Becoming an Ultra-Waterwise Household

Have you ever calculated your daily water usage? Following is my estimated daily average water consumption in the various categories:

Drinking: 1 gal

Cooking: 0 – 1 gal

Washing dishes: 1 gal

Washing clothes (in a bucket): 1 – 2 gal

Washing body: 1 – 2 gal

Toilet flushing: 2 – 5 gal (the use of Earth’s precious supply of potable water to “do our business” always galls me, and I long for the widespread legalization of compost toilets! In the meantime, “If it’s yellow let it mellow” is a household phrase for many people I know.)

Watering fruit & veggie plants: 2 gal*

Total: 8 to 14 gal/day

The Riot for Austerity target is 10 gallons per person per day, which is 10% of the U.S. average of 100 gallons per person per day.

Outdoor water usage (watering lawns, washing cars etc) accounts for 30 to 60 percent of a household’s total water consumption. Other low-hanging fruit is showers and laundry. But you can reduce a huge chunk just by having a yard full of plants that are either native, or well-adapted to your local rainfall conditions.

Showers: I’m fortunate to live at the beach, and I generally keep clean just by going in the ocean regularly. (There are quite a few of us saltwater cleanliness aficionadoes!) But when I want a freshwater shower, I dump rainwater or wellwater on myself a cup at a time (in my outdoor “shower stall” made of vines and fence). It’s surprising how far a gallon or two can go. Very refreshing on a hot day, and surprisingly tolerable even on a cool day (this is Florida after all).

All sink water and laundry-water gets collected and poured in the yard, to water non-edible trees & shrubs. (I use mild soaps in very dilute form which the plants can tolerate.) Same with toothbrush rinse water.

What are some of your favorite tips for household water conservation? If 10 gallons a day doesn’t sound do-able, take it in pieces. And you really might be surprised how little you can get by with, once you start monitoring it and making a bit of a game of it. If nothing else, you can do it as a household disaster-preparedness activity. Acquiring extreme water conservation know-how is a great way not only to increase your household’s resilience, but also to become a resource for your community.

* In the Riot for Austerity community, a lot of people don’t count fruit & veggie plants in their water consumption total. The reasoning is that when we buy produce at the market, water consumption is part of the footprint of that food. When we grow food at home, water consumption is part of that food’s footprint.

Many Riot folks also don’t include rainwater or wellwater consumption (if applicable) in their total. I myself prefer to measure my use of these onsite sources and include them in my consumption total because I want to keep close track of how much water I’m using and how far I can stretch every drop!