How dry I am, how wet I’ll be …

California’s drought isn’t a secret. It’s been up in lights on freeway billboards. Water agencies have tucked pleas to cut back into envelopes with bills. Sun and grass

There’s no rain in sight. Some people looking ahead to winter are even predicting a “dry El Niño,” whatever that means. If ever there were a time to put your water to work, it’s now.

I started just before the pleas and billboards. I wanted to see how much fortitude it would take and how much water could be saved.

Warning: I’ve done some things that are normal and a few that are patently weird, but they all add up to water savings – a lot.

California has run ahead of lots of other states in household water conservation. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average shower head sends out 2.5 gallons per minute, but we’ve had 1.5-gallon shower heads available here for a long time. Newer toilets, the EPA says, use less than 1.5 gallons per flush, compared with older toilets at 3.5 to 7 gallons.

The real telling, though, is in a calculator that tabulates water use. Save Our Water, a California program, offers one that takes into account all sorts of ways we use water – even washing the car. According to the calculator, I now use far less water than the average Californian.

The biggest single savings comes from the shower stall. Here’s how:

  • I replaced the shower head with a short recreational-vehicle water hose and an ordinary multi-pattern garden nozzle. Hand-held shower heads emit a small stream as long as the water is turned on, but the garden nozzle doesn’t. To get wet, I dial the nozzle to “mist;” for the final rinse, it’s “shower.”
  • I placed a large mortar-mixing tub in the bottom of the stall to catch the shower water. The tub, sold at a big-box home-improvement store, fits my shower perfectly, though your mileage may vary. When I’m done, I scoop out the water with a cup into a 5-gallon bucket.
  • All scrubbed up and ready for the world, I take the bucket outside and water flowers and shrubs with the shower water. To keep from killing the plants, I shower only with sodium lauryl sulfate-free shampoo and soaps. The chemical, a foaming agent, disagrees with salt-abhorrent greenery. Using products without it helps me to rinse off faster, using less water. I also avoid using any oils in the shower.

So far, my all-time-record shower is about 2 gallons. Granted, it wasn’t the luxurious, relaxing shower of old, but there’s a different, longer-lasting satisfaction in a water-saving shower that does double duty.

How weird is it? I cautiously told a trusted friend what I was doing. She perked right up and said her husband began collecting shower water last year to irrigate their backyard garden, which is rich with fruits and vegetables. He carries it outside in cat-litter jugs. That’s a great idea, and if it’s weird – well, at least there are two of us.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. brookesbox
    Jun 12, 2014 @ 03:15:49

    We have rigged up our orchard so that all of our laundry, shower and kitchen water goes straight to the trees. It was a fair bit of digging and laying of pipes but there is hardly any water that goes to waste. Our house is outside of the mains water grid so we have 2 very very large cement tanks that collect our rain water for the house and other tanks that collect rain from the garage or other buildings for the garden or whatever we want.


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