Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
When I was a child we didn’t have running water in the house. We had a well and barrels to catch water off the roof during rain. Every bit of water used in the house had to be carried inside in a bucket and then carried outside again after it was used. Grandma Mama would listen to the radio for weather forecasts of rain to know when the rain barrels would fill up and the well would be fuller. Rain water was used for hair washing and laundry.
In my early married life one of the houses I lived in had a cistern to catch rain water from the roof. That was all the water we had. It was necessary to be frugal with the water because we never knew when it would rain again. I remember following Grandma Mama’s example and waiting for forecasts of rain. Forecast of heavy rain meant our cistern would be filled again so it was ok to do extra laundry ahead of the rains. I had a dip stick I could use to measure the cistern water level and keep careful watch that I didn’t use too much.
When I started living with city water I thought nothing of letting the water run freely at any time. I let the kids play with the water hose in summer to cool off. I watered the grass to have a nice green lawn and pretty flower beds. I believed since we have the Ohio River that running water would always be there. It wasn’t until this area went through a major drought that the Ohio fell to really low levels. Clean running water is taken for granted much too casually these days.
Let me ask you some questions about your inside the house water use. When you want hot water do you turn on the faucet letting the water flow down the drain until it turns hot? Do you do this before a bath? Before a shower? Before washing dishes? Before washing hands in the bathroom? Have you any idea how much good clean water you are paying for as you’re watching it go down the drain while waiting for the hot water to get from the water heater to the tap? Have you thought about how much that water down the drain is costing you? Well all that wasted clean water started bothering me. A lot! It bothers me because I’m paying for that water down the drain— not once but twice.
In my area our sewer bill is based on the number of gallons of water flowing through the meter toward the house. It doesn’t matter how the water is used or even if it actually goes into the sewer. This means every bit of that good clean water going down the drain is costing me both for the water as well as the sewer to carry it away. It truly is money flowing down the drain. Both the Louisville Water Company and the Louisville Waste Water Management are going to get another raise. The penny pincher in me simply had to come up with a way to catch and use that clean water instead of letting it go so easily down the drain. Hmm… just how much water is it anyway? Would it be worth the effort to catch and use it?
I got a good clean bucket courtesy of the store bakery department. Before I turn on the shower I place the bucket under the faucet. I catch the clean water as it runs until the hot water arrives. It came to about three gallons. Duh! It dawned on me that next time I should remove my clothes before turning on the water so none is wasted as I undress. You probably knew that but I hadn’t thought about it before.
Hmm… now what do I do with the saved water? Should I use it to flush the toilet? Naw, I don’t like that the toilet bowl is left without water after a bucket flush. Flush then fill the tank with the bucket water? Its not very handy having to move the tank top every time. I’ll think of something.
I next put a plastic container in the bathroom sink to catch water before washing my hands. Its the only thing I had small enough to fit. I’m surprised at how much had been going down the drain before each time I washed my hands. It was about half a gallon. I’ve decided to only wash my hands with cold water from now on. I see no need to use hot water as the soap kills germs. I lather before turning on the tap. Rinsing with cold water won’t make a difference to the cleanness. I clean my dentures when I wash dishes and the grands aren’t allowed to let water flow when brushing teeth. They each use a cup. Brush, swish, spit.
The faucet in the kitchen has a drip, drip, drip. Its been dripping since I moved in. I do plan to get it fixed as soon as I can. I have some cabinet repairs to do first. I never really paid much attention to the water dripping because I was seeing it as only tiny drops instead of the whole total amount of water over a day’s time. I’m paying for that dripping water so I might as well get a use out of it before it goes down the drain. I put a dish pan under the drip. In one twenty four hour time frame the pan fills half way. About a gallon. That’s a lot of drips.
I use the same dish pan to catch the cold water while waiting for the hot water to reach the tap before I fill the sink to do dishes. This pan is also used for rinsing dishes. I use the sink on the washing side and the pan on the rinsing side so its easy to pick up to pour into the bucket. The dirty water goes down the drain but the rinse water is saved because its still clean and usable for something else.
So far I’ve saved clean water in the bathroom and in the kitchen. Now what do I do with it? Water the garden? Don’t have one. Flush the toilet? Doesn’t need it. There has to be a way to save all that clean water and make use of it. But how to save it? More buckets? A water barrel? How to use the water after I save it?
Umm, the light bulb goes off. Now why haven’t I thought of this before? I have a washer. A washer is just a big bucket or barrel. I can put all the saved water in there and use it when I wash a load of clothes. I wash with cold water so that’s not a problem. The water can stay there for a few days if necessary because its clean. It won’t sour like grey water would. Yes, it is a bit bothersome carrying a bucket of water through the house to the washer. But who cares? I’m paying for the water whether I use it or watch it go down the drain. I’d rather get a use out of it first.
I keep a bucket by the bathtub, a small pan in the bathroom sink, and a pan in the kitchen sink. I wanted to have a rough idea of how much water I’m saving so I measured. I poured one quart of water into my bucket and measured. One inch. I poured another quart. Two inches. So, about one inch per quart. I marked the bucket with a marker. The bucket holds two gallons. All captured water is first put into the bucket to measure before going into the washer. I can keep better records this way.
The first couple of days I kept a rough count of how many gallons I saved in a day. It came to about 10 gallons each day. In a month’s time that could be 300 gallons kept from flowing away unused down the drain. That’s for one person. Imagine the savings for a family of four or six. I do plan to keep a written count of the amount I catch and use. It will be interesting to know. My water bills have been based on 2,000 gallons used every two months. They don’t count partial thousands. If I can somehow prevent 500 gallons a month from going unused that could be half my water bill. Am I figuring that right? Geeze, I can’t believe how much money I’ve casually let flow down the drain all these years.
Now that I’ve started saving the clean water I remembered the way Grandma Mama always had a water bucket in the kitchen. Of course. Duh. My brain is kinda dense. It would take a lifetime before realizing how thrifty that water bucket actually was. Without indoor plumbing that was our water supply and it was used wisely. We used it for washing veggies, filling the canner, cooking, dishes, sponge baths, and so forth. I can do the same thing with my own water bucket. It may not have come from a well but its good clean water except for the dish rinse water. Anything that requires water can come from the bucket because it originally came from the faucet. At the end of the day the left over water can then be put into the washer or saved for the next day. Hmm… a water bucket needs a dipper don’t you think? A soup ladle works fine. I think I’m gonna have fun finding ways to rescue water before it heads down the drain.
How about you? Do you rescue water too? Am I last one to discover this savings?