As I am trying to sleep, somewhere in the house I hear water running. And it bugs me. It always has. Perhaps it was my childhood of growing up rural on a well system. During the dry summers, the entire family would have to go into conservation mode. I learned early about the “Navy” shower; get in, get wet regardless of water temperature, turn off water, soap up, quick rinse and go. I also learned not to leave the water running while brushing my teeth, and the more contentious practice of “if it’s yellow…” you know the rest.
These things prepared me well for my brief expatriate days on arid Caribbean islands. I adapted easily to the idea that you can’t drink from the tap, flush every time, or enjoy a long shower. In fact, we were only allowed one, ice-cold Navy shower a week. Thank goodness we spent a lot of time in the ocean.
This is not, however, the common experience for an American suburbanite. So, I spend a lot of time listening to the water running and thinking of ways to resolve my worries.
For my husband who has the tap going full every morning to get hot water for shaving and shower, there is the Instant Hot Water Circulator. It purports to save 16,000 gallons per year by eliminating the wait. Costs are around $200.00 plus install.
For my own shower dilemma, I just keep the tap on lightly, and have resorted to washing myself and my child both at once. There are trade offs here. Thanks to a few toys, an extra person and small confines, my once cherished Mommy Time is now about as relaxing as a game of dodge ball. And that’s on the nights I am not trying to shave, too.
I am not sure how much this saves in time or water, but it does take an extra toll on sanity. A gray water recycling system might be better. This could be as low-tech rigged as a garden hose through the bathroom window (probably not going to fly with the spouse) or up to $30,000 for the top-of-the-line. Such a system could save up to 50 percent of water use in a year.
For our household’s hotly controversial “Flush, No Flush” debate, we could compromise with a double-flush toilet. Depending on your current type of toilet, this could save 2,500 to 15,000 gallons per year. And a lot of arguments, except over the purchase price of about $500.00 each. Besides, we still have the “Pre-wash, No Pre-wash” dishwasher debate to settle.
On the blessed rainy days, I hear the sump pump cranking. And I think, hey, we should really be using rain barrels to catch that run-off for watering the lawn. I priced these out at the lawn and garden store, about $179.99 each.
Finally, for my child who is just getting the hang of the tooth-brushing, water-running thing, she bears probably the hardest cost — Mommy nagging.
[This post was written by Beth Bader.]