Thursday, July 12, 2012

Conserving Water in a Drought

We Canadians don't think about water very much. Despite the fact that we use incredible amounts of water to groom, clean and wash, most of us don't give it a second thought. We have natural sources of water all around us, and the technology needed to purify this water for our consumption. Unless you're a farmer or live on a well, you likely consume water as though it were an infinite resource.

Currently, however, we have entered Level 2 drought conditions. Which basically means, water is NOT abundant in our region. Our city has received 19.6mm of rain since June 8th, which is barely 20% of the normal level.

The recommendations for a Level 2 drought (which will be confirmed this Friday), is that residents voluntarily reduce water consumption. By-law officials won't be patrolling your neighbourhoods to hand out tickets, but they're hoping that you will restrict water usage out of the goodness of your heart.

Do you know what a Level 3 drought means? It indicates the failure of the water supply to meet the demand, resulting in progressively more severe and widespread socioeconomic effects.

"Resulting in more severe and widespread socioeconomic effects" - does this mean we're already experiencing some severe widespread socioeconomic effects? If so, I have a hard time accepting voluntary restrictions on water usage. How about plans to prevent the Level 3 by putting some clear rules in place? Naw, clearly this is not what our society is about - we like to wait until disaster has struck before we jump to action.

As an environmentalist, I find this rather frustrating, so I wanted to share how our family plans on voluntarily reducing water consumption (note: we do a lot of these already, drought or no drought):

1) Brushing Teeth: water should NOT be running while you're brushing your teeth. What are you using it for? Here's an idea - fill a small cup with water. Dip your toothbrush in it, put your toothpaste on, and merrily go about your business. Rinse your toothbrush in the cup, and then use the same water to rinse your mouth out. It's all your own germs in there anyway, so what are you worried about?

2) If it's brown, flush it down. If it's yellow, let it mellow. Our family practices this almost all of the time. Does it mean I clean the toilets more often? You bet! But I don't see the necessity of flushing a pee, when I'm just going to need to go again in 1-2 hours (I am pregnant, after all!) If the idea of this really bothers you neat freaks out there, just put the toilet seat down - you won't notice a thing!

3) Lawns are stupid. I wish we didn't have a lawn. It's a western invention that highlights our unhealthy need to control nature. We demand bright green, weed-free lawns, at the expense of our ecosystems. When I take a walk in the evening, it's all I can do to not scream stop watering your damned lawns!!! to my sweet old neighbours. I realize it's a cultural/generational thing, and they probably don't even realize what they're doing. But our generation? We DO know what we're doing, and watering our lawn is wasteful. If you must water something, make sure it's the vegetables and fruit that are growing in your gardens! Our food clearly takes priority over manicured grass.

4) Laundry - ah, laundry. The bane of all parents' existence. During this drought, we are committed to washing only very soiled laundry. If I don't see a visible stain, it's going back in the drawer (underwear being the exception). If you wear some nice deodorant, there's no need for you to wash a shirt that's only been worn once.

5) Dishes - this is where I get stumped. Clearly, we have to wash dishes. We own a dishwasher, and we'll stack that with all of our breakables. Pots, pans and any plastic gets washed in the sink. Is it better to hand wash all dishes, or do dishwashers actually save water? Maybe you can help me out here.

6) Showers/baths - again, most of us have an unhealthy attitude towards bathing. We believe it must be done every single day, and it's incredible how long some people will stand in the shower. When we re-did the bathroom last year, we purchased a small claw foot bathtub. I bathe every 2-3 days, and fill this up about half way. My husband showers downstairs, and he's out in under 5 minutes. Showers and baths are a GREAT place to start reducing water consumption.

So what are your tips for conserving water? Could you try any of the above?


  1. ***(SHELLY)***

    The dishes you do by hand, do them in a big salade bowl in the sink, then toss the soapy water in your rain barrel, take a bucket with you in the shower, toss that in the rain barrel, if you have a kiddy pool, instead of emptying it all the time, take a sieve and scoop out the bugs and floaty things, add a capful of bleach before bed, clean water for the kids in the morning.

    Oh and dishwasher is more friendly depending on the age of it and the amount of dishes (if you're like me and load it to capacity)

    1. Oh also, I keep a bucket outside my door, for emptying, pasta water, veggy water etc. to put in my rain barrels.

    2. Oh something else I've been doing in case it gets really bad, as in water main breaks, is every time I empty a juice or pop bottle, i wash it really well (saving the wash water for the barrels) and filling it with clean tap water and storing it

    3. WOW Shelly, you are super dedicated! I love it!!

  2. I heard on cityline or the news...can't remember where exactly that dishwashers save water so better to run a full dw than handwash dishes.

  3. Go Shelly! Go Shelly Go! I have to agree with you, Misty. Shelly is absolutely so dedicated with your blog post. I wish I do have the same spirit as her. For me, I always see to it that I do conserve water and I make sure that I don't waste a single drop!


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