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Chicago Green

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Water Conservation Tips

Posted by Ron Wolford -

Despite a somewhat rainy spring and early summer, it is not uncommon for mid to late summer to be dry in northern Illinois. Often this time of year, some homeowners and local officials start to become more aware of the necessity to conserve water. Even with normal rainfall, conserving water is a good idea and can mean smaller water bills for homes serviced by a municipal water system. It can also help reduce electric use on private wells, as well as protecting well water levels.

"Many municipalities enforce water usage restrictions for outside uses in the summer", says John Church, University of Illinois Extension Educator, Natural Resources, Rockford. However, according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the average U.S. family uses the majority of their water inside the home, especially in the bathroom. Over 50% is often used in the bathroom. Over 30% of the average home water usage is toilet use and leakage, according to the AWWA.

Because such a large percentage of water use is in the bathroom, this is where starting water conservation efforts can really be beneficial. Install water-saving devices on faucets and showerheads. Take shorter showers. And when filling the tub, don't let water run down the drain while waiting for it to get hot. Place "toilet dams" or rock-filled containers in the tanks of older flush toilets. Don't use the toilet to flush away facial tissues, paper, and other similar solid and liquid wastes. Repair leaks in faucets and toilets.

Turning off the water while brushing teeth can save 5 to 10 gallons per day. Rinse hand razors in a filled sink rather than under running water. When shampooing, turn off the water while lathering hair.

To conserve water in the kitchen, don't let faucets run for washing or rinsing. Instead, fill a container with water or use the sink by plugging the drain. Wash all the vegetables for a meal at the same time. When washing anything, use a brush, washcloth, or your hand to dislodge particles of dirt rather than relying on the force of water to do the job. Run automatic dishwashers only with full loads. Whenever possible, don't use the garbage disposal. Compost vegetable peelings. Keep a bottle of water in the refrigerator rather than letting water run in the sink to get a cool drink.

Outside, it takes 660 gallons of water to supply 1,000 square feet of lawn with 1 inch of water. Water lawns only when necessary. Let bluegrass lawns go dormant during hot, dry periods. If watering, do so in the early morning to avoid evaporation losses and increased disease potential. Water the lawn deeply and infrequently, not every day. Follow all local watering restrictions. Sweep sidewalks and driveways, instead of washing them down with the hose.

In the garden, use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to apply water slowly and directly to the soil. Hand water rather than using sprinklers. Use pistol-grip nozzles on hoses and turn off the faucet tightly to prevent leakage. Avoid sprinklers that produce a fine mist that allow water to be lost by wind and evaporation. Reduce evaporation losses from gardens by using an organic mulch between rows. Collect and store water from roof gutters when possible to use for plant watering. Keep the stored water in closed containers to prevent mosquito-breeding sites from developing. For trees, use hose or container drip irrigation.

Do not wash cars when water is in short supply. If washing the car, use a bucket of soapy water to wash it, and then give it one quick rinse. Taking it to a car wash may save water because many commercial installations recycle the water.

Source: John Church, University of Illinois Extension Educator, Natural Resources

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