By Pete Alfano
First, here are the facts of life as they pertain to water and Texas. The state averages just over 27 inches of precipitation a year, with half that amount in West Texas and almost double the average in East Texas. North Texas gets about 34 inches of precipitation annually, and Houston gets around 45 inches of rain yearly. So, why is this important? Well, the population of Texas was about 4.8 million in 1921, and today it is 29.5 million and counting. And guess what? Mother Nature hasn’t allocated additional rainfall to account for the population explosion.
This makes water conservation imperative, especially when Texas is prone to periodic droughts. There are numerous steps we can take that might not seem like much but, cumulatively, can result in saving and better utilizing hundreds of thousands of gallons of water.
For starters, consider investing in a rain barrel. They can hold from 50 to 100 gallons of water collected from the gutter and downspout, which is cut to a height above the rain barrel. The rain barrel itself has a spigot that enables you to attach a hose so you can use the rainwater to irrigate the garden and even wash your car.
Speaking of which, how often have you seen a neighbor’s sprinklers running the morning after a major rainstorm? Raise your hand if you have also been guilty of this wasteful act. If you want to avoid manually monitoring your irrigation system, purchase rain sensors. These devices are attached to the sprinkler system and detect when there has been enough rain to prevent your sprinkler system controller from starting. There are different types of sensors, and all are excellent ways of saving water and lowering your water bill as well.
Before you get that bucket, soap, and garden hose ready to wash your car, consider going to the car wash. Yes, it is a more expensive way of keeping your car clean, but many car washes use recycled water, which is better than using fresh water. If cost is an issue, you can keep it down by getting only the exterior washed and cleaning the car’s interior yourself.
There are dozens of water conservation measures you can do inside the home. For example, purchase low-flow showerheads and low-flow toilets for the bathrooms. Check your toilet and faucets for leaks. And while you are at it, do not pour money down the drain by using water more than you have to. Reduce time spent in the shower, and don’t run the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving.
In the kitchen, install an aerator on your faucet to reduce the flow of water. In fact, put aerators on all your faucets. If you have a dishwasher, fill it before you run it. It is estimated that you can save up to 5,000 gallons of water a year compared to washing dishes by hand. Fill a pan with water and wash fruit and vegetables instead of putting them under running water.
Follow the same principle when using the washing machine. Wait until you have a full load and use the “quick wash” cycle whenever possible. Your clothes will still come out clean. And use cold water to wash because it saves water as well.
Acting on even some of these suggestions to conserve water will benefit the environment and slow that water meter spinning in the front of your house.
Five More Water Conservation Tips
With the demand for water in Texas increasing, and the cost rising, here are some additional tips to consider:
- Check your irrigation system to make sure your sprinklers are all working properly and that none of them is watering the sidewalk or driveway instead of the lawn.
- Pools can lose as much as 80 gallons a day in the summer heat because of evaporation. Invest in a pool cover to reduce evaporation.
- Insulate water pipes, which means you won’t have to waste gallons of water waiting for the water to get hot.
- Plant drought-resistant plants and trees and surround them with mulch to reduce evaporation and the demand for water. And water your lawn less but more deeply so that moisture reaches the roots —also, water in the early morning or evening.
- Reduce the number of times you run the kitchen garbage disposal unit, as it requires as much as five gallons of water each time. And use cold water.