water conservation tips

My DIY water conservation tips


I recently came home to the Bay Area in California for some Mommy and me time. California is experiencing a pretty rough drought this summer and people have been advised to conserve water. The government, along with PG&E has asked all households to reduce their water consumption by 20% or pay a penalty. This is to incentivize otherwise reluctant people and motivate them to be conscious of their water usage. (A good idea, in my opinion).

I’m going to be here all summer and I started incorporating a few ways to cut down on water consumption. I thought I’d lay them all out here for you to try out or think about, and hopefully add on to or improve.

I feel like these are methods that can be incorporated no matter where I live, even in places that are fortunate enough to have a lot of water. Being conscious and mindful of how I use essential resources makes me feel more in tune with nature and instills a deeper sense of gratitude in my life. It certainly helps that these methods not only decrease my water consumption, but they also end up reducing my water bill significantly!


My DIY Water Conservation Tips: 


I first realized that one of the things my mother and I do in the kitchen very often is to wash fruits and vegetables and rinse dried beans and lentils. We also rinse our hands as we’re cooking or cleaning in the kitchen. The water used to do this flows straight down the drain and for the most part, it is clean water that could potentially be reused. I decided to try and catch this water and save it for other uses:

Initially I placed a large bowl directly in the sink to catch the water as and when we would turn the tap on or off for simple rinsing purposes. But very quickly, the bowl would fill up and I had to find somewhere to empty it so that it could refill during the day. At the end of the day, we had collected a very large bucketful of water. Such a large amount was difficult to move around or even use, so I thought of another strategy.

I filled up the same large bowl with water and throughout the day, my mother and I use this water to wash our produce and rinse our hands. It works really well. We are able to conserve so much water during the day and really only have to replace the water in the bowl a couple times. As soon as the water becomes murky or a bit too dirty, we transfer it into a small bucket to use later, and refill the large bowl. Our home kitchen has ample counter space so keeping this bowl beside the sink is very handy.

As the days went by, I realized that you can also save the water you use to cook vegetables, pasta, rice, lentils, anything that does not contain spices! We now save this water too by placing a large bowl underneath the colander as we strain whatever we have cooked.

I bet you’re imagining a kitchen slowly filling up with buckets and bowls of used water everywhere, but that is not at all the case! We have managed to find ways to use all this collected water and practically never turn our taps on in the kitchen. (Obvious exceptions are for drinking water and cooking water.) I turned it into a bit of a game. In the morning, after I have washed some produce and fruit to prepare our green smoothies and lunch salad, I use the collected water to water plants outside in our garden and in the house.

The most helpful way I’ve found to use this water is to rinse dishes. Our dishwasher has a water-saving setting and so we load it up as full as possible. Dishwashers like ours require dishes to be rinsed, at least to not have any food particles stuck hard to them. To do this, I’ve been using the once-used water. Sometimes there isn’t much used water and it gets very dirty and even greasy, but I still use it to rinse dishes since they will be washed properly in the dishwasher. If you don’t mind getting your hands a bit dirty, this is an excellent way to avoid using any excess water if you run your dishwasher. I love not needing to turn the taps on to rinse dishes before loading up the dishwasher. I know I’m saving a lot of water!



Similarly, I have implemented a few ways to save water in the bathroom. I have begun taking very quick showers: the fastest I can be in and out is three minutes! I suppose it can be odd to describe what I do in the shower, but in doing so, if I can inspire even one person to try a new technique or think about shortening their shower, then I feel that the general weirdness is worth it.

So here’s what I do: I get in, rinse my body and my hair and switch the water off. I then shampoo my hair, cleanse my face, and lather up my body. I use a loofah to exfoliate all over, taking my time, since there is no water running. When I’m all finished, I rinse my entire body as quick as I can and switch off the water. My mother and I recently installed the water-saving showerheads distributed *free* by PG&E. They use 1.5 gallons (5.67 Litres) per minute and this is written clearly on the showerhead so you can see it as you shower, a solid reminder of how much water you use as the minutes tick by!

If you’re worried you won’t be able to break your regular shower cycle, I know of a more drastic approach. I use it often in India and other places where water is very scarce. Get a large bucket; fill it with the perfect temperature water you need. Get a smaller cup, jug or mug and use it to splash and pour water on yourself. Then proceed as usual. The bucket will prevent you from using too much water. Depending on the size of your bucket and whether or not you are washing your hair, you can limit your water use by a lot. I like to employ this method sometimes and then treat myself with a slightly longer shower once a week, like on a weekend.

Now onto the more delicate topic of the toilet. At our home, we are very comfortable around each other and not in the least bit squeamish about bodily functions, why should we be when they happen to everyone? Nobody is exempt from needing to pee and poo, not I, not you. So we have implemented the ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow… if it’s brown, flush it down’ method. This, as the cheesy rhyme suggests, means that we only flush the toilet when we poo. If it’s just pee, we let it hang out, shutting the lid of the toilet. We are fortunate to have very airy bathrooms and have not noticed any smells to discourage this practice. I will admit, it took a bit of convincing to get my Mom on board but once she looked up how much water is used each time you flush, (13.52 Litres or 3.5 gallons!) it was easier to get her to stop flushing each time. Just by doing this we are saving so much water, it’s fantastic. And the only real downside is the need to clean our toilets a bit more frequently. No big deal.

I hope you found this useful! Do leave comments or questions below and I’d be thrilled to reply!

This blog was written by Aparna Sethuraman, a bright, youthful and wise member of the Living Rhea team. Follow her journey here, and on instagram @parnaperse. 

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