Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Re: No Time to Waste No Water to Waste

by Kristen Tucker
Kristen is the Director of Finance and Administration at Plant With Purpose. Read below for some great tips on how to save water! I live in an old condo that has a pretty poor hot water system. Not only is there a really limited supply of hot water, but it takes FOREVER for even luke-warm water to come out of my tap. A little more than two months ago, right before the level two alert came out, I decided to start conserving water that would otherwise go down the drain while waiting for my shower and sink water to get warm.
Here is what I do: I keep 2 buckets in my bathroom at all times (a small bathroom, mind you, but well worth the annoyance) and a small-size mixing bowl that fits underneath my bathroom sink faucet. Every time I take a shower, I stick the buckets underneath the faucet to collect the water until it turns hot. One bucket is usually sufficient for that. And every time I wash my face in the sink, I stick the mixing bowl underneath the faucet and then empty that into the larger buckets. It usually takes 2 buckets of water before the water is warm enough to my liking. I then use these buckets to water the vegetable plants in my (very tiny) backyard. The mere act of this has made me realize how much water I actually use--and that's with already being mindful of not wasting precious resources such as water. Now for a little math. Let’s say these buckets hold 3 gallons of water, so when I take a shower I’m conserving 3 gallons and when I wash my face I conserve 6 gallons. On average, in a 2 day period I will take 1 shower and wash my face 3 times. This equals 21 gallons of water that I save in a two day period! And that’s ONLY saving my bathroom waiting-for-the-water-to-get-hot water, so it doesn’t take into account the water that runs down the drain during my shower, water used to flushed the toilet, and water used to wash dishes.
My yard is pretty small. I have 3-5 veggie plants at a given time, 2 potted herbs, a lemon tree, and a lime tree. The rest of my yard consists of California Native Plants, which helps to cut down on water consumption. I also have a thick layer of bark mulch covering the plant beds, which helps to keep the soil moister for a greater length of time. So with this small amount of flora, I find that my 10 gallon per day average of conserved water is sufficient enough—so sufficient that I have probably watered my garden with a hose 3 times in the last 2 1/2 months since starting this conservation regiment! And sometimes, even, I find myself dumping a bucket of water into my toilet tank as I flush because my plants look like they’ve had enough water for the time being.
I do have to confess my initial motivation was to build up statistical ammunition to prove to my pesky HOA that they need to invest in buying new water heaters. (Side Note: If you are considering buying a place that is run by an HOA, please do your research and let the HOA’s reputation be a huge part of your buying decision. Ours is extremely annoying and if we could do it all over, we would not have bought there based merely upon this fact. Not that I’m not grateful for owning a place of my own and not being in danger of foreclosure...) Every few months my HOA posts threats of raising the HOA fee because of the increase in water prices. Yes, the complex’s astronomical water bill is affected by wasteful uses of water. But it’s also affected by pin hole leaks in our old-fashioned and shabby copper piping. And by our out-dated, half-working water heaters. In addition to pointing fingers at the tenants, the directors should also be pointing fingers at themselves for not upgrading to a more energy and cost efficient water heater system. With my water-saving experiment, I concluded that if my complex, made up of 46 units, invested in a new water heater system, we would save at a minimum 460 gallons of water every day. And that’s assuming there’s only 1 person living in each unit and that he or she takes only 1 shower and washes his/her face 3 times in 2 days. And that’s only calculating water saved from showers and face washes. Think of how much more water is wasted considering the fact that the vast majority of the units house more than one individual. And think of how much money and water would be saved a month if they were to invest in new water heaters.
To bring this point home, if you live in a complex, you may have a better water heater and piping system that pumps out hot water quicker than the complex I live in. And, if you live in a complex, you probably don’t have a yard so you have less plants to water. You can still use your buckets to help flush toilets. On the flip side, if you live in a house you almost most definitely have a better water system (heater-wise, at least). And almost definitely have more flora to water than I do, which might require you to use your hose more frequently than I do. But if you calculate it out, I’ll bet your water bill will decrease none the less. With that said, I challenge you all to try water saving techniques. (And, if you are a numbers geek like me, figure out statistics that are specific to your situation.) It is quite an eye-opening experience—not only will you be amazed at how much you conserve, but also you will feel proud that you are doing your part in the world. And you just might surprise your friends and family at how much of a green thumb you really are. It’s truly a small act (taking maybe an extra 5 minutes a day) that has such great impact: on your plants, on your pocketbook, on our great state of California (not to mention those states we are buying water from), and on our planet.

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