Tips for saving water we all need to internalize

There's an old Arab proverb that's rather chilling -- when you think of the hard lesson that must have been learned for someone to come up with the saying in the first place: It is wise to bring some water, when one goes out to look for water.

Water, of course, is something a lot of Americans -- including myself -- take for granted. Most of us have good plumbing, and our tap water is clean, or at least we're pretty sure it is. We'll take long, hot showers without thinking twice about it, and I'm sure many people in countries with low water reserves think that the idea of using a hose on a lawn -- a bunch of grass -- has to be the most wasteful and sinful idea to ever come down the pike.

So when the City of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, our nation's third largest water utility, sent me some spring season tips on saving water, saving money and helping to preserve the environment, I didn't need any convincing to pass them onto WalletPop readers.

I'm not sure any of these will shock people, but it's always good to get a reminder, even on something you already know. So without any further adieu, here we go:

Water your lawn early or late. If you do it in the morning or night, you'll avoid excess evaporation. Watering in the heat of the day -- well, it's just kind of stupid -- my choice of works, not the City of Detroit's -- the sun's going to grab that water long before your grass does.

Use a broom, not a hose, to clean your sidewalk or driveway. Using a hose can mean using up to 80 gallons of water. Hey, I'm just impressed, frankly, with anyone who cleans their sidewalk or driveway. I have enough trouble remembering to mow my lawn.

Place rain barrels beneath downspouts. You can catch the rainfall and then use that water on your outdoor plants, landscaping or to wash the car.

Take used motor oil, transmission fluid and antifreeze to a service station or reclamation center for disposal. If you pour them down the drain or storm sewer, especially the storm sewer, chances are, it's all going to eventually wind up in streams or lakes. Actually, don't pour any chemicals down storm sewers, suggests the City of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, since all of that gunk eventually gets into nature's water system.

Think about it. Don't you already have enough problems without incurring the wrath of Kermit the Frog, schools of fish and Al Gore?

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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