I am cultivating habits and adding equipment so that, in case of water shortages, we will be prepared. Water prices continue to increase, so conserving water saves money as well.
Rain barrels: We have four rain barrels set up outside our house. They are made by Jack’s Composters in Vermont, where they make these rain barrels as well as composters from 45 to 55 gallon food-grade barrels. We place the rain barrels on the receiving end of gutters and downspouts that channel the rain run-off from our roof. A roof area of only 1,000 square feet can collect 600 gallons of water from a one-inch rainfall. We use this water for the garden, but we could also use it to flush our toilet.
Conserving water in the garden: Mulch helps keep the soil around the plant roots moist by restricting evaporation. Ground covers also serve this purpose. When we had a garden at my parents’ place in Deerfield in sandy soil, we used efficient drip irrigation hoses, which keep the moisture in the root zone where it is needed. Another way to maximize the ability of garden soil to retain and drain moisture is to add organic matter to your soil. Between the compost we add yearly, the mulches and now the “chop and drop” method of mulching, we are slowly improving our soil.
Conserving water in the house:
* Laundry: our front-loading clothes washer uses far less water than our old top-loading Maytag.
* Toilet: We have water-conserving toilets but we still let pee mellow and do not flush every time. I keep a bucket of water next to the toilet to replace some of the flush water in the tank and bowl. I fill this bucket mostly from the two-plus gallons of water that the dehumidifier pulls daily from the air of our damp basement. I hope to own a composting toilet someday.
* Washing dishes: We wash by hand, turning off the water after each dish is rinsed. It is a habit, so we don’t even think about it. To conserve even more, we could fill a second dish pan with water for rinsing. When I am waiting for the water to heat up to fill the dish pan, I let it run into a plastic pitcher and use that water to flush the toilet.
Drinking water : A few years ago I acquired a Berkey water filter system, which I use for drinking water, even though the tap water in our town is high quality. I prefer not to smell and taste the chlorine that is added to our town water. And if there were an interruption of water service, I think that this filtration system and other purification methods (like boiling or solar oven purification) would keep thirst at bay for a while. We experienced no loss of water during the five-day electrical outage just before Halloween in 2011, but people with wells and electric pumps were not so fortunate.
Western Mass Ready, the emergency preparedness site for our area, recommends that a 72-hour emergency kit contain one gallon of water per person or animal per day.
Pure, fresh water is a precious resource that is essential to life and health. Whether or not there is a current shortage of water where we live, I believe we need to use it mindfully and with gratitude.
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