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Treading Lightly -- water


Kim_in_IN

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I'm back. Water, water, water. The average American uses 100 gallons of water a day. That is a lot of water. In a world that is experiencing more drought conditions it seems wise to learn to live on less. We use about 30% of the American average for our family size and animals. We are also putting in place water collection systems to provide the majority of that water.

 

Step One: Read the meter. Same procedure as with electric. Write the number down, note what you did that day, begin noticing how you use water.

 

Step Two: Set a limit. Our goal is to get to 10 gallons per person per day, and another 10 gallons for all the animals per day. We know we can build a system to handle that much water.

 

Step Three: Take steps to reduce water wastage. These are generally the "low-hanging fruit." Some examples would be:

1. Take a 5 minute shower.

2. Use a bucket and collect the water than comes out of the tap while you're waiting for the hot water. We use that water for flushing the toilet.

3. "If it's yellow let it mellow; if it's brown flush it down." We practice this method. We empty 1 gallon of water into the toilet bowl (or the tank on top) for each flush. Brown goes down immediately, yellow goes down at lunch time, dinner time, and bedtime.

 

Step 4: Become even more proactive.

1. Use a primitive gray water system. We undid the drains under each sink and installed a bucket marked in gallons. We use this water for flushing now and save the clean water for dishes, laundry, and dogs!

2. Take a military shower (run the water, turn the water, run the water, turn the water off . . .)

 

Step 5: Tougher measures

1. Collect rain water and use it for laundry, dishes, cleaning,. and general washing up. (If you have a traditional American roof you probably cannot drink the water. Something to do with asphalt, zinc, and mold inhibitors.) This water doesn't have to be stored in food grade containers. You wouldn't be using it for consumption.

2. Dig a storm water cistern. We dug a huge hole in a low spot of the back yard. It collects the storm run-off from our front yard. We have a small water pump that could be placed in the cistern and used for fire control. The cistern holds 7500 gallons. We also use it to irrigate the garden in droughty conditions.

3. Install metal roofs on outbuildings (and house?) and collect the rain water in food grade containers. This can be used for animal and human consumption. Just divert the first 20 gallons or so to clean the roof.

4. Install a permanent gray water system. If built correctly the water could be used in the garden,, the orchard, or diverted into a swale when completed. Black water belongs in the septic or sewer!

Game Plan for the Kitchen:

Doing the Dishes:

We fill a dish tub 1/3 full of warm water and add less than 1 tsp of Sals Suds (Dr. Bronner’s). I place the flatware in the bottom of the tub to soak. While they soak I use a cotton cloth to wash all the glasses. They get placed in a second dish tub. Now the flatware gets washed and placed in the other tub. One by one I place the plates and bowls in the first tub. I rinse the glasses over the second tub and put them in the drainer. Now the flatware just needs to be “swooshed” around in the left over rinse water. Back to the first tub. I wash, then swoosh through the second tub and place in the drainer. Now, I dump the rinse water into the wash water and add all the pots and pans (the tub is now 2/3 full). While these are soaking I put the first dishes away. They usually dry pretty quickly. Now more washing, rinsing/swooshing, and draining. This whole procedure uses 1 dish tub full of water (about one and a half gallons) of warm water.

 

Sprucing up the Kitchen: After the dishes are all washed and the pots are draining, I use the soapy wash cloth and wash the table and chairs, counter tops, and refrigerator door. Now I finish putting the dishes away and put the drainer under the counter. Lastly I wipe down the sink. I love a clean kitchen.

 

Conclusion: So over all, I use a tablespoon of Sal’s Suds and 6 gallons of water to keep the dishes and kitchen clean. Nice, simple, easy and chemical free.

 

**Next Up: Health and Hygiene**

 

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One of the simplest and most labor and water saving methods I ever used was to install gutters on the barn at my last homestead and run the rain water into large stock tanks. Most of the water for the critters came from stored rain water.

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If you have an old-fashioned toilet, it takes 5 gallons to flush it.

I catch rainwater for animals and 1/2 the laundry. I seem to only need 1/3 of the laundry soap since I started doing that... softer water, I guess. It is also used to replace evaporated hottub water. (350 gallons of stored water - why not use it? heh, heh)

 

I have a question. You don't use the rainwater for drinking because it's not sanitary enough, but you do use it to wash your dishes? Or did I read incorrectly?

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Cowgirl,

We do that with our barn roof too. It saves a lot of water. Even our rabbit and chicken pens have water collection buckets under the roof.

 

Hi Leah,

 

It isn't that the water isn't sanitary enough for drinking. The water off our shingle roof could be contaminated with zinc and mold inhibitors. I haven't found any solid science showing how long those chemicals stay on the shingles, so I don't drink it "just in case." We do use it for laundry and washing up. So far -- no problems. One of our long term goals is to re-roof with metal, plumb the water collection tanks into the house, and be off-grid for water.

 

Kim

 

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