This is the time of year when high temperatures and reduced rainfall begin to make some parts of the country abnormally dry. That’s the first level of drought.
Some parts of the country, especially California, have experienced drought for so long that they have reached the fifth and most serious level: exceptional drought.
Maybe some day, someone will invent a way to move water from flooded parts of the country to drought-stricken parts of the country. Meanwhile, we all have to get in the habit of conserving water. If you’re flooded now, there’s no reason to suppose you won’t have a drought next year.
It’s really deplorable how we have let our infrastructure deteriorate. Unsafe bridges get a lot of news coverage, but old and antiquated water mains are leaking constantly. They only make the news when one of them ruptures and causes a spectacular mess.
That’s something to think about when you vote or communicate with elected officials. In fact, that’s something to think about to make sure that your own priorities and willingness to pay taxes are sustainable.
But this is not a political blog. It’s intended to be practical and encouraging. So I thought I’d pass on some water conservation tips. You’ve probably read some of them before, but I hope that at least some of these will be new to you.
- Study your water bill every month. Not only will you know how much you’re using, but if you notice a spike in usage that you can’t explain, you’ll know to find and repair leaks.
- Check faucets, pipes, toilets, etc. for leaks without waiting for the water bill and get them repaired as soon as possible.
- Don’t rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Just scrape them or soak them. (A dishwasher uses water more efficiently than hand washing, but you can hand wash more efficiently by rinsing in a tub of water instead of under running water.)
- Save the water you used to cook vegetables in the refrigerator for the next time you make soup.
- Use a commercial car wash instead of washing your car yourself. They recycle water.
- Use low-flow showerheads and make sure the faucets on all your sinks have aerators. If the ones you have can fill a one-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, replace them.
- Turn off the water while you brush your teeth or shave. You have to rinse your toothbrush under running water, but a little bit of water in the sink works just fine for a razor.
- Make a compost pile. Compost all of your vegetable waste instead of using the garbage disposal. You can get a crock to keep in your kitchen that will hold the waste (without stinking up the kitchen) until it’s convenient to take it outside. That’s also a good way to get rid of used paper towels and napkins, hair, dryer lint, and other organic material.
- Replace some of your grass with ground covers or shrubbery that needs less water. And if your grass looks a little brown this time if year, it’s not dead (unless you have a serious drought problem). It’s just dormant. It will be green when the rain returns.
- If you must use a sprinkler, use it in the early morning or late afternoon. Don’t use it on a windy day; most of the water will blow away or evaporate.
- Used water is called gray water. Reuse whatever doesn’t automatically go down the drain for watering plants, either in the house or in the garden. That tub of water for soaking or rinsing dishes is great. So is old fish tank water, the water you soak your feet in, etc.
- Untreated rainwater is also considered gray water. Capture it in a rain barrel or two.
By the way, from time to time I read about people in some western states not being allowed to collect water in a rain barrel — usually in rants about socialism.
In fact, there are two very different doctrines of water rights, “riparian” rights, used in most of the country, and “appropriation” rights, a doctrine established in many western states long before socialism existed. You need to know which set of laws you live under.