Sunday, March 15, 2009

Water Conservation Tips & Update

Since I last posted on this, we’ve been refining our techniques for saving water around the house, so I decided to provide an update to my previous post entitled Low-Tech Grey Water. Since then, Sue took the initiative to ask for a free water audit to see if we could get any better ideas. The water audit is offered free of charge by our local water district, as well as the San Jose Water Company. It’s totally voluntary. They conduct a house call to review your water usage, inspect your fixtures, and suggest ways for you to reduce your consumption. We got some good information from this. Turns out, the water expert was surprised to see our dishpan-&-bucket technique that I described in my grey water post. He had never seen that before. He told us the water company could not recommend such a technique officially, but encouraged us to do so on our blog. He thought it may not work very well for older toilets. Our upstairs toilet was identified as a 1.6 gallon flush. I had not realized it was that efficient. Therefore my previous estimations of how much water we’re actually saving were overestimated, but only because we were wasting less than I had thought. Our downstairs toilet is the original unit from when the house was built almost 30 years ago and is a 4.0 gallon flush. We have quit using it for now, and plan to replace it, but the bucket flush technique does work on that one too. We never pour water into the tank, only into the bowl. Gravity does the rest. As suggested by the water guy, I made a quick video of my wife Sue demonstrating this technique. We also got a free inspection. We have no leaks, drips, or errors. All of our fixtures are in good shape, efficient, and low flow. Except that old toilet, but we knew that. I would recommend the free a water audit for all households, especially in California where we have an official water emergency which will probably drive up the price of fresh produce nationwide.

Another change we adopted since that last post is that we now save 2 different types of water. We save grey water for flushing the toilet. But grey water could include soapy residue. I recently discovered that I could save about 5 gallons of grey water by showering with the drain stopped. I then bail the soapy bath water out with the dishpan. But that water could be harmful for plants. As would be any collected grey water that contains soapy residue. It’s ok for the garden water to have some compostable particles, but not chemicals like those present in soap. I will next look for some inexpensive biodegradable soap, but in the meantime, we use a different bucket colored orange for “garden water” along with the white buckets for “grey water”. All this bailing is a lot of extra effort, but we both agree it’s worth it. We are doing everything we can to support water conservation, and energy conservation, in the home. And we encourage others to do the same. This saves some money too. Click on the play button on the image below to check out the video. Notice how Sue pours more water into the bowl after the flush to prevent water from filling back from the tank.

Click here for the Santa Clara Valley Water district home page
Click here for the San Jose Water Company home page

1 comment:

BeWaterWise Rep said...

Water Conservation in Southern California is very important. Fresh water reserve levels for Southern California have dropped significantly over the last few years. If you go to, you’ll see how far our water reserve levels have gone down. They have a gauge on the site that looks like the fuel gauge in your car, but with three-color zones: Blue – good, Yellow - not good, and Red – bad. The needle on this gauge is dropping out of the blue zone and heading into the yellow zone which means Mandatory Conservation. Here you can read about all changes we can make to save water. These include little things we can do everyday like fixing a leaky sprinkler,watering our lawns only two days a week, etc. The water shortage is not going to improve unless Southern Californians collectively change their actions. You can also visit this page to see how much our water reserve levels have dipped steadily since July 2006: