In honor of our first water bill (an astounding $130.00 for 14,000 gallons of water) I’ve decided I will be devoting a lot of my attention to water conservation through the end of this year. Call it an early New Year’s Resolution, if you will, but I hope that the methods for conservation I implement this next few months will carry on for years to come. And now I’ll mention the point that most of that 14K gallons of water running through our house was caused by a broken toilet handle in the place we just began renting and neglected to fix.

In the shower: Take shorter showers. Pretty simple, right? If you really seem to have trouble managing your time in the shower, pick up an egg timer and limit your showers to 5 minutes. A five minute shower with a standard shower head consumes around 20 gallons of water. You can go a step further and replace the head to a low-flow model which will use only 7-8 gallons of water in 5 minutes.

In the toilet: Remember and actually use the old adage, ‘When it’s yellow, let it mellow. When it’s brown, flush it down.’ Obviously, you must throw your toilet paper in the trash to keep from clogging the toilet and don’t be afraid to flush after you’ve peed 5 or 6 times because the smell will get a little overwhelming. You can also place a brick (enclosed in a ziploc bag) in your toilet tank to trick your toilet into thinking the tank is full. Most toilets don’t need to use as much water as the tank will allow. Just make sure to place the brick carefully so it won’t interfere with the flushing mechanism.

In the kitchen: Never let the faucet run continuously while washing dishes. Try to fill a sink with hot soapy water and soak dishes to remove particles before scrubbing. If you don’t have many dishes to wash, fill one of the dirty (but relatively clean) bowls or cups to be washed with a bit of soapy water and use this to dip your sponge in to wash dishes. Also, try rinsing your dishes at a lower water pressure.

In the yard: If you need to water your lawn make sure you are using your sprinklers when they will be most effective. Although most sprinkler systems are programmed to water grass twice a day, try to get by with watering it just once, and an hour before the sun rises is usually the best time to do it. In the middle of the day, the water evaporates too quickly for the grass to soak up and in the middle of the night the water can attract fungus and mold!

These are just some basic steps to help cut your water consumption and there are plenty of other things you can do to help out. Just google ‘water conservation’ to find an array of options. I’ve even tried going a step further than some of the practices I’ve outlined here. For instance, I took a couple of gallon-sized water containers and cut the tops off to put in the shower below my feet to catch some of the run-off. These water containers sit in the shower until I need to flush the toilet and when I’m ready, I remove the toilet tank lid, pull down on the flusher, wait until the valve at the bottom has closed and then pour my saved water into the tank. I’m trying to collect more suitable and long-lasting containers to keep outside to collect rain water for the same purpose.

Anyway, it’s nice to think we’re helping out by not wasting so much precious water. I’m also sure my bank account won’t mind a smaller bill.