Most of us take for granted an abundant supply of good, fresh water. We meet our daily needs when we turn on the faucet and get seemingly unlimited running water. However, this situation is changing as more and more communities face water shortages.
It’s that time again. Spring is finally here which means, blooming flowers, and green lawns, warm and dry weather. Water conservation will be most critical for the next few months. Here are some tips to conserve water.
Water Conservation Tips for Homeowners
Tips for saving water both inside and outside of your home
Kitchen & Laundry
- Eliminate leaks by turning faucets off completely and, as needed, replace old gaskets. A single dripping faucet can waste as much as 3600 gallons a year.
- Use the “water-saver” setting or make sure your machine is set for the most efficient use.
- Don’t rinse dirty dishes before loading them into the dishwasher; scrape clean and let the machine do the rest.
- Only wash full loads of dished or clothes
- Reduce the use of garbage disposals.
- If you hear running water in your toilet tank, adjust the leaky float valve or replace the faulty hardware. Check for leaks by dropping a small amount of food coloring in the upper tank. If color appears in the bowl, you have a leak.
- Flush only when necessary. Install a water-filled plastic jug in your toilet tank to reduce the water used per flush, without disturbing the flushing mechanism.
- Don’t use your toilet as a trash can (not only does it use excess water, it requires additional energy to separate from the waste stream and can potentially clog pipes).
- Take fewer and shorter showers and consider taking a Navy-style shower: 1) wet down, 2) turn water off, 3) lather, 4) rinse.
- Don’t leave the water running while rinsing, shaving, or brushing teeth.
- Reuse bath water or excess water as you await water temperature to adjust for other uses such as watering plants in or near the house, to soak clothes, etc.
Lawn & Garden
- Hold your garden hose close to the roots of plants so that there’s little waste and evaporative loss (soaker hoses are even more efficient).
- Water slowly so that the soil soaks up all the water you use. To avoid the possibility of disease (due to promotion of fungi growth), and minimize evaporation, the best time to water is very early morning hours (dawn to approximately 9 am). Avoid watering on windy days (which increases evaporation).
- Use the principles of Xeriscape (pronounced ZERE-AH-SCAPE). This landscaping method uses native and drought-tolerant plants, mulch to hold in moisture, and grouping plants according to your water and light needs.
- Never let water run unnecessarily. Installing a spray handle helps. Allow your grass to grow to approximately 3 inches before cutting.
- Install a timer and a rain sensor on outdoor irrigation systems.
- Position sprinklers so that they do not water the pavement. Do not over water allowing water to run down the street. Note that turf grasses can survive on as little as a half inch of water per week.
- When washing the car, place the car on the grass and use soap and water from a bucket. Use a hose with a shut-off nozzle for the final rinse so that the water runs only when you need it.
- Don’t use the hose to clean driveways and sidewalks; instead use a broom, which will provide more exercise.
- Mulch plants to reduce evaporation and help retain moisture. Mulch is available from Chatham County at no charge. For more information, please call 652-6858.
Water-Smart Gardening Tips
Now that summer is in full force many of us try very hard to keep our gardens going strong as well as improve our landscapes. Many homeowners are unaware of the potential pollution that can be caused by sloppy gardening practices. Too much or improperly applied landscaping chemicals can be washed by irrigation or rainwater into the storm drains and canals. These chemicals can be harmful or toxic to aquatic life. Irrigating your landscape too often wastes water and can kill your plants. Below are some easy to follow tips that can save you money while protecting our water resources.
- Water you landscape only in the early morning or evening. Avoid watering at midday as water will be lost to evaporation.
- Water your lawn less often, for longer periods of time. Short, frequent watering encourages shallow roots which makes plants drought intolerant.
- Plant native and/or drought tolerant plants. After they are established, they should require no additional watering.
- Mulch! Mulch! Mulch! Mulch keeps moisture in the soil and prevents weeds. Chatham County gives it away for free at the Wilmington Island Recycling Station on Concord Avenue and at the Chevis Road Landfill.
- Have your soil tested before applying fertilizer. Fertilizer that is not absorbed by your landscape will end up in local waters. The Chatham County Extension Service will test your soil and give you recommendation for appropriate additives. They can be reached at 652-7981
- Install a rain sensor on your automatic irrigation system. Watering while it’s raining is very wasteful.
- Avoid insecticides and herbicides whenever possible. Chose natural alternatives. A healthy landscape is the best deterrent to weeds and pests.
Water shortages are certainly inconvenient and even scary. At first, they are hard to understand we know that the United States daily rainfall equals 4.2 trillion gallons. However, water is not always located where it is needed and demand keeps increasing.
In the last 30 years the United States demand for water has grown faster than our ability to find new water sources. During this period while our population grew 52 percent, total water use tripled. Demand for water continues to rise sharply but population has increased only slightly in the last few years.
Just how much water do we consume each day? Studies show wide variations in different areas of the country and between urban and rural households. According to the American Water Works Association, the average United States resident uses about 110 gallons a day. Statistics for our part of the country show that a typical consumer uses 50 to 75 gallons daily inside the home. We use most for toilets followed by bathing, laundry/dishes and cooking/drinking.
Water use varies with time of day and season of the year. Household use less water in the early morning, while most people are sleeping, and during the winter. Peak consumption is in the spring ands summer and when the family gets home in the late afternoon. However, everybody’s use is a little different. Home water use mirrors each person’s lifestyle and behavior.
Conservation – It’s Everyone’s Responsibility
Water shortages are real, touching many United States communities each year. Because water conservation is a good defense against shortages, it should happen all the time, not just when shortages occur. To begin conserving water, every one needs to know some simple facts:
1) Water is a limited resource.
2) Water costs a great deal in energy and money to pump, move and purify.
3) Water consumption can be reduced significantly in the average home through simple practices.
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