Welcome to August – the month of more water usage than any other month of the year in the United States. It’s time we identify methods to keep ourplants happy and green and still reduce our appetites for the ubiquitous clearliquid.
On average, an American household uses about 260 gallons per day, but this amount climbs to around 1,000 gallons per day during peak water use season with some households using as much as 3,000 gallons a day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
But we can all do more to reduce our water consumption. According to EPA’s WaterSense Program, homeowners can save as much as $110 a year just by following a few tips and making a few changes.
August tends to mean hot, dry weather leading to more yard watering just to keep our plants alive and our neighbors from wondering why we stopped caring for our yards. To save money on your water bills set sprinklers to water your plants only early in the morning or at dusk. Watering in the middle of the day when it is hottest means more of the water will evaporate before being absorbed by vegetation. Purchase a rain gauge and water only one inch of supplemental water in the absence of rain. Your rain gauge will tell you how much water will be needed if your area received rain. Also before watering plants, press your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle and see if it is moist. If the soil is dry and your finger comes out clean, the plant needs water.
If your grass needs water, set up sprinklers in the early morning hours or in the evening and attach timers to them. Nothing wastes more water than forgetting about your sprinkler for hours. Timers are available at most hardware stores and can be as simple as an egg timer mechanism or as technologically advanced as a digital interface. Prices vary so check out reviews online so you can make the most informed decision before purchasing.
Install rain barrels around your home at the ends of gutter downspouts. These barrels will hold rain water for you until your plats are ready to use it. I installed one this summer on our new home and we have barely used our hose at all for our vegetable garden and household plants. Purchase or make a rain barrel which has a spout as close to the bottom as possible. Make sure the barrel has a screen on the top to reduce the number of bugs which can enter the water. To keep any larvae from germinating, add mosquito dunks to the water – they are non-toxic and will not hurt your plants. If the water in the barrel begins to smell at all, do not worry. Add a capful or two of bleach to the water and let it sit for a day before you use it again. Rain barrels offer free water and help reduce runoff in your neighborhood. Some municipalities offer financial help with purchasing these inexpensive barrels and some have tax rebates. Make sure to check with your municipality to see what they offer.
Outdoors isn’t the only place you can save a little water, though. Keep a pitcher of water in your refrigerator so that you always have cold water on hand and you do not have to run the tap water until it is cold. Wash only full loads of laundry and dishes, and scrape dishes instead of rinsing when loading the dishwasher. Lastly, put your favorite handyperson to work fixing leaks around the home, which can waste about 200 gallons per week. Fixing leaks can add up to about $50 in utility bill savings annually.
Renovating or planning to upgrade your kitchen or bath? Look for EPA’s WaterSense label on toilets, faucets and faucet accessories which have helped Americans save more than 9.3 billion gallons of water and realize more than $55 million in savings on water and sewer bills in just 2008. That is enough water to supply 100,000 average households for a year.