Water saving tips
Jeannie Nguyen
January 7, 2014 in Design Dilemma
What are your best water saving tips? Do you make sure to put a time limit on how long you shower? Do you replace your washer and dryer to make sure they're energy efficient?

Share your best water saving tips with us! We could all use the few extra dollars saved from the monthly water bill. ;)

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lindshammer
The best idea (bathing) was forced on me during an out of country trip. Water on to wet, water off to soap, water on to rinse, bathing in sections: hair, face, body. Shaving had to be done without running water, so wet a single leg, rinse with water using a small container...move to next. It REALLY saves water. But confession: I tried it while back in the States, and I only lasted a few days; it takes more effort than leaving the water on. It's difficult to save when we live where we have access to gallons and gallons of clean, hot water (or at least we feel like we do).
January 8, 2014 at 7:30am        Thanked by Jeannie Nguyen
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vjs12
Turn the water off while brushing teeth.
January 17, 2014 at 5:46pm     
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printesa
Do people have the water running continuously while brushing? That would be a waste of water. Short showers helps as well. If washing dishes by hand, don't just turn the water on to the max.
January 17, 2014 at 6:40pm     
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dianahb
The water I see wasted the most is in the summer, when people water their lawns and have underground irrigation systems-- all to have green lawns. If you have to have a green lawn and don't live in a damp rainy environment, I propose eliminating the grass altogether and replacing with green ground-cover that does well in both dry and wet environments and doesn't have to be mowed.
January 17, 2014 at 6:58pm     
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Jessica
Use water from the dehumidifier for watering house plants.
January 17, 2014 at 7:48pm     
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des1gnchick
When I rinse fruit or vegetables (or lettuce in salad spinner) I wash over a large bowl and the rinse water is used to water outside plants in garden. Also try to brush teeth with water off - always reminding my kids & it will sink in eventually.
January 17, 2014 at 9:51pm     
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ASVInteriors
I used to think showering was more economical than bathing. Not after 15 mins! So now I run a bath and soak with hubby to talk about the day! I also use an oforu tap which punches the exact amount of water to fill a small Japanese cedar bowl. Before bathing one wets, lathers and scrubs, then rinses off with one extra bowl of water.
January 17, 2014 at 10:19pm     
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Darzy
I used to run the shower a long time to get the hot water. My son-in-law plumber installed a thingy at the heater on a timer so the hot water is instant during shower hours. Great water conservation and "instant" hot water. Works at the sink tap too during the same shower time frame.
January 17, 2014 at 10:54pm     
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mileenawins
Darzy can you find out what that thingy is called? I need one or several! Thank you!
January 17, 2014 at 10:56pm     
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rredpenn
Having had a shared well and a private septic system, we've known a long time that water is precious and can also be problematic. What comes in can be scarce or at low pressure during peak demand, and what goes out can cause problems, too (if there's a plug or leak!) Conserving water is a way of life for us. It's not just about saving money.

We use the strategies mentioned above and also these...sharing flushes, full (not half) loads of laundry/dishes, using the local car wash rather than the hose, reusing bath towels for a week or more before laundry, shaving legs in a bathtub with a little water in it before showering, or sponge baths/washcloths vs. running the tap for washing up.

Outside, we're used to using rain barrels, summer baths in the lake (excuse for a swim, of course!) with biodegradable shampoos (dogs also get their bath on the dock!), watering plants on a timer in the early morning with soaker hoses vs. sprinklers, hardscaping vs. plants, taking advantage of rain to "wash off" dirty cars or lawn furniture (simply dry off with a towel after the rain), sweeping or blowing the driveway after mowing (don't use the hose), using a bucket of water for multiple hand rinses after gardening...then pouring it onto a thirsty plant when I'm done.

I "reuse" inside water too. I can't pour an abandoned, half-consumed glass of water down the sink when there is a plant or a cat bowl to pour it into. :)

These habits are a mystery to my family members who live in a city with muni-water services and sewers. It drives me crazy and makes my skin crawl when they leave the water on full blast while doing dishes. (I will shut it off, or way down, on them.) I cringe when my neighbor lets his hose run all day long on the lawn. It's just wasteful.
January 17, 2014 at 11:35pm     
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Neil Risch
The biggest waste of water in almost any house hold is the three to five minutes of running water while waiting for the shower to heat up. Other then having instant hot devices at the source or having a very insulated supply line there is really no way to eliminate this wasted water. There are ways to at least use the water for other things. If you were to use a small bucket to fill up during that heating up process you could use it for the garden or anything else since it is clean potable water.
January 17, 2014 at 11:40pm     
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Darzy
Hi all... The "thingy" my son-in-law plumber installed for quick hot water at shower and tap is called a "hot water recirculating pump". It attaches to your hot water heater and is on a timer. We have ours set for 7 - 9 a.m and then 7-9 at night. The brand name we have is "Grundfos". It works beautifully. No more waiting a long time to get hot water to the shower/tap.
January 17, 2014 at 11:52pm     
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Nancy
I only wash with a full load. If an item of clothing needs doing in a hurry, I hand wash it. When we built our home 7 years ago, it was a requirement here in Sydney that we have rain water tanks to provide water for toilets, washing machine and garden. When the tanks are low, it switches automatically to mains water and after rain switches back to the tanks. As a 3 person household, our currently daily water usage is that of a 1 person household.
January 18, 2014 at 12:36am     
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okdokegal
Fix all your drips. Period. You would be surprised how much that does waste.
On your outside hoses and that, also make sure they aren't leaking.
2 state toilet, you can have the light flush for liquids and the heavy flush for NEED.
No running water for 'cool tap' or 'warming up shower'. I have a container in the fridge for a need for cold water, and I will be adding the instant hot water later, I plumbed for it, for the shower. Rinse/scrape your dishes immediately then put in dishwasher, and put in a high efficiency washer. Hubby is fully-wooly so he doesn't waste water shaving...

I had a friend stay for a while from California, and she would turn the water on about half strength and have it run for the entire time she did dishes. She INSISTED it used less water than my fill a sink halfways for washing and the brief 'on for rinse' over the wash water. I plugged the sink on her, and told her go ahead. When the sink was full I would empty it then let her go ahead. I would use one sink full exactly, she used three ad a half sinkfuls...

I've lived where water rationing got to where you were hoping you could flush a couple of times a day and they decided to tax you for runoff and fine you for rainbarrels (yes, all the runoff was THEIRS). Here we have an aquifer if you can afford to pump it out of the ground at least, but I still have my more frugal ways... I do watergarden and have ponds so used water (cleaning out and such) goes on the lawn, water from my wintering fish indoors when I have to do water changes goes to the plants, water gets used twice at least if I can help it. I want to set up a greywater reclamation that uses green to clean it up then I can reuse it.
http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Water/Water.htm#Grey
January 18, 2014 at 12:47am     
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rredpenn
okdokegal-- did your experiment with your friend from Calif. result in her changing behavior? Just curious. :) You go, girl! You are so right about drips, two-stage toilets and grey water reclamation. My mom's town DOES have that (she has two water meters, one for good water and one for "lawn" water) and I'm jealous!
January 18, 2014 at 3:47am     
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printesa
Darzy- we were told about this when we were discussing finishing the basement, From what I remember, they need to instal a pipe as well so that there is a loop for recirculation. Was it a headache to have the recirculating pump installed?
January 18, 2014 at 4:44am     
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indianpatti
If you have a newer dishwasher, you really CAN skip rinsing of dishes. New models do an awesome job of cleaning the dishes. Being a "Ms. Clean", I had a hard time believing this one, but hubby proved it after a cheesy dinner one night.
January 18, 2014 at 4:54am     
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juudean
Kick your teenage kids out of the house...
January 18, 2014 at 5:06am     
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Darzy
@printesa. The recirculating pump is no biggie to install. It only took my son-in-law 15 minutes to install. The hot water recirculates in your current plumbing. Here are a couple of links explaining what is and to buy. http://www.rewci.com/whhohotwaci.html
http://www.amazon.com/Grundfos-595916-Horsepower-Comfort-Recirculator/dp/B000JG81AQ
January 18, 2014 at 5:21am     
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printesa
Thank you Darzy! I will have my husband look at it. I really want to stop waiting for the hot water to get to my shower.
January 18, 2014 at 5:25am     
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chookchook2
Alot of the above, plus having a tub under the garden tap with soap. The soapy water is good for the roses.
January 18, 2014 at 5:35am     
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Nancy
ooh, I didn't know that chook!
January 18, 2014 at 6:06am     
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feeny
Never, ever water a lawn. If you don't live in a climate that can support a lawn with rainwater alone, then plant a garden with native plants.
January 18, 2014 at 7:34am     
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ASVInteriors
and to add to Feeny's comment, most lawns in temperate climates will go brown in the summer but they reprieve in autumn as the weather cools and more moisture in the air ... it is actually natural.
January 18, 2014 at 7:37am     
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vjs12
feeny & dianahb, I live in Texas where you have to water for your house foundation as well as your lawn. We have hot summers so the lawn would be brown if not watered regularly. We have clay soil here so the watering helps to prevent foundation problems which are costly to fix. Having an inground irrigation system, which is set up on a timer, helps conserve water versus watering with the hose. So not watering, the results would be brown, dead landscaping and a costly repair to the cracked foundation. (We need more rain in this state).
January 18, 2014 at 1:21pm     
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dianahb
Hi vjs12: I just heard this story a few days ago on public radio about the brown lawns in TX and how everybody keeps digging their own private wells, because if you have water on your land, you own it-- so part of the problem (not all, for sure) seems to be people just digging their own private wells-- and that water has to come from somewhere (else). This story was specific to Austin.

The whole thing about the foundation seems so odd to me. I would suggest if the clay is the issue, that houses in Texas should be built with foundations higher than the ground. Wouldn't that solve the foundation issue?

But-- foundations aside-- I still think I'd look for ground cover that will work for your area. I mean, lawns made of grass originated in England (I think?)-- and maybe Oregon and Washington states have that rainy English weather-- but most of us don't. I live in NC, and aside form the fact that grass just won't grow under 100-year old oaks-- there is no way in the world I'll mow a lawn and spend time and money watering it, when I could just as easily put in ground covers and gardens with plants that can tolerate drought and heat-- and don't have to be watered all the time. Finally, I've never understood the love of green grass. It's just a tiny bit boring.
January 18, 2014 at 2:50pm     
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feeny
Watering foundation plantings that are appropriate for your climate and watering a lawn are two totally different things.
January 18, 2014 at 3:16pm     
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chookchook2
Saving for a rainwater tank is high on our list of wants.
January 18, 2014 at 4:07pm     
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PRO
FINNE Architects
We use the TOTO dual flush toilet on all our projects. It saves a great deal of water by limiting the flush amount.
January 18, 2014 at 6:57pm     
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armipeg
Turn off sprinkler system on rainy days, and keep it off for a week after the last rain.
January 18, 2014 at 11:42pm     
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armipeg
@juudean, Hahaha....seems like we're all in the same boat. My son takes a 30 min. shower after he's been in the tub for 30 min. I don't get it.
January 18, 2014 at 11:46pm     
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okdokegal
rredpen, no it didn't. She still INSISTED she was saving water. She got a different chore assigned then, 'dish fairy'. (the little fairy that had to empty the dishwasher and put everything away).

I water my front yard, which is about 30x50', as it has several dwarf fruit trees planted there as well as three grape vines for the future pergola over the future patio which will take some of the front grass issues away; and some space in the backyard (about 20x50) for berry bushes, my herb garden, and other things of that sort.

I have to water during the winter because we get some warm enough days, and the fruit trees even in dormancy do better with an occasional deep soak.

I try to do other than the hottest and windy part of the day so the water isn't evaporated away. In hot times right after sunup is good, as usually that's the calmest time of day, and gives time for everything to dry off after the watering (and less evaporation of the water as it's being applied too!) so you don't have prism-burns from the droplets and things dry so you don't have powdery mildew issues.

If you have the serious clay (our yard is adobe where it hasn't been amended, aka dig down a bit and you will flunk a perk test, and you can take forms and make bricks from it) and your yard cracks literally, you may have to add some water just to keep the cracks down!

MULCH!!!!!! Properly applied and maintained, mulch will help a lot with water loss and cooling the soil surface. Plants will do much better.

Green lawns are sometimes mandated by nearsighted covenant and laws.

Where I used to live just about the entire urban had it MANDATED that you had to plant your yard in Kentucky Bluegrass. The thirstiest grass there is. In High Desert. You had to fight HARD to get a variance for even planting a dwarf fescue which stood up better OR the logical sense, XERISCAPE. It would cost you a LOT to FIGHT in COURT to get the PERMIT to xeriscape your yard. Stage 4 water rationing and you were supposed to plant bluegrass.

They sold these hydration crystals, swell to 400x their size and hold water, you'd till the dry stuff in and plant, and that did help some. They'd deteroriate and die in 5 years or so; so you'd have to redo the lawn... in one development where we rented, a house on the corner a few streets down; the people put the keys on the counter and walked one day, they were getting hit repeatedly for code violation fines and couldn't keep their yard alive with a several hundred dollar a month water bill, so they gave up.

In a neighborhood of about four hundred houses, we had like 5 or 6 that fought and won for the xeriscaping, they managed to put together a nice looking yard of a few trees, bushes, plantings, gravel/mulch and rockwork, and they looked just as nice IMO as the thirsty bankrupting bluegrass. So. Not everyone has a CHOICE about that lawn. One family decided to plant their yard as a garden if they had to water it, and got hauled to court because the yard wasn't bluegrass. They fought it and the daily fine for quite some time, and I don't know how it came out.
January 19, 2014 at 1:04am     
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chookchook2
That is truly ridiculous.
January 19, 2014 at 2:42am     
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dianahb
okedokegal: Wow-- that is some story about the Kentucky bluegrass neighborhood. That's really unbelievable. I guess people who buy into the neighborhood don't read the fine print on the covenants before they close. :) That's wild.
January 19, 2014 at 8:04am     
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PRO
the essentials inside
invest into a rain barrel. Never have to use tap water to water plants outside. It saved me a lot on my water bill!
January 19, 2014 at 12:08pm     
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okdokegal
Not just that neighborhood, most of the greater metro of half a million.
The water and sewer are city owned; they spent buku to set up all these lovely demonstration plantings of xeriscaping... then the city council and zoning and code wouldn't let you. As each new development went in, yep, bluegrass. The other one was that almost everything was zoned cedar picket fencing and a lot of places were cedar shake shingles. They had a council showdown over changing the code and covenant for cedar after that one major fire, and one of the major lumber producers from British Columbia sent a LOBBYIST to the council meeting to urge them to keep it the way it was! And they kept it the way it was.

As I left they were having years of not enough snowpack and stage 3-4 rationing... and let 1300 taps for those big boxy zero clearance houses, then shortly afterwards approved another of 1500 taps... the cost of providing one tap was approximately $14,000... the developers of those two got off with the city giving them a break, they only had to pay $3k.

The utilities were going to hike approximately $100 a month for water/sewer over several months; to pay for that $11k shortfall. So your economizing (don't use water and rate hikes over certain amounts used, cut back or we'll raise rates; we didn't use water, so they didn't make money so they raised rates anyways) use half the water and pay twice the price was going to be further 'fined' to pay for those houses. Which were priced about 3x the median home price. So another quarter to third gain for the 'new house tax penalty'.

Oh yeah, both those developments, mandated cedar picket fences, cedar shake roofs, and Kentucky bluegrass lawns. I live a long ways away from there now. Oh, but if they had to charge the full $14k to the buyer they couldn't sell those $300-400k houses... so. $30 million the city picked up and passed on... and after those taps were paid for, the rates weren't going to go back down, oh no...
January 19, 2014 at 12:26pm     
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Kari D
We use rain barrels for outdoor watering.
January 19, 2014 at 1:47pm     
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rredpenn
Wow, okdoke--- that is a sad story.
January 19, 2014 at 2:59pm     
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vjs12
dianahb, That's interesting about the Austin area. No; building the houses higher than the ground will not solve the foundation issues. Putting piers down to the bedrock helps it. Here's an interesting site: www.ramjacksystems.com I do have native trees, plants, sod and ground covers for my landscaping and lawn. The clay soil contracts and expands so needs to be watered to prevent the foundation/lawn from cracking and losing soil. It is cheaper to maintain the lawn and foundation of ones home then pay for foundation repairs. NC is a beautiful state!
January 19, 2014 at 4:54pm     
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PRO
Susan Friedman Landscape Architecture
Reduce water use outdoors. Reduce amount of lawn which uses the greatest amount of water. Switch to native plants that naturally use less water. Save vegetable rinse water to use for outdoor plants. Fix irrigation leaks and indoor leaks too!
January 19, 2014 at 9:37pm     
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deeonna4444
Our toilet broke a part inside of it, so we had to put water in the tank each time we used it. I found out that we really were using alot of water to flush all the time. So when we got it fixed we took a quart size plastic milk bottle and filled it with sand and put it inside the tank. The sand will hold the bottle down and it really saves alot of the water that we really don't need to flush. Try it............IT WORKS If you have a well, it is just crazy if you don't.
January 20, 2014 at 1:29am     
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PRO
Studio M Interior Design
Doing laundry and running the dishwasher only when there's a 100% full load really helps cut down on water. Also, keeping a scheduled lawn routine will help from overwatering the landscaping to cut down costs. It's all about routine!
January 21, 2014 at 8:16am     
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Dinha Ong
- Use a pail in flushing down our toilet if peeing only
- Do not use dishwasher for few pcs of dishes
- turn off water when brushing teeth
January 21, 2014 at 9:33pm     
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Chris
Easy stuff--
Don't let the water run to get hot or while doing other tasks UNLESS it is running into a bucket for watering deck plants or flushing the toilet.

Soaker or drip irrigation only, and pay attention to the cycle --even in the driest December on record, the plants don't need as much water as in June. Mulch, mulch, mulch!

Install low flow toilets as needed, and check the ones you do have to make sure they're working properly --that they are not over-filling the toilet, and that the valves and flapper are still in good working order.

By a new low-flow waterhead to ensure lowest use and best performance

Harder--
Don't flush for number 1, and train your family to NOT throw anything in the toilet that doesn't below there;
Shower in a tub with the plug closed so the water collects. Use the collected grey water to flush toilets. (A submersible electric pond pump is the bomb for transferring the water from tub to toilet or bucket!)
January 21, 2014 at 10:26pm     
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PRO
John James O'Brien - Design for Inspired Living
Low flush shower heads that are designed to deliver good water pressure are a great invention--just make sure you've selected a product that delivers good pressure for showering. We also like Toto Cyclone flush toilets - which also provide light and heavy flush options but with one button--people have to know it is a light touch or a prolonged push as needed. In my own place, I have the dreaded flat roof in a rain forest and have yet to figure out how to collect it. There is no room for rain barrels except on the north side where our neighbours have a walkway...concerned about spoiling their enjoyment of that area with a rain barrel view :-(
January 22, 2014 at 8:22am   
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mousemaker
make sure (those whose names will not be mentioned lol) have turned off the faucets!!
January 22, 2014 at 12:54pm     
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chookchook2
Garden Oaks you may have seen the alternatives, ones that can be buried , ones that sit under your house and inflate, and the wall-like modular and stand alone ones.
January 22, 2014 at 3:04pm   
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chookchook2
Of the ones that can be buried, for an extra cost some can be driven over.
January 22, 2014 at 3:05pm   
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queenit
thanks team i have learned a lot on saving water tips will share mine once i start
January 23, 2014 at 2:05am     
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ducks43
Gray water goes out to the plants except veggies, otherwise plants make do with rainwater and misc water thrown on them. No water for toothbrushing except to rinse. Water from washing vegetables goes on veggies and herbs in garden. tanks catch water off house and garage roofs holding up to 130,000 litres, and then pumped into house for use. No car washing, no grass watering. Drinking water is by the cup. Shower water collected in buckets and used on plants. Dual flush toilet. All basic stuff in the driest continent in the world. And now investigating a black water system.
January 23, 2014 at 4:33am     
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ducks43
Gray water goes out to the plants except veggies, otherwise plants make do with rainwater and misc water thrown on them. No water for toothbrushing except to rinse. Water from washing vegetables goes on veggies and herbs in garden. tanks catch water off house and garage roofs holding up to 130,000 litres, and then pumped into house for use. Garden beds mulched heavily to hold moisture. No car washing, no grass watering. Drinking water is by the cup. Shower water collected in buckets and used on plants. Dual flush toilet. All basic stuff in the driest continent in the world. And now investigating a black water system.
January 23, 2014 at 4:34am     
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jdforney
We installed low flow toilets, showerhead & a water pressure reducing valve.
January 23, 2014 at 2:53pm   
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smileyface2013
1.6 gallon flush toilets and front loading energy efficient washing machine that uses only 3 gallons of water per load.
January 24, 2014 at 7:11am   
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PRO
Wakefield Construction Inc.
Install a low-flow shower head - they don't cost much, and the water & energy savings can quickly pay back your investment!
January 28, 2014 at 11:11am   
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Shuler Architecture
The low hanging fruit is low flow toilets, energy star clothes and dish washers, water saving shower heads and faucets, drought tolerant plants. Limiting time spent in the shower will have a remarkable impact on water usage (I have a 19 y.o. step-son who loves long showers). So will turning off faucets when brushing your teeth.

After these easy measures, you can invest in rain barrels and grey water harvesting.
February 8, 2014 at 5:07pm   
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