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Water Saving Tips

Diocese of Virginia

Stewardship of Creation Committee

Compendium of Water Conservation Actions (and Inactions)
and
List of Resources for Further Study
Prepared for the ―Our Threatened Water Supply‖ Conference
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Compiled by Wm. Craig Dubishar

 

Introduction & Background:

In 1992, The Right Rev. Peter Lee, then-Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, commissioned a new committee – the Stewardship of Creation Committee – to promote the care and stewardship of God’s amazing Creation and to expand the Diocesan’s knowledge regarding how all Stewards of Creation (i.e., all of God’s children) can help.

The Compendium of Water Conservation Actions (and Inactions) and List of Resources for Further Study is merely a small list of actions (and inactions) we can take to better conserve God’s precious water resources. Although not identified by these words, nearly every single suggestion could be categorized as ―reduce, reuse, or recycle‖ (sometimes all at the same time!). That is, any action (or inaction) that reduces one’s water consumption, reuses existing water resources, or recycles existing resources will have a positive impact on how we care for and protect God’s gift of water.

 The list is neither comprehensive (although it seems to be a pretty good start) nor in any particular order. The list is simply meant to capture, in one location, many of the most common ways individuals and small groups can conserve water. A major goal of this effort is to help with the larger dialogue involving social and institutional changes. The vast majority of water use remains for industrial, commercial, and landscaping uses. Not until the ―mind set‖ of these substantive uses are addressed – and changed – will truly meaningful results be achieved. The old adage of ―Think Globally, Act Locally‖ certainly applies here. Our ―local‖ and individual actions absolutely do matter and make a difference. But lasting change will come when the ―mind set‖ of how we use God’s water resources is positively impacted.

Please share this list as you see fit – with your Parish, Scouting organizations, friends, family, neighbors, school and other organizations. Together, we can – and will – have an impact.
Blessings.
Wm. Craig Dubishar
Committee Member
Stewardship of Creation Committee, Diocese of Virginia

 

Partial List of Resources Used in Creating this Compendium or Suggested for Further Study
1. Various searches on the Internet using terms such as ―water conservation‖ or ―water conservation tips.‖
2. Suggestions from members of the Diocese of Virginia, Stewardship of Creation Committee.
3. Rivanna Conservation Society, Charlottesville, Virginia (www.rivannariver.org)
4. Note: There are literally dozens of water conservation fact sheets available on the Internet. The good news is that these lists all focus on the actions (and inactions) that are – more or less – included in this listing.
5. If you prefer to have this compendium in softcopy, please email Steward of Creation member Craig Dubishar at wcdubi@cox.net.

General Tips

1. Bottled water? NO!! Use bottled water only when necessary. Tap water is, believe it or not, just fine! All that disgusting stuff in the Potomac River really is removed before you drink from the tap. Bottled water has a HUGE carbon footprint. Plus, the bottled water is a 12 billion (yes, Carl Sagan said billion!) liter industry and it is estimated that only about 20 percent or less of the nearly 20 billion bottles are recycled each year. That leaves about 16 billion (did I hear that word again??) plastic bottles eating up fossil fuel, creating extra carbon footprints, and going into the landfill. Bottled water is not as well regulated as municipal tap water and studies have shown that it is not even particularly pure. A four-year study of bottled water in the U.S. conducted by NRDC found that one-vfifth of the 103 water products tested contained synthetic organic chemicals such as the neurotoxin xylene and the possible carcinogen and neurotoxin styrene. There is nothing good about that picture.

2. Place rain barrels under gutter downspouts. They can collect rainwater for plants, car washing or general cleaning projects. Water from rain barrels is also exempt from drought restrictions.

3. Look for the WaterSense label when purchasing fixtures and appliances or hiring an irrigation professional. WaterSense products meet EPA standards of at least 20% greater water efficiency while maintaining high performance levels.

