The reservoirs in the Brazos River basin are all full, or at least mostly full, thanks to the bountiful rainfall in Texas, but predictions of drier weather returning offer an important reminder than even though water supplies may seem plentiful in Texas today, we mustn’t abandon the water conservation practices we learned when the reservoirs were low.
There are simple things people can make part of their daily routine that can help ensure that water isn’t wasted. As we saw from the scorching drought of 2011 through years of lower precipitation, plentiful water is a blessing, but it isn’t something that can be taken for granted.
With Texas population expected to grow over the next several decades, water conservation isn’t just something that is recommended, it’s essential.
Although the entire state benefits from water conservation, individuals and families see a direct benefit as well. One immediate impact of water conservation is a lower water bill, and conservation helps to keep those bills lower over the long haul.
Here are some things you can do to help save water:
- Check faucets and pipes for leaks. Even a small drip from a faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons. Not only is the water wasted, the customer ends up paying for water than isn’t used.
- Don’t put trash items down the toilet. Whenever you flush those items, about 5 to 7 gallons of water are used. Plus, the extra items can overload municipal sewer systems, which can lead to even higher utility bills.
- Check your water meter for leaks. You can do this by reading your house’s water meter before and after a two-hour period during which no water is used. If the meter does not read the same, there is probably a leak.
- Install water saving showerheads and low-flow faucet aerators. These are easy to install and the water savings adds up to a significant amount. Keep in mind that long showers can mean that between 5 and 10 extra gallons of water are used for every extra minute. Low-flow faucets use less than 2.5 gallons of water per minute.
- Check your toilet for leaks. One quick and easy way to do this is to put a small amount of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color appears in the bowl within 30 minutes, it could mean a leak that needs to be immediately repaired. Many replacement parts are inexpensive and easy to install.
- Put plastic bottles of a float booster in the tank of your toilet. Fill two plastic bottles with an inch or two of sand or pebbles and seal them before placing them in the tank away from operating mechanisms. Another option is to buy an inexpensive float boaster. Doing these can save 10 or more gallons of water each day. Be sure that there’s at least 3 gallons of water left in the tank so that the toilet will flush properly.
- If you need a new toilet, purchase a low-flow model which uses 1 to 2 gallons per flush instead of 3 to 5 gallons. Doing this can result in a 70 percent savings in water flushed and a 30 percent reduction of indoor water use.
- Insulate water pipes with pre-slit foam. This will allow you to get hot water faster, which can reduce the amount of time the water is running.
- Turn the water off when brushing your teeth.
- Rinse you razor in the sink instead of while water is continually running.
- Use your dishwasher or washing machine only for full loads.
- Minimize the use of kitchen sink garbage disposals. These require additional water to operate properly. This can also help you to avoid clogging your sink. Meat items should be disposed of in the trash, while fruit and vegetable items can be put in a compost bin kept outside.
- When washing dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running continuously. If you have a double sink, you can fill one side with soapy water for washing and the other side for rinsing dishes. If you have a single basin sink, gather the washed dishes in a dish rack and rinse them either with a spray device or in a pan of hot water.
- Plant drought-resistant lawns, shrubs and plants. You can research information online or check with local nurseries to see which plants thrive in your area and need less water. Native plants use less water and are more resistant to disease. You can also place plants on slopes of your yard to help retain water and reduce runoff, and group plants together according to their watering needs.
- Place a layer of mulch around trees and plants. This will slow the evaporation process and discourage weed growth. By adding 2 to 4 inches of organic material such as compost or bark mulch, you help the soil retain moisture.
- Adjust your water sprinkler so that water only lands on the lawn or garden, and not on paved areas. Water either at night or early in the morning to reduce evaporation, and avoid watering on windy days.
- Don’t over-water your lawn. One method to help determine if your lawn needs watering is to step on the grass. If it springs back up when you move, it doesn’t need additional water. If it stays flat, it is ready to be watered. Letting grass grow taller (to 3 inches) helps promote water retention in the soil. Most lawns need about 1 inch of water per week. During dry spells, if you stop watering, the lawn will go brown and dormant. When cooler weather arrives, the morning dew and rainfall will help revive the lawn. Following this pattern may mean a brown lawn in the summer, but a significant amount of water is saved.
- When watering your yard, do so for longer periods (but less often) so the water will soak down to the roots of plants. If you water more often but for less time, this light sprinkling allows the water to evaporate more quickly and leads to shallow root systems. One way to measure your watering is to put an empty tuna can on your lawn. When the can is filled with water, this indicates you have watered the right amount.
- You can target areas where additional water is needed by using a soaker hose or a drip irrigation system. Make sure to avoid over-watering, however, because that can actually reduce plant health and cause leaves to become yellow.
- If you wash your car at home, use a pail of soapy water rather than allowing a hose to continue running. This can save up to 150 gallons of water per car wash.
- Use a broom and not a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks.
- Check outdoor pipes, hoses, faucets and couplings for leaks, which lead to significant water loss.
Using these simple water saving methods can make a big difference for your family, while also helping save water for future use.