5 Easy Ways to Save Water

waterI spent much of my growing-up-years on the Navajo Nation, often in spaces without indoor plumbing.  Then in my nine years in rural Africa, the water was often off, leaving us with backup tanks or hauled water.  I have also been blessed to have often visited my parents when they lived on the island of St Croix where there is no fresh water.  All water comes from the rain which is captured and stored in cisterns under homes and buildings.

This means that I have spent most of my life being very water-conscious.  Now that I have spent time in San Diego, a city that imports 70% of its water and is in a severe drought, I am learning that many of my friends and neighbors simply don’t know how to conserve water.

Here are a few techniques I use.  I share them, should they be of interest.

  1. Hot not, waste not.  It often takes time for hot water to reach the kitchen tap once it’s turned on.  Instead of allowing the water to simply flow down the drain until the hot water arrives, I capture it in a medium-sized watering can.  I then use that water on my little potted-herb-garden or houseplants.  If none of them are thirsty, then I simply set the can next to the sink and use the water TO RINSE: to rinse out the sink after I have done dishes, to rinse fruit later in the day, to rinse a water glass, coffee pot, etc.  Or to make a pot of tea later in the day.  You’ll be surprised how easy–and even handy–this is.
  2. Go green, not clean.  You’re recycling, not prepping for surgery.  I am shocked at the number of times I witness someone turning on the taps at full pressure in order to very thoroughly clean a recyclable.  While technically no cleaning is necessary at all, I do “get” that you don’t want nastiness in your recycle bin for two weeks, let alone in a warehouse somewhere for who knows how long.  But a quick rinse is usually sufficient.  Again, the watering-can filled with cold water is useful for this, or you can set your recyclables next to your dirty dishes and wash everything at once.  Just be conscious every time you reach for that tap.  Ask yourself, “Is this necessary?  And if so, what pressure is really warranted?”
  3. Play the sud-bowl.  I learned this one from my mother.  In the mornings and evenings, I keep a small-to-medium sized bowl of hot, soapy water in the kitchen sink.  Rather than filling a sink full of water when doing dishes, I just always have a small bowl of suds on hand.  Whenever something needs washing, my kids and friends and I can easily wash it within seconds, and dishes never pile up.  And the dishcloth remains cleaner because it is soaking in hot water that is changed often.   Instead of turning on a full-blast faucet every time something needs washing up, my sud-bowl and watering-can do the trick.
  4. Do by machine, none if by hand.  Study after study has shown that the dishwasher does the job of–well–dishwashing.  No need to so thoroughly rinse everything, water running at high speeds, as you load the machine.  If something should come out dirty, wash it then.
  5. If it’s yellow, let it mellow.  This one is super easy.  Simply never flush urine alone, wait until you have “dropped the kids off at the pool.”  A quick Google search shows widespread agreement that this saves about 2,500 gallons of water, per person, per year.  For a family of four, that’s a savings of 10,000 gallons!

Nathaniel is CEO of AidChild.org. He holds a Master's Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University where he was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, and winner of the 2010 Harvard HDP Marshal Award. He also holds a PhD in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego where he was the Dammeyer Fellow in Global Education Leadership, and a Cordes Fellow at Opportunity Collaboration. Nathaniel is author of "We Are Not Mahogany: Three stories about the male African life." Prior to his move to Uganda in 2000, Nathaniel was Deputy Director of the Office of the Governor of Arizona, and Director of Education at Leadership, Inc.

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