4. Verify that your home is leak free. Many homes have hidden water leaks. Read your meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak. Want to narrow it down further? Close the main water shut-off valve in your home; if the meter is still turning, the leak is between your meter and the shut-off valve; if it stops, the leak is somewhere in your home.

5. If in the City, pay attention to your water bill. Does your usage spike during certain times of the year, e.g., during summer? If so, consider implementing more of the Outdoor Tips. Is your overall usage increasing over time? That could indicate a leak. Visit the ―My Account‖ page on the City’s website to view the past 24 months of your water usage.

6. If you have a well, check your pump periodically. Listen to hear if the pump kicks on and off while water is not being used. If it does, you have a leak.

7. Artesian wells -- bad (because the water supply takes 60 million years to resupply). Surface wells -- better. Use existing water supplies and conserve wherever possible (best).

8. Water sources have to be protected. In many closed loop water systems waste water is returned to the very source of incoming water. Don't pour chemicals down drains, or flush drugs down toilets; it could come back in diluted form in your water.

9. Make sure you know where your water shut-off valve is located. This could save gallons of water and damage to your home if a pipe were to burst.

10. Report all significant water losses (broken pipes, open hydrants, errant sprinklers, abandoned free-flowing wells, etc.) to the property owner, local authorities or your water agency.

11. Install water-softening systems only when necessary. Save water and salt by running the minimum amount of regenerations necessary to maintain water softness. Turn softeners off while on vacation.

12. Monitor your water bill for unusually high use. Your bill and water meter are tools that can help you discover leaks.

13. Don’t install a water-to-air heat pump or air-conditioning system. Newer air-to-air models are just as efficient and don’t waste water.

14. Use water from dehumidifiers and air conditioners to water indoor and outdoor plants.

15. When you boil water in the tea kettle take the extra boiled water and save it for your next tea kettle, or use to water plants.

16. Know where your master water shut-off valve is located. This could save water and prevent damage to your home.

17. Encourage your school system and local government to develop and promote water conservation among children and adults.

18. Make suggestions to your employer about ways to save water and money at work. Many organizations now have ―Energy Conservation‖ programs and committees. Get involved and make a difference.

 

Faucets

1. Repair dripping faucets quickly. At a rate of one drop of water/second, a drip can waste 2,700 gallons/year.

2. Don’t let the tap run while washing your hands, face, or brushing your teeth. Also, when brushing your teeth (as opposed to someone else's), save even more by merely wetting the tooth brush. Water off. Brush. Rinse. Done.

3. When shaving, fill the bottom of the sink with enough water to rinse the razor rather than letting the water run. Or, use the same ―on-off‖ technique -- Wet your face. Water off. Lather up. Shave. Water on to rinse off. Less than a pint or two for an entire shave (saving thousands of gallons of water per year when compared to letting the water run during the entire shaving process).

4. Install faucet aerators, which reduce wastewater by mixing water and air.

5. Install an instant water heater on your kitchen sink so you don't have to let the water run while it heats up. (Also lowers water-heating costs and hardware stores carry these for $250-$300.)

6. Keep a water pitcher in the refrigerator rather than running the tap to obtain a cold drink.

 

Showers, Baths & Plumbing

1. Replace your showerhead with an ultra-low-flow version. Some units are available that allow you to cut off the flow without adjusting the water temperature knobs.

2. Turn the shower on. Water up. Turn it off. Lather up. Turn it on to rinse. Less than 90 seconds of water use!

3. Install a shower on/off switch, which keeps the water temperature the same. It lets you turn off the water during lathering your hair or shaving. Hardware stores carry some for less than $10.

4. Take shorter showers. Keep a timer in the shower to remind you when to turn off the water. A shower that is shorter by one or two minutes a day will save approximately 150 gallons of water per month, or 1,800 gallons of water per person per year. It really adds up fast!

5. Collect gray water − shower/bath/sink ―warm-up" water − in a bucket to use in watering plants, washing dishes, or flushing the toilet.

6. Insulate pipes to get hot water faster, so less water is wasted.

7. Install water saving flow restrictors.

8. Planning a renovation or new bathroom? Consider water recirculation in your sink and shower plumbing. Water won't come out of the fixture until it's warm, eliminating "warm-up" waste entirely. You can also retrofit existing plumbing with a re-circulating pump.

9. While staying in a hotel or even at home, consider reusing your towels multiple times before sending them to the laundry pile.

 

Dishwashing

1. Designate one glass for your drinking water each day or carry a reusable water bottle. This cuts down on the number of times you run your dishwasher.

2. Replace your conventional dishwasher with an Energy Star model to reduce the amount of water used from as much as 14 gallons/load to as little as 4 gallons/load.

3. Only run the dishwasher when full.

4. Don’t rinse dishes under a running faucet prior to putting them into a dishwasher. Wipe them down with paper napkins from the meal or use a partially filled sink to do any necessary pre-washing.

5. If you must rinse, use the sprayer. If you don’t have a sprayer, install one.

6. Soak heavily soiled dishes and pans in soapy sink water instead of scraping under running water.

7. Hand washing your dishes? Yes, I really do find it relaxing to wash dishes by hand. Yes, it uses a lot more water then doing a full load in the dishwasher. Minimize the relaxation time doing dishes by hand. (Sorry.) If washing dishes by hand, rinse them in a half-full basin or pan or instead of under running water.

8. Before draining your dishwater, use it to rinse out recyclable glass, cans or plastic containers.

 

Kitchen Tips

1. Clean out your garbage disposal by turning it on when you pull the plug on dirty dishwater.

2. Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap. When done, use this same water to water your house plants! This is reduce and reuse all at the same time!

3. Dispose of paper and excess food in the garbage rather than the garbage disposal. Garbage disposals can add 50% to the volume of solids in a septic tank, which can lead to malfunctions and maintenance problems which can lead to leaks and contamination of local water supplies.

4. Consider composting rather than using the garbage disposal. It saves gallons of water and it is also great for your garden!

5. Replace your disposal with an Energy Star machine.

6. Scrub vegetables with brush in a pan or bowl of water and turn on the faucet only for a quick rinse.

7. Thaw frozen foods in advance in the refrigerator or use the microwave instead of running water.

8. Take ice cube trays from the freezer a few minutes before they are needed. The ice cubes will loosen at room temperature without the need to run them under tap water.

 

Laundry

1. Only wash full loads if possible. Hand wash delicates and unique items. If washing an unfull load is unavoidable, use the water level selector to make sure the washer settings match the amount of the load.

2. If rinse water from the washer empties into a basin, collect the water for use in other cleaning projects.

3. When buying a new washer, get a front-loading machine, which has the lowest water and electricity use. Look for the Energy Star label. The Energy Star website also has a list of new washer rebates.

 

Sprinkler, Hoses and Water Features

1. Avoid recreational water toys and ornamental water features that require a constant stream of water (e.g., running fountains), unless you have a source of recycled water for it.

2. If you have a swimming pool, buy a new water-saving pool filter. A single back flushing with a traditional filter uses 180-250 gallons of water.

3. Use a grease pencil to mark the water level of your pool at the skimmer. Check the mark 24 hours later to see if you have a leak.

4. When your pool is not in use, reduce evaporation by using a pool cover. Check for leaks around the pool pump.

5. Do not hose down your driveway or sidewalk. Use a broom to brush debris from these areas. If your business requires a deeper cleaning, consider a high pressure waterbroom that uses only 2.5 gallons/minute.

6. Use a shut-off nozzle on your hose, which can be adjusted down to a fine spray so that water flows only as needed. When done, turn it off at the faucet to avoid leaks. Do not leave a hose unattended; it can pour out 600 gallons in a few hours.

