Thursday, July 22, 2010

Conserving Water at The ETC

We are experiencing a water shortage today on The Farm due to a temporarily misbehaving water tower pump. The water tower that holds and distributes the water from our on Farm aquifer is only one third full. And, apparently on an average day, the Farm goes through about three quarters of the tower. So, we've kicked our water conservation techniques into high gear. Here's what we do here at the ETC to conserve water on a daily basis.

  • Washing Dishes - We hand wash our dishes. Many statistics are coming out now that dish washers actually use less water than hand washing, but only if you don't pre-rinse them. I don't know about you, but I have never encountered a dish washing machine that didn't require pre-rinsing. So, we fill a large mixing bowl with warm, soapy water for washing. The next basin in our sink gets filled with clear, cold water to rinse the soap off. This helps cut down on gratuitous use of the faucet.
  • Showering - I love our solar showers! I could easily stand under a stream of the sun-warmed water for half an hour, especially after a day of bread baking or earthen plastering. But, I rarely give into the temptation. Instead, I take navy showers. Named after navy seamen's practice of conserving fresh wash water while on a ship, it is a super simple way to cut down the amount of water used while showering. Turn on your water to wet down, then turn it off while soaping up and/or shampooing your hair. Turn the water back on when you're ready to rinse off. Don't think that will save much water? Try showering with the plug in the tub. Note where the water level is at the end. Make your next shower a navy shower, and compare the water level. I guarantee you'll see a difference.
  • Landscaping - We incorporate native plants into our landscaping. These plants are adapted to our annual rainfall patterns, and don't require a lot of additional watering. Planting native plants also helps reduce the encroachment of invasive, sometimes harmful, imported plants.
  • Gardening - We incorporate the techniques of synergistc agriculture. Developed by Emilia Hazelip, and based on her work with Masanobu Fukuoka. Synergestic agriculture incorporates a heavy mulch. This mulch helps hold moisture in the soil, cutting down on the need to water.
Know of some other easy ways to conserve water? Leave them below in the comments.


  1. What do you do with the water used in the shower or from rinsing the dishes? What about the laundry?

  2. Front loader washing machine. We found one at Goodwill - Asko Best investment we've ever made.
    Dual flush toilets. We'll be installing one in the new bathroom soon. I love the moon shaped buttons - crescent for low flush and full moon for fuller flush.
    Some folks put a brick or other space taker in the main toilet tank to lessen the water used for flushing.
    Sending water back into the environment (greywater system) instead of the septic tank is such a good idea.

  3. For a more detailed answer on what happens to our gray water, visit our Ask The ETC podcast at