Saturday, April 24, 2010

Water Capture

After watching No Impact Man a couple of weeks ago Kat and I have been thinking more about our patterns of consumption and ways that we could work to reduce our own impact. One of the things we noticed is that we haven't been the best at conserving and limiting our water usage. This is just a list of some of the things which we have decided to do to reduce the amount of water that goes to waste every day.
- Follow the rule "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down"
Using this method, we've reduced the number of times per day that we flush the toilet. Both of the toilets in our house are 1.6 gpf (gallons per flush), so we save approximately 6.4 gallons of water per day just by letting the yellow mellow.
- Save captured water from the dehumidifier.
I've done some research into safe use for water captured in this way, and there aren't a lot. Most sources I found say that water from this source in not potable and should not be used to water plants grown for food (I've read conflicting information on that last part, but we decided against taking the risk). One website suggested using captured water in the iron, but we had been capturing a full bucket every day or so (1.5 gallon capacity) and only refill the water in the iron about once a week. When we first got the dehumidifier we were dumping out the water because we didn't know what else to do with it. I finally came upon a solution. I turned off the water to the toilet in the bathroom that I use more and use the captured water to flush the toilet. This is easier than it sounds. When the water is turned off, the tank does not refill after flushing. Rather than keeping a bucket in the bathroom that the pets could get into, I've started pouring the captured water into the tank so that the toilet will flush normally. This move cuts in half our already-reduced waste water usage.
- Rain barrel to water plants.
We have not purchased our rain barrel yet, but this will be our next big purchase after we get paid. A rain barrel costs between $80-100, has a screen over the top to limit the debris in the barrel and a threaded spigot at the bottom for attaching a hose. This summer we hope to completely eliminate using water from the tap to water our plants.
- Shower water reclamation.
When Kat first told me about this idea I was skeptical but the idea has grown on me. Again, this is an idea which we've talked about but haven't yet begun. The idea is to put a bucket or other receptacle behind yourself in the shower. The bucket will catch water that would normally just run down the drain. Like the dehumidifier water, this is unsafe to drink or water plants, but it can be used to flush toilets as well.
- Toilet tank volume reduction.
Putting brick in the toilet tank reduces the volume of water used per flush. This effectively turns a normal toilet into a low-flow. I don't know the exact change in volume, but this is a way to reduce water consumption that is completely effortless.

With these changes, we hope to see a dramatic reduction in water usage in our household with a minimum of extra effort. These changes are all rather easy and only require a slight bit more work than doing nothing.

EDIT (by Kat)

After I read this post, I remembered something that we did when we were visiting my grandparents in Germany three years ago. The reason why I didn't remember it until now is...I hated doing it and swore that it was something I'd never do voluntarily. When visiting in Germany, my aunt informed me that they turned the water off in the middle of the shower: wet the body, turn water off, soap the body, turn water on--rinse, and finish. At the time, I rebelled against this simple rule as much as I could (after all, how could they tell me what to do)! Standing cold and soapy in the shower wasn't my idea of fun. However, especially with a rather warm spring upon us, I don't think that this will be too unpleasant to try. In fact, when I tried doing this today, I probably used a third of the water that I usually use during a shower!

Of course, reducing water consumption in these several ways has got me thinking about what else we could reduce use of or do without completely. We already don't use disposable facial tissues (and haven't for years), but could we do without paper towels? Napkins? All kinds of plastic bags?


Melia Erin Fritch said...

Awesome ideas - I've put a ban in my house on using plastic bags (in this case, ziploc-type bags)for lunches. Rather than using up all of those bags (even if you reuse them), we just use containers to carry our food in our lunch boxes. That way nothing gets thrown away.

However, David has not quite yet jumped on that bandwagon. LOL. One step at a time...

Piuvodku said...

I think that we are pretty conscientious in most of our usage. I'm glad we've been able to cut down on our water usage, and I'm really glad we've begun composting to reduce our garbage production.