7. Check hose connectors to make sure plastic or rubber washers are in place. Washers prevent leaks.

8. Don't allow sprinklers to water your street, driveway or sidewalk. Position them so water lands on the lawn and shrubs, not paved areas. Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly. Do not leave sprinklers unattended; use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn them off.

9. Install irrigation devices that are the most water efficient for each use. Soaker hoses and micro or drip irrigation are examples.

10. Instead of a hose, use water buckets to wash your cars at home; or find a car wash that uses recycled water. Better yet, wash your car only during a rain! (I have done this and it really works!). Another water-saving, car-washing idea -- use several auto towels (think Sham-wow), wash your car after a rain (or with a heavy dew on your vehicle). The car stays spotless and without the use of any added water.

 

Toilets

1. Keep toilet flushing to a minimum. Each flush of a standard toilet can use 5-7 gallons of water. During drought, adopt the old camp motto ―If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.‖

2. Don’t throw tissues, cotton balls or other soft paper product into the toilet; unlike toilet paper, these substances are not made to dissolve in water and they will clog plumbing.

3. Bricks in the toilets? Sure if it reduces the amount of water used per flush. Low flow faucets and toilets. Even better. The same ―displacement‖ of water can be achieved by filling a plastic ball, bottle or inflatable bag with water and put it inside your toilet tank. The amount of water displaced equals the amount of water saved per flush!. Note: Make sure the object doesn’t touch the operating parts.

4. Just like with your faucets, replace or adjust sticky toilet handles quickly.

5. Toilet flappers are the most likely part to leak. Find out if you have a flapper leak by putting dye strips or food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color shows up in the bowl, you do. (Flush as soon as your test is done − food coloring can stain your tank and bowl!) If you find a leak, fix it quickly − replacement parts are cheap, available at any hardware store, and easy to install.

6. Replace standard toilets with low-flow ones that use only 1.1-2.2 gallons per flush. Check your local government for rebates for purchasing low flow devices.

 

Lawn & Garden

1. Let your lawn go dormant during the summer. Dormant grass only needs to be watered every three weeks or less if it rains.

2. If you must water lawns, do so at night or in the early morning. Plants absorb water better when the sun is at its weakest. When watering gardens, use drip or low-spray sprinklers to minimize loss to evaporation. If water runs off your lawn easily, split your watering time into shorter periods to allow for better absorption.

3. Don't overwater. Lawns only need one inch of water/week, and less in winter. Use a rain gauge to determine how much water your yard receives each week from rain and irrigation.

4. Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system and holds soil moisture better than a closely clipped lawn.

5. Don’t over-fertilize—fertilizer increases the need for water. Apply fertilizers that contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen. Consider the use of corn gluten as a natural fertilizer and weed controlling agent. See http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/node/1081. See also, www.gardensalive.com.

6. Group plants together based on similar water needs. This will reduce overwatering plants that don't need much.

7. Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. These plants require less water, fertilizer and maintenance. Visit the Virginia Native Plant Society website for appropriate species and more information. This is called Xeriscape (use of native species to reduce water usage). See also http://www.eartheasy.com/grow_xeriscape.htm

8. Choose shrubs and groundcovers instead of turf for hard-to-water areas such as steep slopes and isolated strips.

9. Plant in the fall when conditions are cooler and rainfall is more plentiful.

10. Check the root zone of your lawn or garden for moisture before watering using a spade or trowel. If it's still moist two inches under the soil surface, you still have enough water.

11. When cleaning out fish tanks, give the nutrient-rich water to your house plants.

12. Install a rain sensor on your irrigation controller so your system won't run when it's raining. (How many times have you seen the automatic sprinkler system come on during a rainfall? It is funny to see but not so funny when we think of the waste of the precious water.)

13. Aerate your lawn at least once a year so water can reach the roots rather than run off the surface.

14. For hanging baskets, planters and pots, place ice cubes under the moss or dirt to give your plants a cool drink of water and help eliminate water overflow.