The problem is, whether it's something on my end or some quirk of Facebook, that my connection is incredibly slow, and I'm too impatient and too busy to wait for it. As Deus Ex Machina says, "Facebook is a dog."
Today, there was a message posted to my Facebook Wall about water usage and water saving tips, but I can't answer on Facebook. It's just too frustratingly slow. As an alternative, I thought I'd put my thoughts here.
First, I don't know if our usage is really that low. Our last water bill was less than $40, and that represents three months worth of usage. When I was working on my book, I figured that our daily usage was about 54 gallons for our household. According to this website average usage is between 80 and 100 gallons per person, per day which seems like a lot. This website claims that the daily per person usage for Americans is between 525 liters and 600 liters (which is over 138 gallons), which seems really excessive (especially considering we use only 54 gallons/day for our whole family), and so I'm not sure I believe those numbers.
But if they are true, my family uses 10% of the average daily usage, which just doesn't seem likely to me.
So, what do we do? Nothing really unusual or extraordinary ... really.
- We practice the "if it's yellow let it mellow' principle ... and some members of my family don't ever flush toilet, regardless of the color or consistency of the deposit. This is probably the biggest water saver, because we don't have low flush toilets, and with four of us here most of the day, the toilets would get flushed a lot.
- I always do a full load of laundry, and only once a day, at most. I don't know if this saves any water, but I do know that one load of laundry in my top-load machine uses 40 gallons of water. So, I try to be conservative with the laundry.
- We have rain barrels for watering the gardens and giving our animals water, although we do use the hose to full up the duck pool during the summer.
- We wash dishes by hand, and now each of us has a special cup/plate/bowl, which reduces the amount of dishes overall which means less water is needed to clean them.
- Whenever possible, we share showers, which is my favorite tip (it's nice to have someone to wash my back ;).
- And then, silly stuff like, we don't leave the water running when we're brushing teeth and we make sure all of the leaks are fixed.
Nothing we do is particularly novel or original. It's stuff that everyone recommends, and I don't know that any of my examples are particularly helpful.
It might be helpful for me to explain why we started our water conservation efforts in the first place, and it has a lot less to do with reducing what comes into than house than it does reducing what goes out.
In January 2004, some brakish water backed up into the shower. We called the plumber and discovered that our leach field was failing. It was originally built to 1970s standards for a smaller house with fewer people. The original house was expanded from one bedroom to three and from an elderly couple to a growing family. At one time, we had seven people living in our house. The original septic system was never meant to handle the wastewater of seven people (two who were in cloth diapers) - a fact we did not discover until it was too late.
We had to have the entire septic system replaced, but it took several months to gather the proper permits, get the septic design for our non-conforming lot, and save the money for the project. In the meantime, we had to be very careful what we put into the tank - and VERY careful not to dumpt too much water down the drain at one time, because it drained into the leach field very slowly.
Through that experience, I've learned more about septic systems than I ever wanted to know (which is really the biggest reason I want to switch from toilet paper to cloth wipes and why I use a Diva cup and cloth napkins rather than disposables, and why we never dump coffee grounds down the drain, and why we're careful to scrap grease into the trash or give it to the chickens rather than dumping it down the drain). I also learned a lot about the average usage. Like it was the plumber who told me that the average washing machine uses 40 gallons of water.
When the new septic system was installed, a pumpstation had to be included, because of the lack of grade (the leach field couldn't be gravity fed). Essentially, we had two tanks, one that fills from the house and one that serves as an overflow. When the overflow tank is full, the electric pump kicks on the pump the excess water into the leach field. The pump using electricity, and in the interest of conserving electricity, we don't want to use the pump very often, and so we have continued to be aware of how much water goes out of the house.
The result is that less water coming in means less water going out.
In short, for us, it was not about saving money on what we were paying for water, because our water bill has never really been that high, but rather on saving the $10,000 septic system that we had to have installed.
That's it. I know ... not very helpful, but what might be helpful is to think from the opposite end from trying to limit what comes in to reducing what goes out, because the natural consequence of controlling what goes out is to reduce what comes in.
And that's true for a lot more than just water ;).