I began saving water late in January 2009 to see how much water I could save by doing simple things like saving laundry rinse water and collecting my morning shower water while it warmed up. I also started saving rainwater in my five-gallon buckets. The results are in.

Some observations about my experiment:

  1. My biggest water savings came in two ways: a few large savings and many small savings. My largest source (44%) was from daily collection of about 1 gallon of shower water while the water warmed up. My second largest source (33%) was from laundry rinse water, collected five gallons at a time with a bucket in my laundry tub. So, it’s important to note that small savings do add up, and that it doesn’t require large “chunks” of water to save.
  2. None of this required sophisticated equipment. It simply required paying attention to my water waste and capturing some of it.
  3. I could have saved much more water if I had used special equipment, specifically a greywater capture system or a rainwater catchment system. As noted in an earlier post, California has now made this possible to do legally and simply. I’m considering putting in a simple greywater system to capture my laundry waste water. This would supply much of my irrigation needs. If I needed additional water, a more sophisticated system would capture my shower water runoff and far surpass my needs. I’m also considering putting in a rainwater catchment system, to capture fresh water runoff. Because I don’t have a lawn, any one of these approaches would provide me with a substantial part of my irrigation water needs. In fact, capturing my shower grey water would provide all my irrigation water needs. However, the simpler way to meet my irrigation needs would be a combined laundry greywater and rainwater catchment system.
  4. Based on my last six bi-monthly water bills, my saved water was about 2% of my total water usage for the year. This isn’t huge, but would have been a much higher percentage if I had increased saved water (the numerator)and reduced total usage (the denominator)by any of the above methods. Two percent also isn’t bad given that my water usage is already low. At an average of 55 gallons per day, I’m already below the 100 gallon per day usage level that triggers volume-sensitive rates. This is easy for me, since my household only has 1.5 people (a former roommate does his laundry here) and many families have 3 or more people.

The main point here is that saving water is not difficult. In the future, as water becomes more scarce due to global warming, increased population and, in the worst case, infrastructure collapse, we will all need to know how to use–and perhaps obtain–water more efficiently.

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