When running water to wait for it to warm up, collect it and use for other purposes like watering plants
While waiting for the water from the tap warm up for your shower or to wash dishes, as much as 1 – 2 gallons of clean, potable, usable water rushes down the drain. Put that water to good use around the house! Catch the flow in a bucket or pitcher, and use it to water houseplants or an outside garden, or add soap and use it for mopping. You can even use it to flush the toilet!
Photo credits: Gosheshe, Flickr; Austin Kirk, Flickr
Runoff from rainstorms can overwhelm existing storm drains and washes pollutants into waterways. The increase in paved surfaces decreases the ability of the land to absorb rainwater before it becomes runoff. You can help make a difference in managing runoff and improving water quality by installing a rain garden on your property.
From Pennsylvania Resources Council web site:
"Rain Gardens are shallow, planted depressions that absorb runoff from impervious surfaces and allow it to infiltrate into the soil. Rain gardens are designed to have a “bowl shape” or “dip” that retains rain water as it waits to be absorbed into the soil.
Rain Gardens are planted with deep rooted, native plants. Native plants are beautiful, hardy, and once established require less maintenance than a conventional lawn. Native plants provide food and shelter for a host of native birds, butterflies and beneficial insects.
Rain Gardens reduce the initial rush of water that enters a stream during rain storms by capturing and absorbing runoff from yards, roofs, and paved surfaces. Rain gardens can absorb 30% more water than a traditional lawn. Properly designed rain gardens drain in 24 – 48 hours, can filter many common pollutants found in runoff, and help to recharge the ground water supply."*
Commercial car washes are a greener option than washing in your driveway because they treat and recycle waste water.
Using a commercial car wash uses less water and prevents toxic runoff produced when washing your car at home in your driveway. An Earth Talk article on ThoughtCo.com points out that all the gasoline and oil that you wash off your car ends up in streams and rivers where ecosystems are impacted by the influx of these toxins. Commercial car wash facilities, on the other hand, send their wastewater to water treatment centers before being released back into water systems. In addition, "commercial car washes use computer controlled systems and high-pressure nozzles and pumps that minimize water usage. Many also recycle and re-use the rinse water."* Therefore, the total amount of water used is much lower per car than washing at home.
They also make suggestions for how to wash your car at home but reduce the toxic runoff. They suggest that "you can make your own biodegradable car wash by mixing one cup of liquid dishwashing detergent and 3/4 cup of powdered laundry detergent (each should be chlorine- and phosphate-free and non-petroleum-based) with three gallons of water. This concentrate can then be used sparingly with water over exterior car surfaces."* However, even with this formula, they state that it is best "to avoid the driveway and instead wash your car on your lawn or over dirt so that the toxic wastewater can be absorbed and neutralized in soil instead of flowing directly into storm drains or open water bodies."*
*Talk, Earth. "A Guide to Eco-Friendly Car Washing." ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020, thoughtco.com/eco-friendly-car-washing-1203931
Photo by Michael, Flickr Commons
The latest recommendation is to spend at least 20 seconds scrubbing when you wash your hands. Greenmatters.com author Carly Sitzer points out that a lot of clean water rushes down the drain during those 20 seconds. She reports that "on average, leaving the water running for the full 20 seconds while scrubbing, you may be wasting about a quarter of a gallon (0.2 - 0.3 gallons on average) each time you wash your hands."* Multiply that times the 10 or so times per day that you wash your hands, and that adds up to a lot of water. To reduce water waste, turn off the faucet while you are scrubbing your hands. She also suggests installing a water aerator on faucets with a high flow rate, such as in the kitchen.
*Carly Sitzer, April 1, 2020. Shutting Off the Faucet While Washing Your Hands Could Save Gallons of Water Daily. https://www.greenmatters.com/p/water-conservation-hand-washing
Photos by Susan O'Donnell
What to flush? Not tissues, pills, wipes of any kind, dental floss, contact lenses, tampons, condoms, cotton swabs, paper towels, or kitty litter. Waste management facilities can only handle human waste and toilet paper.
For more details, see this article in the New York Times:
Christina Caron, August 25, 2018, "Should I Flush It? Most Often, the Answer Is No", New York Times
Stay hydrated the sustainable way - by drinking tap water.
Most bottled water is actually just tap water from somewhere else and may actually be subject to less strict quality control than the water from your tap at home. Because water is heavy, transporting it uses up lots of fossil fuels. Serving tap instead of bottled water is the sustainable choice.
According to a 2017 article in The National, “Researchers have concluded that satisfying the annual global demand for bottled water consumes the energy equivalent of about 160 million barrels of oil – up to 2,000 times the energy required to produce the equivalent volume of tap water.”
Save water by watering your garden in the morning or evening to reduce evaporation.
If you water your garden in the morning or evening, when it’s cooler, you reduce the chance of the water evaporating before being absorbed by the soil and plant roots.
For more details, see this article on gardeningknowhow.com.
Save up to four gallons of water by turning off the faucet while brushing teeth.
Colgate’s #EveryDropCounts campaign (Colgate.com/everydropcounts) points out that:
The US EPA describes how little of the water on Earth is actually available for drinking. Of all the water on Earth, "less than 1 percent is available for human use. The rest is either salt water found in oceans, fresh water frozen in the polar ice caps, or too inaccessible for practical usage. While population and demand on freshwater resources are increasing, supply will always remain constant. And although it's true that the water cycle continuously returns water to Earth, it is not always returned to the same place, or in the same quantity and quality."
The EPA goes on to describe how overuse of fresh water affects the environment: "Less water going down the drain means more water available in the lakes, rivers and streams that we use for recreation and wildlife uses to survive. Using water more efficiently helps maintain supplies at safe levels, protecting human health and the environment."
Scooping up dog poop is good manners and good for our local watersheds..
The Philadelphia Water Department Office of Watersheds’ 2006 Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater Management sums it up this way: “When animal waste is left on the ground, rainwater or melting snow washes the pet waste into our storm drains or directly into our local creeks.
The disease-causing bacteria found in pet waste eventually flows from our local waterways into the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, our drinking water source. In addition to contaminating waterways with disease-carrying bacteria, animal waste acts like a fertilizer in the water, just as it does on land. This promotes excessive aquatic plant growth that can choke waterways and promote algae blooms, robbing the water of vital oxygen.”
Dog poo can be flushed down the toilet, to be processed in the sewage treatment system, disposed of in the trash, or buried in your yard. Never dispose of animal waste in storm drains!
Always recycle used motor oil.
Many auto supply stores, car care centers, and gas stations accept used oil.
“Vehicle maintenance” is the first chapter in the Philadelphia Water Department
Office of Watersheds’ 2006 Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater Management.
That’s because a single quart of oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water
(NDRC, 1994), and it’s estimated that each year over 180 million gallons of used
oil is disposed of improperly (Alameda CCWP, 1992).
Check your car or truck for drips and oil leaks regularly, and fix them promptly. In
case of a leak, or if you’re doing engine work, use a ground cloth or drip pan
under your vehicle. Never pour motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid or other
engine fluids into road gutters, down the storm drain or catch basin, onto the
ground, or into a ditch.