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Five Frugal Ways You Can Cut Back on Your Water Bill

Fortunately there are quite a few ways you can cut back on your water, including a few you may have never considered.

As California’s drought continues to hammer the state, water prices are going through the roof. As state officials continue to beg residents to cut back on their water, local governments are discussing the possibility of hiring water cops to inspect private properties, and fine those who are wasteful. In my locale, I’ve seen the water table drop to frightening levels. The creek that runs all the way through the city is so low that it has been consumed by algae, and I can see trash at the bottom that hasn’t seen the light of day in decades. (note to self, I wonder if there’s any antiques down there?)

Of course, these problems aren’t just restricted to California. There are numerous cities, mainly situated in the Western United States, that are completely unsustainable in this dry climate. Drought or no drought, there is simply not enough water to sustain our population at this usage rate. Everybody is going to have to cut back in a very big way, or migrate away from this region. The situation is dire to say the least. Fortunately there are quite a few ways you can cut back on your water, including a few you may have never considered.

Replace Your Shower Head

While there’s certainly a lot of merit in getting a low flow shower head, the other option is to buy one of the trigger activated heads. It’s basically the same kind of fitting you see on a garden hose, with a trigger that controls the flow of water, and a long flexible hose so you can spray the water wherever you need to. They’re very common in motor homes and trailers, which often have less than a 100 gallons of water storage at their disposal. I can’t say it would be the most comfortable shower, but you’ll always be able to meter out the exact amount of water you need.

Water Heaters

When you need hot water from the tap, how long do you have to leave the water running before it becomes warm? You may be wasting anywhere from a half gallon to two gallons whenever you do that, depending on how cold your house is and how far away the water heater is from the sink. When I shave in the morning, I’m often appalled at how much water has to go down the drain, just so I can splash my face with hot water, or if I need to wash my hands. There’s a couple different options you can choose from to shorten this lag time.

You can buy a point-of use-water heater, which is basically a tiny water heater that holds anywhere from 1.5 to 7 gallons of water, and only provides water to the sink you’re using. I suspect that in the future as water becomes even more scarce, many homes may stop installing a central water heater, and instead have several smaller heaters scattered throughout the house. Doing so would save water, and potentially save quite a bit of electricity as well. The larger the container, the more energy it’s going to take to keep it at a certain temperature even when it’s not being used. You would have the choice of turning off certain heaters in parts of the house that aren’t being used, reducing your overall electrical load.

The other option is to build a dedicated water pipe from the heater to the sink. Normally pipes are structured the same way the veins in your body are. A small number of large pipes feeding water into various smaller pipes throughout the house. When that main line gets cold, it takes the sinks and showers a long time to flush the cold water out. So by building a line that runs straight from the heater to the sink, bypassing all that mess, you’ll get your hot water a lot faster. Depending on how your home is structured, it could be very complicated and expensive, or in this persons case, far cheaper than buying a point-of-use heater.

Rain Barrel

I’ll admit, this probably isn’t the first time the readers of Ready Nutrition have considered rain collection, but it’s worth mentioning again for anyone new here. It’s such a simple idea that can save you quite a bit of money in the summer months. Granted, with the drought in full swing you may have to wait a while before you get any rain. Rest assured though, you’ll be helping your wallet, and helping to alleviate the water shortage in your area when the dry months come again. There are many different ways to set one up, and it’s a system that’s easy to customize depending on the state of your property, and the budget you have in mind.

A friend of mine down the street managed to score a couple dozen 5 gallon buckets for free. He had a hose running from the collection tank, and into the buckets. In total, it probably cost him less than a hundred dollars to set up. And that’s the beauty of harvesting rainwater. Anyone with any budget can set up a system, and they’ll be saving some money, saving their plants, and creating a supply of water that can be consumed in an emergency with very little treatment needed.

Deep Watering

When there are no drought conditions, most people will make full use of their water supply. They’ll make sure to water their lawns and gardens as often as they think is needed. The only problem is that frequently watering your plants, even if it’s not hurting the plant, doesn’t prepare them for drought conditions.

When you give a plant a little bit of water every day, the roots don’t grow as deep into the soil. And why should they? There’s a steady daily supply, so the roots will take in what they need for the day, and let the rest drain into the soil. When a drought occurs you’ll have to stop watering them as often as you used to, and the sun will evaporate the surface of the soil much faster. What little water you can give them is often wasted before the plant can take it in.

To avoid this you should practice what’s known as deep watering. This involves giving your plants a larger quantity of water, but only doing so infrequently, with at least several days between each watering. This encourages the plants to grow deeper roots, making them much more efficient at absorbing the water you give them. It also seems to work just as well with lawns as it does with vegetable gardens.

Washing by Hand

I’ve always considered a dish washer to be one of the most wasteful machines in existence. Unless you have a large family or guests over, it’s really not worth it. The amount of time it takes to prep the dishes for the dishwasher is almost as long as it takes to clean them by hand, and they will typically use 10-15 gallons of water with each load, as opposed to a gallon or two by hand washing them. It’s not difficult at all, and you can save more time by letting the tougher items soak, and leaving the rest to air dry.

The same principles apply to hand washing your clothes, which you might not expect if you’ve never done a load by hand. I always assumed that hand washing clothes would be tremendously time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Most methods involve letting the clothes soak in soapy water for 10 or 20 minutes in a large container, and then stirring them occasionally. Afterward you may have to do some scrubbing here and there to get the tough stains out, but overall it’s a pretty hands-off affair that’s more waiting than doing. And you’ll be saving upwards of 40 gallons of water, depending on how old your machine is.


In conclusion, saving water isn’t just something you do in a drought. It’s a lifestyle change that is going to be necessary for more Americans to adopt as time goes on. The abundance of water we once had is slowly draining away, and we’re going to have to change our homes and change the way we do everyday tasks if we want to have a decent future.

This article was originally published at Ready Nutrition™ on August 7th, 2014