Green for less: Reclaim your gray water

Food, clothing, shelter and water. We need them all but without water there would be no food, in fact, no life at all. It is so important that we protect and conserve this precious resource.

Most of us know the usual ways to save water, namely fixing leaky faucets, installing a low flush toilet and switching to low-flow shower heads but what about the ones we might be overlooking? The following suggestions may not seem like a big deal but, just as even a small drip from a worn faucet can waste 20 gallons of water a day, doing each one of these small things consistently will add up to big water savings over the long haul.

Fresh water lasts about one week, depending on the container and the environment. Ergo, a glass of water that you've kept on you night stand overnight is still drinkable. If you don't want it, pour it into your pet's water dish or water a houseplant with it. Likewise for bottled water or the half-empty water bottle you brought back from the gym.

Similarly, if you need to clean Fido's water bowl and there's a bit of water left in it, feed it to a houseplant. Your fern won't mind a bit of pet hair or a stray morsel of kibble.

When I was a kid, I remember my Mom getting fresh water every time she wanted to boil the kettle for tea. There are two schools of thought on whether or not reboiled water will make for a less-than-perfect cuppa. Rather than throwing previously boiled water down the drain, I simply add more fresh before boiling. Alternately, if you feel you must use all fresh water every time, open the front door and pour the cooled kettle water on your flower beds.

When you're hosing down the garden furniture this spring, sit the furniture on the lawn to clean it, rather than the driveway. That way, at least you're getting double the use from the same amount of water.

Invest in a rain barrel to catch the run off from your downspout. At the very least, a large watering can will save water to use on the hanging baskets during a dry spell and saving a little of all that free water is better than saving none at all.

Consider installing a system to recycle household gray water. Gray water is household water that has been used to wash clothes, dishes or for bathing. It's important to note that different states have different laws regulating the use of gray water. Natural Home Magazine has an article about how to use gray water that offers some basic guidelines including "Gray water Use Made Simple," which suggests keeping a container near the sink to catch warm-up water and rinse water for watering plants and putting a bucket in the shower to collect warm-up water and shower water, which can then be used to flush the toilet. I can do that!

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer specializing in home decorating using only items from the dollar store..

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