As you resolve to be greener in 2014, make your mind up to conserve more water.
You probably know this already with recent wildfires and restrictions, but many parts of the U.S. are in a drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows just how extreme conditions have gotten in California and other parts of the Southwest. A few pockets of the Eastern Plains, Northeast and Southeast are also abnormally dry.
As patterns change and the need for water around the world picks up, resolve to try a few water conservation practices in 2014 inside and outside your home:
1. Consider xeriscaping, but remember that there’s no “zero” in xeriscaping. If you use evaporative cooling and surround your home with nothing but gravel, you’ll eventually cancel your water savings because your house will likely warm up in the summer. Add additional electricity for cooling whether you use evaporative or refrigerated air. Learn more about zones and xeriscaping strategies before ripping all living things from your yard.
2. Install an instant water heater near your kitchen sink. These little water heaters boost the temperature of the water near the faucet so you don’t waste gallons waiting for the water to get hot enough to wash your hands or a few dishes.
3. Well and mulch landscape plants. This is especially important if the water you apply to plants in your yard runs off. Well around plants that require the most watering and add some mulch to hold in moisture and control temperature. You should be able to cut back on watering amounts.
4. Rinse vegetables in a clean sink or pan of clean water. If you have more than a few to rinse off, you’ll save water over running the faucet while you rinse one, pick up another, you know the drill…
5. Stop washing your car in the driveway. Either wash it on a section of lawn that needs watering or choose one of the commercial car washes in town that recycles water.
6. Run sprinklers in the morning to lose less to evaporation and override automatic sprinklers on windy or wet days.
7. Dropped an ice cube on the floor while mixing that evening cocktail? Instead of throwing it in the sink, drop it in a house or hanging plant.
8. Use your kitchen timer, or better yet, your smartphone clock, to remind you to turn off water on trees and other plants. A garden hose can pour out at least 600 gallons of water in a few hours.
9. Place a bucket in your shower to catch excess water for plants. Two cautions: First, no tripping on the bucket! Second, make sure any soaps or shampoos are diluted before dumping the gray water on your plants.
10. Start a compost pile this year. The organic matter makes plants healthier and helps hold water. And you can throw some of your kitchen scraps into the compost pile instead of down the water-sucking garbage disposal!