Water is, (or should be), a concern for all of us, especially those of us that live here in the desert southwest. Out of everything though I feel that this is still our area of weakness. We use way more than we should considering that we are desert dwellers, and the main reason for this is the use of water for our back yard.
Nearly all of our landscaping plants are low water use plants suitable for xeriscaping except for two of the trees, a few Bougainvillea bushes, the plants and pots around the patio, and of course the veggie garden. I used these free information booklets on xeriscaping, and low water use plants circulated by Phoenix Water Conservation Office when I first started planning the yard and I highly recommend them! Other cities in this area also provide these free of charge. What a great service. Many cities also provide classes about desert landscaping.
Our front yard is completely xeriscaped but of course we still have our ridiculous, scratty looking patch of grass at the back that we keep barely alive throughout the summer months and yet still uses half of our total water consumption during that time. I would be quite happy to completely xeriscape. We never sow any winter grass, we don’t even water it in the winter, and we don’t go outside much in the summer so I would love to get rid of it once and for all. For some reason my DH is not as eager to do this which causes many a heated discussion in our home. Having said all of that, we haven’t watered the grass for weeks now due to the rain we have been having and it actually looks better than usual. We won’t turn the irrigation back on now until spring and thus our water usage will reduce drastically which makes me feel better. In the winter I use very little water on the yard, most of the plants only require a small amount via drip irrigation every few weeks or so.
I am intrigued and interested by the concept of rainwater collection, but have yet to read Brad Lancaster’s book “Rainwater Harvesting for Dry lands And Beyond” even though I recently bought it. I seem to have so little time these days to read the things I really want to read. Rainwater barrels aren’t difficult to make and install, and The Phoenix Permaculture Guild offer regular classes about making and installing these. Of course I have yet to get to one of these either! Grey water systems can be complex to install although of course I would love to have one. That may be yet another thing to add to my green wish list, along with solar panels, and a new dishwasher.
I have learned a lot from this “Water Use It Wisely” list to reduce our overall water use, and we do many of these things. We now have low flow shower heads on all our showers, aerators on most of the faucets, and all of our toilets are low volume. I also did the food dye toilet test to see whether we have any leaky toilets and we don’t, for now at least.
I take short showers, well under 5 minutes long, often with the girls. I seldom take a bath, and when the girls do I make it very shallow.
I don’t use the dishwasher mainly because it doesn’t wash well and so we end up running it twice. I wash up the English way with a sink full of water and soap. R washes up with the faucet running which drives me crazy! I know I know, I should be grateful that he washes up at all right? I think my way saves water compared to using the dishwasher, but I am sure R's way does not. I have also read that many of the newer dishwashers use only a few gallons each time, but of course there are energy considerations with them as well.
I only use the washer when it is completely full which isn’t difficult in our house because I seem to be washing clothes a lot. I don't use the garbage disposal mainly because I think they are such strange things, and we compost our food waste anyway. Many other things on the list like sweeping our driveway instead of washing it down, using a bucket of water for washing the cars, and turning the faucet off when brushing teeth are things we have been doing for quite some.
I am generally very mindful of trying to save every drop of water these days, but having just re-read this post I realize it is really just a list of excuses of why we aren't doing better at conserving water! I also know that the backyard is still an area that can be improved upon greatly. Having said that, our water usage is still down 30% from last year. I do know though we can do a lot better still.