Thursday, August 4, 2011

7 Tips to Conserve Water and Save Money

After such a wet spring in the northeast, it is hard to imagine how dry things have become. Thankfully in PA, the wet spring shored up the water tables and we will get through the rest of the summer without worrying about a water shortage.

But unfortunately many parts of the country aren't so lucky. According to the National Drought Mitigation Center and CNN, nearly 12% of the United States experienced exceptional drought conditions in July and another 40% of the U.S. experienced abnormal drought conditions.

7 Tips to Conserve Water and Save Money

1. Conserve rain water. I lucked out when I bought my rain barrel from my county’s conservation district years ago for $25. There is now a 2 year wait list and the cost has increased to $55.

A few years ago, you didn’t see rain barrels much, but many stores now carry them. Store-bought rain barrels can set you back between $100-$200. It will take time until a store bought version pays for itself from the water saved. But, if you are a do-it-yourselfer, this could be a great project to try. A quick google search will help you find some ideas.

In the past, I rarely had to rely on the water hose, but the rain was scarce in July and my barrel dried up. Thankfully after a small rain, it filled up again rather quickly. There are times in the spring that I wish I had room for a second barrel.

2. Use water collected from dehumidifier to water your garden and flower pots. In the summer, our basement gets very damp and musty, so we run a dehumidifier constantly. It fills up quickly on sweltering days and I use that water for my flower pots.

3. When waiting for the hot water to heat up from the faucet, trap water in a jug or bucket and use it to water your garden and flower containers.

4. Use the water from steaming vegetables and/or corn on the cob to water your garden. I don't always remember to do this until the moment I am pouring the vegetables through a colander. I need to get better at this tip too.

5. Choose drought tolerant plants for your landscape. This is something we considered when we designed our front lawn landscape. A quick google search will help you find a list of these plants for your garden zone or ask the staff at your local garden nursery.

6. Water your garden in the early morning or evening to avoid evaporation from the mid-day sun. Also, water at the root of the plant, not from above the plant. Plants absorb water at the roots, so watering the leaves is wasting water.

7. Limit shower time. This one is hard for me since long, hot showers can be so relaxing, especially after my morning run. This Shower Water and Energy Use Calculator will give you an idea of how much water you are using based on your own personal inputs.

I'm ashamed to admit, but I am more cautious of our water use in the summer. I really should be conserving year round, especially since we pay for our water. Do you live in a part of the country that is suffering from a drought right now? What tips do you have to conserve water? Please share with us in the comments.

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  1. Great tips. I am going to start using them. We're in a drought here in Texas as I'm trying to conserve as much water as possible. Thanks.

  2. We live in a semi arid climate and in spite of a very large lake, have had drought conditions for most of the past ten or so summers. We also pay for water. Lots. The community has been selling compost bins at a reduced rate for years, but not rain barrels. I really wish they would. Until I can find some fairly cheap, I am using my old garbage cans under my downspouts. When they have water, but no rain is forecast, I put the lids on so we don't end up with a mosquito infestation, and have also bailed the water into secondary cans. There was no cash outlay, because the municipality decided we needed big wheely "green" garbage cans (and recycling and yard waste bins) at a cost of nearly $300, so regular plastic garbage cans weren't permitted anymore. That made them free for the taking. Thousands were recycled - "green", my eye!

    I resent the new garbage bins so much that I do everything I can to avoid extra regional utility costs. I refused to accept the yard waste bin even though I still have to pay for it, and compost instead so I can use that for mulch. I managed to keep my water bill down to $25 over and above the "base rate" of $85 that you are charged even if you don't turn on your tap, for the second quarter of this year. It will be higher for the current quarter because we haven't had any rain for a month, but deep watering early and mulching to slow evaporation seems to have helped.

    We have underground irrigation which must, by regulation, only be used overnight. I haven't had to increase the time it runs this year, despite temps in the 90's, and just supplement a few dry patches with the hose when it needs it. I plan on mulching those areas as soon as the next batch of compost is ready.

  3. Great tips! I live in Atlanta, where water is very, very expensive (I've heard that Atlanta has the highest water rates in the country). I'm going to start using a rain barrel soon, and I already re-use water from steaming veggies. I hadn't thought about collecting it in a dehumidifier -- good call!

  4. Good advice, especially about water harvesting with a rain barrel. With this crazy summer weather, I've expanded the drip irrigation system to even the flower beds. Even more water miserly than a soaker hose.

  5. Awesome tips! There's a song that my kids learned when it comes to water saving tips: "never let the water run." Great advice!

  6. We in north TX are in a drought. I have found that some drought-tolerant plants are more drought-tolerant than others, and plan to have more in my front garden next yr.

  7. Great tips! Our water comes from a cistern and when it doesn't rain, we have to pay to have water hauled in. I will definitely start using more of these tips to help conserve.

  8. I've been wanting to add a second rain barrel myself. Nevermind the fact that my first one is illegal in the state of CO..

  9. So many great ideas here! Here's another one - use leftover water from water bottles to water your plants. I've made it a habit!

  10. I love the dehumidifier idea...never thought of that one! All great tips!


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