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Friday, June 18, 2021

Your Best Tips for Saving on Your Water Bill

the style of rain barrel that we bought 20 years ago -- functional


After posting earlier this week about all of the rainfall in my area this month, I realized that in many areas rainfall is not nearly so plentiful. But beyond the here and now, Seattle summers are usually quite dry. July, August, and September see very little rainfall here. These are just the months that my garden needs water to support vegetable growth the most. I would imagine that for those of you who are also keeping a vegetable garden that this is a concern for you, too.

Municipal water is expensive just about everywhere. And it continues to become even more expensive with each passing year. About 10 years ago, my district needed to improve infrastructure to accommodate all of the new housing going in. To pay for this, our billing rate increased significantly. Then, a few years ago, the district went onto a tiered billing plan. If we use just a little water, we get billed at the lowest rate. (This entire time, we have never used the amount in that lowest tier.) If we use a moderate amount, we get billed at a higher rate. And if, as it is for us, we use a higher amount of water each month, we get billed at the highest rate. Tiered billing sometimes seems unfair to the family that is using their yard to grow some of their food supply. But it is what it is, so I just deal with it and try to conserve. 

I know that my situation is not unique. Water is becoming one of the more challenging bills for many households. A 2017 study suggests that about 10% of households have difficulty paying their water bills. This is anticipated to increase to as much as 30% in the next few years. [Mack, E., Wrase, S. (2017). A Burgeoning Crisis?] I expect that all of us wish our water bills were less.

Today, I thought we could share some of our best water-saving tips to help us get through the dry months ahead. I'be already mentioned a few things we do to conserve water, here. But I'll list them again. Please add your tips in the comments.

  • We have two 75-gallon rain barrels. I start the planting season with full barrels and typically run out of water in early to mid-July. This year, the rain barrels got refilled this past week  -- water may last till mid-July.
  • I save rinse water from vegetables and do one of three things: top up the nearest rain barrel, fill a watering can to use later, or dump on one of the deck planters.
  • I use soaker hoses in the blueberries and rhubarb from late June through August. Less water is wasted on pathways with soaker hoses than using a sprinkler in this area of our yard.
Tell me, what are some of the ways that you've reduced your water bills, presently or in the past.

18 comments:

  1. I am thankful that I have a well for our water. We live in an area where water sources can be city supplied or well water and I'm glad for well water. My dad has both and he can use his well water for his garden. Mom cannot drink the city water so they often need to get her water from the well. The city is aware of it so they aren't duping the system. I just wonder if we could go back to wells once a city hookup have happened. If the well water is good that seems like it should be an option.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alice,
      That's interesting that your mom and dad have both a well and city water. I guess if city water becomes really expensive, he still has water for his large garden. It does seem like it would be complicated and expensive to return to wells and septic after having been on city water and wastewater for household use. But I wonder if very many towns would allow wells for garden use?

      Delete
  2. We do some of the same things you do to use less water. We have a rain barrel, reuse rinse water, and have soaker hoses on our new landscaping that needs more water until it gets established. However, I think the biggest water saving would come if I would take shorter showers. I love a shower. I now have a timer in the shower with me that is helping, but I have been know to ignore it-especially if the bathroom is cold. The rest of the family is good with short showers.

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    Replies
    1. My family was running the hot water to warm the bathroom before showering. I put a small heater in the bathroom to warm the room. It seems to help save the hot water.

      Delete
    2. Hi Live and Learn,
      I think a lot of us use the shower to warm up in cold weather. A timer sounds like a really good reminder to keep it short. I used a timer for the shower with all of my kids when they were growing up, because they would lose rack of time easily.

      Delete
    3. Hi Robin,
      I love that! You identified the original problem and addressed it directly. Awesome!

      Delete
  3. We are on a well too, so no water bills here. I have considered getting a rain barrel though just because nothing can replace rain water for gardens. We bought those flexible gutter things so that we can direct the rain to areas we need it, like trees. I have to keep the lawn around our house watered. We are told to keep a defensible area in case of wildfires. There was a fire just a few hundred yards from our house 2 summers ago so it could happen here. It traveled the opposite direction from our property and they got it out quickly, but that showed the importance of keeping a green lawn where I live.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Diane,
      Your idea to direct the roof run-off to specific spots is a good one. We fill our rain barrels with roof run-off, but we get far more rain than our barrels can hold in fall, winter, and early spring. I could divert the surplus water to spots in our yard to either capture the water for future use or give extra water to areas that tend to need more. Thank you! We'd just been letting the overflow drain out over a nearby area to the rain barrel.
      I agree, if you live where wildfires are a threat, you do need to keep a buffer area between your home and dry brush. Watering a lawn could save your home. Small price to pay.

      Delete
    2. We honeymooned in Bermuda and their roofs are designed to collect rainwater as there is no fresh water on the island. I forgot about that until you mentioned roof runoff. It's a picturesque and useful solution.

      Delete
    3. Hi Kris,
      Bermuda -- how lovely! That's interesting about their rainwater collection for use.

      Delete
  4. Living in a hot, typically dry climate, this is a topic I think of often! The past few weeks, with this heat wave, we've had to water the garden more often than usual to keep things healthy.

    For several years, we've had two of the typical rain barrels, I think they're about 50 gallons, set up to catch the rain off the former chicken coop roof (former because we no longer have chickens, and use it as a shed now). Last year, our city had a "rain barrel" event and sold rain barrels for $30 and the bigger IBC totes for $50, already fitted with a spout. We purchased one of the totes, and this year, spent some of our stimulus money on having gutters installed on one of the long sides of the house. Now, for every inch of rain, we collect about 340 gallons of water (this is what it holds). We've been using this water to fill up the 50 gallon stock tank for our ducks, and then, weekly when we change their water, we use the duck water to water our fruit trees. Currently, with the heat, we've resorted back to using city water for the ducks as the treated water takes longer to develop algae. But we still drain the duck water and use it to water fruit trees. We also purchased quality soaker hoses, and run them as needed just to the beds that need watered. We hand water the grow bags with captured rain water.

    Something else I've done in times past was to use a couple of tubs for dishwashing, along with biodegradable dish soap, then use that water for flower beds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cat,
      I've never heard of IBC totes before. I had to look them up. Wow, those look like they could hold a lot of rain water. I told my husband about them and we've been talking about where one might work for us.
      I also like the idea of repurposing the duck pond water to your fruit trees. We do have a large pond at the back of our property. I could draw water from it to water our fruit trees in July and August.
      That's a good suggestion for using tubs for dishwashing, then watering flower beds with the used water. It seems a waste to send any water down the drain if there's a drought.

      Delete
  5. Living in west Michigan, I think it's easy to become complacent about water usage. I live close to Lake Michigan and we have multiple inland lakes in our area. We had major flooding events a year ago which tends to make me want to find ways to get rid of water, not conserve it. That being said, like others who have commented, we have city water and also a supplemental well which we use for outdoor gardening. My husband collects rain water in multiple containers, as well. The thing that concerns me in our area is the focus on having a green lawn. Since we don't feel the pain of a drought the way other areas of the country do, there are many who water the yard constantly. If we ever do have to be conservative with water use, it will be a big mindset change for many.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi Kris,
      I'd never heard of having both city water and a well. now I'm wondering if my area would allow us to have a well if used only for gardening.
      The neighborhood adjacent to ours is filled with beautiful front lawns. I wonder how they would feel if the city suddenly said they couldn't water their lawns any more. You're right -- it would be a mindset change for many for sure.

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  6. I think using a faucet aerator made the biggest impact, besides the usual tricks that Lili has shared. Oh, and emptying all the left over water at the end of the from the cups/ bottles to the "used water" bucket is helpful too. We like this aerator https://amzn.to/2SJAhRK

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    1. Hi Farhana,
      I love, love, love your idea to have a used water bucket! I went through my stack of large plastic containers and found one that holds about 2 quarts. I labeled it "water" and put it next to the sink. Now when I have used water from glasses or rinsing produce, I have a place to dump that water instead of down the drain. This is such a great tip because it's readily doable by just about anyone.
      An aerator is another great way to use less water. Our water company will send out upon request a free kit that includes an aerator and low-flow shower head.
      Thanks for your suggestions, Farhana.

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  7. One thing I started doing after reading about it on another blog (can't remember which?) was to place a 5 gallon bucket in the shower to catch the warm up water. You can either use the water for flushing the toilet (1/2 a bucket works well), or you can use it to water outdoor plants. I would suggest taking the bucket out daily to add to your water barrel, or using it before the bucket gets too full (and heavy). I've been doing this for a couple of years now and feel better about not letting the warm up water go to waste. Cheryl in WA State

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi Cheryl,
      That's another great tip -- capturing the warm up water in the shower to use somewhere else.
      When my twins were in diapers (cloth), I collected warm up water in the shower for their diaper pail. I hate letting that water go down the drain, too.
      Great tip, Cheryl!

      Delete

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