The International Arid Lands Consortium Offers Water Conservation Tips
For immediate release:
Contact: Jim P.M. Chamie
Managing Director, IALC
As we enter the hot summer months, many people are looking for ways to conserve water. Drought, the energy crisis, desire to save money, and general concern for our environment all lead to specific steps that the general public can take to reduce consumption of an essential resource. The International Arid Lands Consortium suggests the some tips for water conservation.
The first step in conservation is to become aware of your own water use. Habits for water use are developed over a lifetime, and are often affected by the relative ease and availability of water in our country. Become conscious of the amount of water you and your family members use, and look for ways to reduce that amount where you can.
Take advantage of public education programs to learn about the basics of water use efficiency. Find out how your water is delivered, the costs of water service, why water conservation is important, and how you can participate in conservation efforts.
Ask if your local water utility has a residential water audit program. This generally involves visits by water experts to individual homes to help people conserve water. They can help identify leaks that need repair, point out the benefits of low-flow plumbing, and recommend changes in water use practices to reduce home water use.
The simplest ways to reduce water use involve behavioral practices, or changing water use habits so that water is used more efficiently, thus reducing the overall water consumption in a home. These practices require a change in behavior, not modifications in the existing plumbing or fixtures in a home. Behavioral practices for residential water users can be applied both indoors in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room and outdoors.
Behavior modification: saving water indoors
- Take a quick shower rather than a bath and save an average of 20 gallons (76 liters) of water.
- Clean vegetables in a sink or pan partially filled with water rather than running water from the tap.
- Re-use the water that vegetables are washed in for watering houseplants or for cleaning.
- If you wash dishes by hand, rinse them in a sink partially filled with clean water instead of under running water.
- Instead of waiting for tap water to get cold enough for drinking, keep a bottle of water in the refrigerator.
- Whenever possible, compost food scraps or dispose of them in the garbage rather than using the garbage disposal which requires a high level of water for operation.
- A full dishwasher is more water efficient than washing the same load by hand.
- Only run your dishwasher when it is full to make the best use of water, energy and detergent.
- Cut down on the amount of rinsing you do before loading the dishwasher. Most modern dishwashers do an excellent job of cleaning dishes, pots and pans.
- If dishes are washed by hand, save water by filling the sink or a dishpan with water rather than running the water continuously.
- Wait till you have a full load of laundry before running the machine to save both water and energy. If you can't wait for a full load, use the right water level to match the size of the load.
- When washing clothes by hand, the water should not be left running. Fill a laundry tub with water, and reuse wash and rinse water as much as possible.
- Turn off the bathroom faucet while brushing teeth or shaving.
- Take short showers rather than long showers or baths and turn the water off while soaping.
- Don't use the toilet as a trash can. Toilets should be used only to carry away sanitary waste.
Behavior modification: saving water outdoors
- Don't follow a fixed watering schedule. Water when the grass or plants show signs of needing it. Over watering is bad for plants and lawns. It promotes shallow root growth, making your lawn less hardy. To determine if your lawn needs to be watered, simply walk across the grass. If you leave footprints, it's time to water.
- Maintain a lawn height of 2 1/2 to 3 inches to help protect the roots from heat stress and reduce the loss of moisture to evaporation. Allowing the grass to grow slightly taller reduces water loss by providing more ground shade for the roots and by promoting water retention in the soil.
- Be sure to adjust irrigation system controllers according to seasonal irrigation needs.
- Install moisture sensors in each irrigation zone (sunny, shady, etc.) to better determine irrigation needs.
- Avoid water loss to evaporation; don't water the lawn during midday.
- Water before 8 A.M. or after 6 P.M. and avoid watering on windy days.
- Water in several short sessions rather than one long one, to allow the lawn to better absorb the water.
- Check sprinkler system valves periodically for leaks and keep the heads in good repair.
- Make sure your sprinkler is placed so it only waters the lawn, not the pavement.
- Avoid sprinklers that spray a fine mist, which increases evaporation.
- Wash your car with a bucket of soapy water and use a nozzle to stop the flow of water from the hose between rinsings.
- Consider washing your car on the lawn if possible to reduce runoff.
- Clean driveways and sidewalks with a broom instead of the hose.
- Check for leaks in outdoor faucets, pipes and hoses.
- To prevent leaks from developing, shut off and drain water lines to outside spigots in the winter.
- Cover your spa or pool to reduce evaporation. Also, check your spa or pool for leaks and have them repaired promptly.
Equipment replacement or modification to save water
- Often, small, inexpensive replacements or modifications of equipment can mean big long term savings, not only of water, but of money and time.
- Upgrade to more efficient equipment or make other simple modifications. Several inexpensive water-saving devices can be easily installed in your home. These include faucet aerators; flow regulators for shower heads; and displacement devices for toilets to reduce water consumption.
- Install a water-efficient showerhead with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute. Replace an existing shower head if a one gallon bucket placed under the flow takes less than 20 seconds to fill.
- Install aerators on your kitchen and bathroom faucets to reduce indoor water use.
- Reduce the amount of water used by an older toilet by placing a one gallon plastic jug of water, or two one quart bottles, in the tank to reduce the amount of water used per flush, or install a "dam" that partitions off a section of the tank so it can't fill with water.
- Insulate your hot water pipes and your electric water heater. Insulation will reduce the amount of time it takes for hot water to reach the tap, saving water and energy.
Leak detection and repair
- Use your water meter to check for leaks in your home. Start by turning off all faucets and water-using appliances and make sure no one uses water during the testing period. Take a reading on your water meter, wait for about 30 minutes, then take a second reading. If the dial has moved, you have a leak.
- The most common source of leaks is the toilet. Check toilets for leaks by placing a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If after 15 minutes the dye shows up in the bowl, the toilet has a leak. Leaky toilets can usually be repaired inexpensively by replacing the flapper.
- The next place to check for leaks is your sink and bathtub faucets. Dripping faucets can usually be repaired by replacing the rubber O-ring or washer inside the valve.
Learn about xeriscape landscaping
- Xeriscape landscaping uses planning and design, soil analysis, selection of suitable plants, practical turf areas, efficient irrigation, use of mulches, and appropriate maintenance to reduce water use. Benefits of xeriscape landscaping include reduced water use, decreased energy, reduced heating and cooling costs because of carefully placed trees, decreased storm water and irrigation runoff, fewer yard wastes, increased habitat for plants and animals, and lower labor and maintenance costs.
- Group plants with similar water requirements together, creating specific areas for plants that require frequent watering, occasional watering, and no watering at all.
- Match plants to yard conditions, placing the appropriate plants in sunny, shady, dry or damp areas of your yard.
- Consider how the yard will be used and how it can provide the greatest benefit with the least amount of maintenance.
- Grow indigenous plants, or plants that are suited to the area.
- Install a drip irrigation system for watering gardens, trees and shrubs. Drip irrigation provides a slow, steady trickle of water to plants at their roots through a network of underground pipes and hoses. The irrigation system can be adjusted for different levels of watering according to the needs of the plants. Drip irrigation systems reduce overwatering, inefficient watering, weed growth, and the time and labor involved in hand watering.
For more information on water conservation, see the following web sites:
- Fountains: water wasters or works of art?
- Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Water
- Drop by Drop: A How-To Guide: Starting a Water Conservation Program
For more information on desertification and drought, please see:
The International Arid Lands Consortium (IALC) is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring the problems and solutions unique to arid and semiarid regions. IALC promotes cooperative research and practical application of new knowledge to develop sustainable ecological practices. The member institutions and their affiliates share a mission to enable people of arid lands to improve the quality of life for future generations. IALC members include the University of Arizona, Desert Research Institute-Nevada, the University of Illinois, Jewish National Fund, New Mexico State University, South Dakota State University, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and the Higher Council for Science & Technology-Jordan. The Ministry of Agriculture & Land Reclamation-Egypt is an affiliate member.