I starting writing this awesome post on all the water conservation efforts I’ve made this month, and how it’s really made a difference. On Friday, Earth Day, I realized that the old toilet in the spare bath didn’t have a milk jug in the tank, which is a great way to cut down on the amount of water the toilet uses to flush. Well, I have an empty milk jug, and it’s Earth Day, let’s pop that sucker in there and conserve some water.
I give you the text I sent Will an hour after executing my little plan:
I gently lifted the float about a centimetre to place the milk jug in the tank, and it snapped off in my hand. Water started gushing into the tank. In order to keep the tank from overflowing, I propped open the flusher, so the toilet continually flushed for at least five minutes while I wrestled with the shut off valve. I whacked it with the hammer a couple of time, then threw all my might behind those damn pliers until the stupid thing started to turn. Of course, my hammering and grunting and swearing woke Liam up from his nap, but thankfully, I got the water to the toilet shut off without breaking the tap.
We then went into the city and headed to Rona, where I told a salesclerk, “I broke my toilet,” and he showed me what to buy. Got it all replaced, and the milk jug in the tank, after Liam went to bed that night. Happy freaking Earth Day.
Anyway . . . back to the original story of the post . . . although the property has two wells, neither one is functional at the moment, nor were they ever hooked up to the new house on the property. The previous owner was British, and didn’t like using the water for his tea! (I don’t blame him; I have a feeling it’s going to be very mineral-y. Ugh).
We’re trying to get one of the wells in good shape; we’ve shocked it and cleaned it, but it still tested positive for total coliform. If at first the potability test doesn’t succeed, try, try again. In the meantime, we have to haul our household water. The cistern is in the basement and holds 2500 gallons. We’ve found that we easily use 2500 gallons a month (!), and 2500 gallons a month is a $130 water bill. When we lived in the city, our water bill was $50 per month. Ouch.
I put the call out on Facebook for my friends’ fave water conservation tips. We already do most of the standard stuff, like using a low-flow shower head and using rain barrels to water the garden, but I needed some hardcore ideas. One of my friends didn’t have running water until she was eight years old, so her mother had to haul all the water they used. She became a pro at conserving water and using every drop efficiently. Some of the tips below are hers; some are mine that I’ve picked up along the way.
- Have a foaming soap dispenser at every sink. That way, you don’t have to turn the tap on to lather the soap. Just turn it on when you’re ready to rinse.
- Shorter showers or reduce the number of showers. I shower every three days now, which is approximately two showers a week. Since one eight-minute shower uses 17 gallons (65 litres) of water, this means my showers only use 34 gallons (130 litres) per week, instead of 119 (452 litres).
- Batch wash dishes. I used to do dishes three or four times a day to keep the counter clean. Now I do dishes once a day in the morning, and let them pile up until the next day. This way, I’m only pouring one sink full of water a day. If for some reason, I have to do more than one sink full of dishes, I try to time it so that I can use the dishwater for something else, like wiping down the cupboards or mopping the floor.
- Fill a cup with water and use it to brush your teeth and rinse your mouth/toothbrush.
- If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down. I also let it mellow if it’s baby poop. We use cloth diapers, and Liam poops three to five times a day (I know!). Cloth diapers do use a lot of water since they have to be laundered every other day, but I still feel like they’re the better choice over disposable. I always wash a full load, and line dry them, plus I got all my diapers used, so even though they use more water than disposables to manufacture, I figure it’s essentially cut in half if you buy them used – spread the environmental footprint out a bit.
- If you live in the country, use an outhouse. I wouldn’t use it all year round (-40C and heading out to the outhouse to pee doesn’t sound like much fun), but I don’t see why we couldn’t have one to use in the spring, summer and fall. There’s an old one sitting in the yard. Might be time to dig a new hole. The two thing that bother me about outhouses are the smell and the flies. Perhaps I need to do a little research, and I’ve heard that if you keep if super clean, both problems go away.
- Bathe the baby every other day, and save at least one of his bathtubs full of water. I don’t always use soap and shampoo on his tender skin, so once or twice a week, I bail out the water from one of those soapless baths into a big bucket. This water is then used to water my plants and seedlings, to clean (like cleaning the bathroom), to soak stained laundry, or even to flush the toilet (pour it in the bowl, not the tank).
- I’m currently trying to think up a way of rigging up the sink and toilet so that grey water from the bathroom sink gets diverted into the toilet tank and is then used to flush the toilet. I found a gadget that does it on the Internet, but it doesn’t seem to be for sale anymore. If anyone out there has a brilliant idea on how to do this, let me know. I’ve also seen the toilet tank sinks, but I think it would be kind of awkward to have to straddle the toilet to wash your hands.
And of course, the best tip of all, DON’T BREAK YOUR FUCKING TOILET TRYING TO CONSERVE WATER.
If you have any other tips/tricks for conserving water or information on old wells and how to get them back into shape, please leave a comment!