How to Conserve Water (and Save on Your Water Bill) From Someone Who Drinks Roof Water
10 Water Saving Secrets
(FYI: This post contains affiliate links via Amazon for some products in which we get a measly cut for advertising fees. Don’t sue us, please. Thanks.)
One of the many benefits to living off grid is our direct and intimate connection to the natural world. Out of necessity, we must create a cooperative relationship with the elements. A cloudy day never goes unnoticed. If it is winter, we must concern ourselves with how much sunshine we are absorbing from our panels. But if it is summer, we hope for an unexpected downpour to fill our dwindling cisterns. When your home water is obtained from rainfall, every drop becomes a reason for gratitude. For the same reason, every drop must be conserved and utilized as much as possible. We’ve had a dry few weeks here in New Mexico and our tanks are running low. Who knows if the monsoon season will ever come?
Growing up in New York in the 1980s, I recall being educated in elementary school about water conservation and being taught to turn the water off when brushing our teeth. Now that I live in the desert, it seems strange to me that we were concerned about drought in New York. I think of New York as moist, rainy, lush with greenery, and plentiful with lakes, streams, and coast lines. Curious, I did a little research and found that there were indeed periods of stage 3 drought in New York in the 80s, which led to educational campaigns. Obviously, the term drought is relative. It means that an area receives less precipitation than usual and has long periods of dryness. Occasional drought is a normal, recurrent feature of virtually every climate in the world.
Here in the southwestern desert of the United States and other desert regions, drought is a much more serious issue. Severe drought can cause wildfires and dust storms. Extreme drought means that crops fail, and livestock die. Due to malnutrition and lack of sanitation, drought conditions can also lead to disease. Drought forces people away from their home, turning them into drought refugees. Additionally, rapid increases in surface temperatures corresponds with declining biodiversity, which includes higher extinction rates. According to the World Health Organization, water scarcity impacts 40% of the world’s population, and as many as 700 million people are at-risk of being displaced because of drought by 2030.
There is a debate out there about whether we should take personal responsibility for social issues when corporations caused the problem and corporations should therefore be responsible for finding solutions. Many people argue that the onus should not be on the people to make sacrifices when we are the victims of Big Fill-in-the-blank. This is probably a whole post in and of itself, but I will briefly state here that I believe that personal responsibility and corporate responsibility should be shared. I don’t throw up my arms and say, “Well, I didn’t make this mess, so I’m not cleaning it.” If the mess affects me, then I’m going to help clean it so that I don’t live in a mess. Also, although we have been socially programmed to believe that we can turn on a faucet and water magically appears out of nowhere, this does not mean that we are not responsible for all the water we have wasted over our lifetime.
We can all take steps toward water conservation, just as we recycle, don’t litter, and avoid plastics. The average person uses over 100 gallons of water a day on drinking, washing, cleaning, cooking, etc. If each person in my family used that much water a day, we’d be making two trips a day to the community well just to keep up.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, three percent of the nation's energy is used to pump and treat water. This doesn’t include transporting water when needed. So conserving water conserves energy, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and your carbon footprint. Additionally, conserving water keeps more in our ecosystem, protecting water supplies, watersheds, and water habitats. And if the environmental benefits aren’t enough, conserving water also saves you money if you have a water meter.
Many people know the basic things you can do to conserve water. Some of these include:
1. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth.
2. Fix leaking faucets.
3. Use full loads in your (front-loading energy-efficient) washing machine and dishwasher.
4. Don’t flush every time you pee.
5. Put a weighted water bottle in your toilet tank so the tank fills with less water and hence, uses less when flushing. Alternatively, install a low volume toilet.
6. Mulch in your yard and garden anywhere that there is exposed soil to keep water from evaporating.
7. Use drip irrigation in your garden instead of sprinklers.
Since we collect rainfall or otherwise haul water from a community well, we have become pros at saving water. Some methods are easy, and you can start doing them right now. Others might require some planning. Here are 10 more water saving secrets we’ve learned since living off the grid: