Water is something we tend to take for granted sometimes – especially here in Ontario, since our province is adjacent to 4 of the 5 Great Lakes of North America (which contain 21% of the world’s surface fresh water). Since I moved to Canada in 1990, I don’t remember a single day when our domestic water supply was a problem (with exception of the occasional city or property maintenance).
Growing up in El Salvador, however, the story was different. Water shortages were (and still are) very common due to many reasons, both natural and man-made. I still remember how careful we had to be with our water back in San Salvador during the 1980’s: we always had to keep a reserve for the times when the supply was shut off (at least a couple of times a week) and we always had to be mindful of wise usage, due to the high price of the city water service, and the unreliable supply.
Nowadays, in the new Century, we are facing a whole wave of environmental issues that are forcing us to think carefully about our precious natural resources. From global warming to contamination and misuse, added to the fact that we have long ago realized that water is not an endless natural resource, we definitely need to take a good look at our habits to ensure that we can still enjoy the benefits of this precious liquid for generations to come.
Here is a number tips I’ve gathered from a number of sources, which I hope will inspire all of us to be mindful and smart about our water use both at home and at work. You will notice that a few simple steps and some mindfulness can help us all create a positive impact.
In the Kitchen
- Collect the water you use while rinsing fruit and vegetables and use it to water your houseplants.
- Don’t use running water to thaw food. Defrost food in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
- Keep a pitcher of drinking water, instead of running the tap every time you need a glass of water.
- Don’t discard unused ice in the sink; drop it in a houseplant instead.
- Use your “green bin” or compost your organic waste instead of running your sink garbage disposal.
- Install aerators on the kitchen faucet to reduce flows to less than 1 gallon per minute.
- Select proper pan size for cooking. Large pans may require more cooking water than needed.
- Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrub them clean.
- Cook food in as little water as possible. This helps with a more rich flavor and better nutrient retention.
- When hand washing dishes, don’t use running water. Fill one sink with soapy water and the other with rinse water.
- Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water, instead of running water from the tap.
- Run the dishwasher only when it’s full; this not only saves water but also energy.
- Dishwashers typically use less water that washing dishes by hand.
- If your dishwasher is new, cut back on rinsing your dishes before loading. Newer models clean more thoroughly than older ones.
In the Bathroom
- If possible, install a high-efficiency toilet. Many cities across North America are offering incentives to homeowners to switch to newer toilet models. Check with your City Hall or bathroom renovation retailers to see what might be available in your area.
- Test your toilet for leaks at least once a year. You can do this by putting food colouring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak that needs to be fixed.
- Don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket, it’s not only bad for water waste but it also increases water contamination and the risk of costly damage to your draining pipes.
- Reduce your time in the shower; a five-minute shower instead of a ten-minute shower can save up to 25 gallons of water, depending on your showerhead.
- Install low-flow showerheads; they have become very affordable and easy to install. Most new models have excellent water pressure too.
In the Laundry Room
- Washing colour clothes in cold water saves water and energy; it also helps your clothes retain their colour longer.
- Run the washing machine for full loads only to save water and energy.
- If possible, install a high-efficiency washer; they can save up to 16 gallons per load!
Outside the House
- Water your gardens and lawns deeply but less frequently to create healthier and stronger landscapes.
- Invest in a water broom, which attaches to your hose. The combined water pressure with the airflow and brushing action helps cleaning surfaces with far less water than with the hose alone.
- Water your garden early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are cooler. This allows the soil to retain more moisture and release nutrients to your plants. It also helps avoiding unnecessary water evaporation due to high temperatures.
- Take your car to the carwash. Most carwash facilities filter and recycle water, instead of using a fresh supply from the tap all the time.
- If you wash your car at home, use a bucket and sponge instead of running the hose all the time.
- Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants to reduce evaporation and keep the soil cool. Organic mulch also improves the soil and prevents weeds.
For Business Owners
- Encourage employees to report leaks and problems with plumbing and irrigation equipment.
- Replace old toilets and urinals with WaterSense® labeled models
- Review your water bill monthly to check for unusually high use. Check water meters at night or on the weekend to detect leaks. There should be no flow when all water-using fixtures have been turned off.
- Be mindful of water use in the office. Many of the tips in the previous sections of this story can be applied at work.
- Encourage your employer and colleagues to follow suit by sharing these tips around your work place.
- Carry a couple of disinfecting reusable wipes to clean your hands whenever needed.
Do you have any tips or ideas that can help us all save water (and money)? Please share them in the comments area below!