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Monday, August 15, 2011

New idea for saving water in the Drought of 2011

This Summer has been unbearable.  Temperatures during the day have been well over 100 degrees, and they have been up to 109 degrees on several of those days.  Additionally, Austin hasn't received significant rainfall over the last several months.  Sure, we've gotten a drizzle or a 30 thunderstorm, but there's nothing that is barely wets the ground.  Instead of writing up a blog post about how the temperature and lack of rain has affect the produce supply and our personal gardens, here's a post about how to conserve water.  We can't change the temperatures outside.  We can't make it rain.  I've tried rain dancing, washing the car, and washing the dogs.  None of them have worked. But here's something you can do. 

I've been pretty conservative in how I use resources my entire life.  Be it cash, gas, food, electricity, or water, I'm pretty careful on how I use things that are scarce.  This is easy method is nothing new, and my parents have been doing this for several years.  Conservation and bargaining are somewhat of a sport in my family.  It usually takes a few minutes for water for the shower to get hot.  Do you know where that "not-hot-enough-for-a-shower" water is going?  Down the drain.  You're literally throwing away perfectly good water due to the temperature of the water.

Instead of throwing out the water, I have a simple bucket system set up to collect cool water that is run for while waiting for hot water.  The water can be used for a variety of things, but I use it for flushing the toilet. There are two methods of flushing the toilet. 

1. Remove the lid of the toilet tank.  Flush the toilet with the handle as normal.  Pour water into the tank quickly until it is full.  Replace lid on the toilet tank.  

2. Pour water slowly into the toilet bowl taking care to not make huge splashes for obvious reasons.  The toilet should flush normally. Pour more water into the bowl very slowly to refill it. 

Congrats!  You've just re-purposed some water that would have otherwise gone down the drain.  You can also use the water for watering your garden or washing the dog, but this is by far the most efficient repurposing. 

My system consists of a standard 5 gallon bucket and a 5 gallon TubtrugsTubtrugs can be purchased online, and I've seen them at the Natural Gardener in Austin, TX.  If I take a bath, in which the bathtub is full, I scoop water out of it with the buckets to use for flushing. 

You'll notice that there is a little water in the tub.  Sometimes water from the faucet doesn't always have fall directly into the bucket or tubtrug.  I use the flexible tubtrug to scoop up the water by flattening one side.  A drop of water saved is a drop of water earned.  The tubtrug was one of my Christmas gifts last year, and it is right up there next to the hori-hori and the tube wringer.  I love all three tools.

Repurposing this water only takes me about 20-40 seconds per use.  It isn't closely related to food, but water does affect our food. 


  1. When we lived in Las Vegas, I used to habitually save pre-temp water and water our plants with it. But while doing other activism I met a guy from the water department who said that was nice, but that reclamation from tap to drain is over 98%, and the real culprit was evaporation from pools, lawn watering, and other outdoor water usage.

    So totally do this but it'd make a much bigger dent in the problem if everyone stopped watering lawns, which then also use energy to mow. It's an ornamental, high-usage, zero-yield crop.

    And HOAs that require lawn upkeep in a drought need to be smacked and told they can't do that.

  2. I love this! I also agree that Austin should put more towards helping people xeriscape and get rid of all the water hungry lawns and plants.

  3. True. I don't water the lawn, and it is quite crunchy and dead. My garden is on a drip irrigation system.

    This method won't have a big effect on the water issue in Texas, but it is something small that we can do.