2007, we used 57 percent of that average. I can tell my efforts are making a difference when I am in a public restroom with Little Cheap and she turns the tap off while she lathers up her hands, then turns it back on to rinse.

We have a few things still to do:

  1. We do have grass in the front yard (sad, patchy, brownish grass, because we don’t water that much and we’re in high-altitude, parched Colorado). One of our upcoming garden projects is to chip away at that grass and xeriscape one side of our yard. Mr. Cheap already converted half of the other side of the yard.
  2. I’d like to install rain barrels to collect roof runoff for lawn-watering. This site says you can capture 625 gallons of water from a 1,000-square-foot roof for every 1″ of rain — and they even sell barrels that are repurposed from used food-shipping barrels. If you do this, keep barrels tightly covered to protect children and animals, and do not use untreated water for anything but watering plants you do not eat (because of who-knows-what coming off your shingles).
  3. This raingutter diverter looks pretty great for sending rainwater to water your whole lawn. I guess the downsides are that you would have to keep it set up all the time in case it rains, it wouldn’t be much help when it was dry in between rains, and it’s fairly pricey. I think it would be great to channel water from the one fluffy patch of grass at one corner of our house (or a xeriscaped area) into the dry area between our house and our neighbor’s, where I’d like to install raspberry bushes. Of course, in a drought-stricken region, this is assuming it rains at all.
  4. And then there’s the toilet-top automatic sink. This has four drawbacks: Having to wash your hands in frigid water, having another surface to clean in the bathroom, the price, and the fact that it only works when you flush … although carefully let it mellow/flush it down planning could eliminate some of that last one.

Have you implemented any of these changes? If so, tell us how they work!

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