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Water is a precious resource that is adversely affected by many wasteful practices. Just because you live in an area with abundant water, doesn’t mean that you can squander it.  We don’t know what climate changes will bring.  Act on the side of caution, and develop an ultra-conservative approach to water. It’s not difficult.  


And a quick word to those who have access to well water and think that you can use as much as you like because it is free, no you can’t.  Wells tap into underground aquifers and excessive use can lower the water table, which affects us all. It is just plain irresponsible to waste water, regardless of its source.


  1. Use low-flow faucets, shower-heads, and toilets

  2. Have your plumber re-route your gray water to trees and gardens rather than letting it run into the sewer line. Check with your city codes, and if it isn't allowed in your area, start a movement to get that changed.

  3. Re-use rinse water for house, patio and deck plants.

  4. Use less water in the shower: get wet, soap up and then turn the water on to rinse off

  5. Share your shower.  In South Africa during a drought, there was this competition to see who could come up with the best water saving tip, and the winner was “bathe with a friend”.  A few years later, the UK suffered a drought – it didn’t rain for three weeks – and they had a similar contest. One very daring woman suggested: “Shower with your husband”.  Well, you can’t believe the uproar it caused – shocking, immoral, decadent. All the while the South Africans were happily bathing with their friends without showing significant moral decline.

  6. Bathe young kids together

  7. If you are committed to baths, use the water on your houseplants or garden

  8. Don’t pre-wash dishes going into the dishwasher

  9. Don’t rinse under running water: fill a second sink or large container and rinse in that

  10. Clean your teeth using only half a cup of water: half-fill you tooth mug, dip your toothbrush in it, clean your teeth, spit directly into the outlet, rinse with two small mouthfuls of water, rinse your brush in the remaining water and pour it down the outlet.

  11. Do only full loads of laundry, or use the appropriate water level for the size of your load.

  12. Consider instant water heaters in each bathroom to avoid running the water while it heats up.

  13. Only wash towels after several uses. In hotels, opt to reuse towels and sheets.

  14. Check for and fix leaky faucets and pipes both indoors and out.

  15. Flush sparingly.  My brother got married in drought stricken South Africa with severe water restrictions, which taxed the ingenuity of his future mother-in-law. She brought in a number of porta-potties and each indoor toilet had a neatly lettered sign saying “If it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down” If you must flush tissues down the toilet, throw them in and wait until you need to flush.  Even 1.6 gallons is too much for one tissue, which could, of course, go into the compost instead.

  16. Use a commercial car wash, especially one that recycles water.

  17. Rethink your gardening practices in ways that will conserve water.  For example:

  1. Set up a rain barrel

  2. Replace lawn with shrubs, ground cover, gravel or permeable paving

  3. Top-dress the lawn with fine compost

  4. Aerate the lawn to increase water absorption

  5. Cut grass to not less than 3”, leaving the trimmings to form a mulch

  6. Water when the air is cool to reduce evaporation

  7. Water only when necessary, that is when soil is dry 2” below the surface, or when plants look thirsty.  More plants are killed by overwatering than under-watering. (Garden centers take note)

  8. Use drip irrigation instead of sprinklers. The bags from boxed wine can be filled with water (cut off the end, fill, and then, fold over and secure with a clip.  I tried to fill via the tap; it’s not easy!) and placed under a vegetable plant with the tap barely open. Not only will you have a steady source of water, but also the bag will heat the ground.

  9. Use a watering can instead of a hose

  10. Use a hose nozzle

  11. Water deeply and less frequently to encourage root development, which leads to greater drought resistance

  12. Replace at least some exotic hybrids with native plants which can survive without additional water

  13. Mulch heavily wherever possible.

  14. Improve the soil in areas where rainwater runs off.

  15. If you have a problem with run-off, consider planting a rain garden (

  16. Turn your swimming pool into a sunken garden


Instead invest in a water filter

and drink water from the tap. 


And watch The Story of Bottled Water ( for an excellent explanation of where the bottled water mania came from.  Quite apart from the problems with the containers, you don’t know where the water comes from, whether the source is pure, or whether the source is being strained; think about how much energy is being used transporting the water, first to the bottling plant, and then to market; studies have found that bottled water loses out to tap water in taste tests over and over again; and the quality of bottled water is not necessarily as good as that which comes out of your tap (remember tap water has been treated at great expense and is considerably more regulated than the water that goes into bottles).  Last but not least, it is expensive, up to 1000 times what water out of your tap costs. 


I would much rather drink local water than

enrich the Pepsi-Cola Corporation. 

Or Nestlé.

Reduce water consumption

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