Simple Water Saving Tips

Since living with no water supply we’ve become somewhat expert in the ways of saving and recycling water. With the warming of the world and the increase in remote living I guess water usage is an important topic for a lot of people out there too.  We haven’t got a sophisticated rainwater harvesting system but we do collect enough to keep ourselves supplied for up to eight months of the year. Which, considering the climate and our water use on the huerto, I think is pretty good.

We harvest rainwater from the house and sheds.  Our roofs all run to an underground cisterna of around 8000 litres which was original to the cottage. We have a selection of depositos at the top of our land which hold 8000 litres also. Scattered around the veg plots we have many of the ubiquitous Spanish blue barrels for storing more rainwater from sheds, plus all the water that drains from the washing machine.  As the cisterna fills, water is pumped up to the depositos so we can store the maximum amount of free rainwater.

Over the years we’ve progressed from hauling water bucket by bucket from the cisterna, to using battery and pump power.  Hey we even have hot water now (that was a very welcome development).  It is now second nature to be frugal with our water but we don’t obsess about it.   We’re lucky enough to be able to fall back on the odd trailer load of water when the skies refuse to co-operate.  Here are some of our ways to save water.

If you’re living without a permanent water supply, are looking to help the environment or just want to reduce your water bills some of the ideas may be of use:

Saving Water Tips

The Little Things

You don’t need to replumb the house to save water but you do need to fix all those leaking taps.  All these other little things really do add up.

Water Conservation Ideas In the Kitchen:

  • Save water used to wash fruit and veg for watering plants inside and out.
  • Save water from draining pasta/potatoes/veg etc.  Some can be reused to cook other items that day or for soups.  Potato water is great for adding to bread dough.  Any left over can be used for adding to your dogs’ food, the compost heap or garden.
  • Save your washing up water for the compost heap or veg patch.
  • Do you really need to rinse everything?
  • Pets and livestock are happy drinking rainwater.
  • If you’re lucky enough to be using a dishwasher make sure its only ever switched on when its full.

Water Conservation Ideas In the Bathroom

  • Don’t flush after every pee! If you’re worried about smells put the seat down (it looks more tidy anyway) and keep a spray bottle full of white vinegar with a few drops of essential oil next to your loo.  Spray after you wee and the vinegar will neutrilise the urine odour while the essential oil with give a welcoming scent to the next occumpant.  You don’t have to make all your guests do this but even if you only carry this out when you’re home alone it will make a difference.  Even the most eco flush toilet will send down three litres of water after every wee!
  • If you haven’t got a dual flush toilet at least put a bottle of water in the cistern.  That will cut down the volume you flush.
  • Turn off the taps when you can (brushing teeth, soaping hands).
  • Fill the basin rather than just leaving the tap on when washing your face.  It’s suprising how much water just drains away.
  • Low flow shower heads and aerating taps/faucets all mean you get less water running.  You can add an aerator to an existing faucet for under $2!.
  • Shower, don’t bathe – you know that already!

Water Conservation Ideas In the Laundry Room

  • Short cycles for the washing machine please.  Yes sometimes things are really dirty and need a long wash but lets face it, most of what goes in the machine really isn’t that grubby!
  • Recycle the washing machine outlet for watering flowers, trees and non-root crops.  This doesn’t need to be complicated.  We simply run the machine outlet pipe to a large water drum which is then used to water the veg as required.  Ordinary washing detergent is fine but no bleach or other harsh chemicals should go onto the garden.  The water could contain bacteria for example if someone has a stomach upset so always wash your hands after using any greywater.

Water Conservation Ideas Outside

  • You can never have too many water butts.  Anything with a roof should have guttering and a water butt for collecting rainwater.  Don’t forget sheds and greenhouses.
  • How about a wine bottle watering stakes kit, drip feed the plants to avoid much evaporation and to recycle those old wine bottles with 100% efficiency.
  • Using buckets or watering cans rather than hoses will really reduce usage for watering the garden, washing the car etc.  Before you say its not possible, we only use watering cans for the veg plot which supplies our produce year-round.  It makes you a lot more particular about what actually needs watering!
  • Do you really need to water the garden? It’s better to water less often so plant roots find their own way down to naturally moist soil.  That way they will cope without all that additional water you use to merely wet the surface of the soil.  We water all summer as it is so hot and dry.  But only the crops that need it and back in the UK we hardly bothered at all.  For long-lived plants they should only need water in the first season, then leave them to it.   You may need to prioritise your planting to match the climate but that’s just natural and much easier than forcing things that would rather be elsewhere.

The most important thing I’ve found is that if you simply run the tap you will use a lot of water.  But, if water is first put into containers you see what you’re using and automatically reduce it.  So in the kitchen for example washing veggies in bowls of water rather than under the tap will cut your water usage without you actually trying.  It all seemed like hassle initially but becomes automatic.

If you’ve any more ideas for little ways to reduce water consumption let us know.  Maybe we can live off rainwater alone then!

For a more self sufficient future

3 Responses to “Simple Water Saving Tips”

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  1. Lorraine says:

    Hi Mrs. Dirty Boots:

    Your water-saving tips for the kitchen reminded me of my Grandmother Hallford’s water-frugal habits.

    Garndmother was born in 1898 in California’s San Joaquin Valley. At the time, the Valley was semi-arid and water for home-use was scarce.

    Even after Big Agriculture built irrigation systems, dammed and diverted rivers –assuring plenty of water for residential use (and permanent ecological change)–my Grandmother was stingy with water.

    I remember in the 1970s she still washed the dishes with a two-bowl system: She scrubbed dishes in the first bowl’s soapy water, then dipped them in the second bowl’s clear (or at least at washing’s beginning it was clear!) water.

    Then she’d trot outside and give her thirsty hydrangeas a long drink of dirty dish water.

    I look forward to reading your posts on preserving. Grandmother also made copious fabulous preserves–I remember pomegranate jelly, persimmon conserve, peach and apricot jams–all made from the fruits of her trees. Of course she never BOUGHT fruit.

    When I moved to NYC I foolishly tried to replicate her preserves. As you can imagine, buying that quantity of fresh fruit at urban greengrocers cost a small fortune. And no one carried preserving jars.

    I thinks Mrs. Dirty Boots will appreciate one last frugal story (then I must hurry back to my very un-fnca-esque home and my crazy copywriting work).

    My old great aunt–so old she remembered San Francisco’s ’06 earth quake–remembers HER aunt peeling and cutting an apple to eat. Great-great aunt was such an experienced preserver that–liking the taste of the apple–she took the peel and core and made one single glass of jelly.

    Thanks for your blog–I look forward to visiting again.

    Lorraine’s last blog post..Need an antidote to Bacon Explosion? Try Recipe-Ready Tofu.

    • Thankyou so much for this comment Lorraine. It’s great hearing how we used to cope with limited resources, probably without even thinking about it.

      You made me realise I use an almost two-bowl system: I do all the dishes in one bowl but as the water gets too murky I start stacking stuff to be washed again. Washing it roughly in the murky water gets most of the grime off then it can all get a good rinse off in a second bowl of hot water when I’ve finished the first wash. The same principle with only one bowl. Does this mean I’m turning into a Victorian? I didn’t even think about the fact I do this, for the post! Yep you need to be very wealthy indeed to make such exotic fruit preserves without an orchard of your own.

      The jelly incident really made me smile. It must have been an exceptional apple!


  2. Greg says:

    When adding faucet aerators to your bathroom faucets keep in mind there are various levels of low flow faucet aerators. Typical low flow aerators start at 2.2 gallons per minute flow rates and then progressively get lower e.x. 1.5 gpm, 1.0 and .5 gpm. The prices are all pretty much the same and if you can’t find them from the link above at amazon you can find them at any local hardware store. Also there are swivel head spray aerators for the kitchen that are nice, here is a link to examples, you can’t buy them on the site but it will give you an idea of what to look for.