Here in Arizona, nearly the entire state is in a moderate to extreme drought. Nearly all of the western United States is in severe to exceptional drought conditions. I’m waiting for “bone dry” to show up as the next, newest stage beyond “exceptional”. Whether you live in one of these areas or one with ample rain, we can always benefit from using what we need rather than all that is available to access. The smallest changes to save water at home and at work can have exponential effects over time.
Take Shorter Showers
I like an occasional long hot shower as much as anyone and I’m not saying you need to completely let those go. But, reducing our average shower time can make a huge difference in your water consumption. The average shower lasts about eight minutes. Since the average showerhead has a water flow of 2.1 gallons per minute, each eight-minute shower uses more than 16 gallons of water! By shortening your shower time to five minutes, you can save six gallons of water. By trying different shower products like bar soap or leave-in conditioner, you could reduce your shower time even more. Shortening your shower time to three minutes (totally possible) will save ten gallons! That’s enough to water your garden or enough water for you to drink for an entire month.
If you’re not sure how long you typically take a shower, time it. Set a stopwatch for the moment you turn on the faucet until you turn it off. We’re all so habitual with our shower routines, it’s likely a good picture of a typical shower time.
Save Your “Warm-up Water”
Speaking of how much water we use for our showers, there’s a lot that doesn’t even go on our body. If you have a garden or indoor plants, you could be putting some of it to good use. Unless you have a super-efficient hot water heater with hot water on-demand, you usually have to wait for your water to heat up. By putting a bucket under your faucet, you can collect the water to use for your plants. This is also technically not “grey” water since it’s not going down the drain. It’s just coming straight from the faucet. It’s essentially like you’re choosing to fill up your watering can while you’re showering. Talk about multi-tasking efficiency!
If you happen to have a rain barrel, you can even empty these buckets into there. Just be sure to remove the bucket before you hop in the shower so it doesn’t catch any soap or splash-back.
Turn Shower Off While Soaping Up
Let’s stay in the shower realm for a little while longer to talk about how much you DON’T use while you’re in there. Now that we know how much water is used each minute you’re in the shower (about 2.1 gallons per minute if you’re not using a WaterSense shower head), you can figure out how much you use while soaping up. If you live in a warm climate like Arizona, it’s not too uncomfortable to turn your shower off while soaping up. Warmer areas also tend to be more drought-prone, emphasizing the need to save water at home. This technique works best when you have a single-handle shower faucet. That way, you don’t have to readjust the temperature when you turn it back on.
I find that turning off the shower to soap up or shampoo makes it easier to wash up more thoroughly. You’re not fighting with the showerhead immediately rinsing you off. Whether you use bar soap or body wash, you don’t need to “resuds” as many times. This means you might even save soap, too!
Install Low-flow Sink Aerators
While the majority of our water use in Arizona is used outside, the amount we use indoors is still significant. Between washing our hands, brushing our teeth and hand-washing dishes, a lot of that indoor water use is right at our sinks. Many faucets have 1.5-2.2 gallons per minute (GPM) aerators but you can easily change these to save water at home. This is an unbelievably inexpensive and easy change to make!
This low flow 1 GPM sink aerator comes in a two-pack so you can save water in two bathrooms or a double sink in one. Switching to a 1 GPM aerator won’t make much of a visible difference to you but will reduce your water use significantly over time. If you’re wanting to make an even more significant change, switch to a .5 GPM aerator. I’ve done this in our most frequently-used guest bathroom. This is also the bathroom my son uses the most and, being 7 years old, he’s not always the best at turning off the water while he brushes or washes up. He never even noticed I made the change. The .5 GPM aerator is similar to what you might find at a national or state park bathroom where it’s more of a spray than a stream.
Use Leave-in Conditioner
Now I understand that this might not work for everyone, depending on your hair type. But for those of us with curly, coarse or thicker hair, leave-in conditioner works perfectly. The way this helps you save water at home is by removing the entire step in the shower where you apply yet another product to your hair and rinse it off. This might take you an extra minute, wasting another two gallons of water each time in the process. I seriously cringe when I see these ads for multi-layered hair products to apply in the shower! Using products like those assume we can take a leisurely ten minutes in the shower, potentially using over TWENTY gallons of water.
A leave-in conditioner like Alaffia’s curl-enhancing or curl-activating type, nourishes, detangles and moisturizes your hair without pouring it all down the drain. You’ll even likely use less product, saving you money in the long run. Alaffia also does a lot to help support a healthy ecosystem and social justice. So, you can help make a difference on multiple levels.
Shifting Our Water Use Mindset
With news of dwindling water supplies, wildfires and contaminated drinking water, we can no longer ignore the need for change. TIt begins with us deciding to take an active part in providing an abundant, healthy future for ourselves and the next generation. From reducing our waste to reducing our water use, individual action is needed. Water is literally life and we are dependent on it more than anything else from our food to our recreation. By trying one or more of these suggestions, we can together assure a more equitable, secure future.