Water wise

Much of northern and central Mexico is arid or semi-arid, and pressure on scarce fresh water sources is growing. Expats tend to use a disproportionate amount of water as we bring our more affluent and water-intensive lifestyles with us: here are some easy and inexpensive ways to conserve this resource. (Prices are in pesos unless noted)

In the bathroom :

  • Place a plastic bottle full of water or sand in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water used per flush.
  • Think about whether you need to flush: people who rely on wells have long lived by the adage: “if it’s yellow, let it mellow.”
  • Kits are available to convert your existing toilet into a dual-flush unit that uses half the water for “light” flushes (Home Depot, $215).
  • If you have an older toilet, consider replacing it. Most new toilets sold in Mexico have six-liter tanks as opposed to eighteen (Home Depot, starting at around $1,000).
  • Don’t leave the water running when you are brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Take shorter showers. Long hot showers are nice on cold mornings, but five extra minutes sends one hundred liters of water down the drain.
  • Low-flow showerheads (Home Depot, $50-130) deliver 9 liters per minute instead of 20, saving 110 liters of water during a ten-minute shower.
  • Shower with a friend! It may be a corny old T-shirt slogan, but if the option is available it is a smart (and fun) way to save water!
In the kitchen:
  • When hand-washing dishes or cleaning produce, fill the sink instead of running the tap.
  •  If you have a dishwasher, only run it with full loads. Every normal cycle uses 40 liters, but this can be reduced with a modern, water-saving unit. 

In the laundry room:

  • Your washing machine is one of the thirstiest appliances in your home: even a short cycle uses one hundred liters of water. Even if your favorite jeans are dirty, hold off washing them until you have a full load.
  • Consider investing in a new model -- modern washers use 40% less water. Outdoors :
  • An average hose puts out thirty-eight liters of water every minute.
  • If you use a sprinkler on your lawn, avoid watering the sidewalk, driveway, street, and patio.
  • Use a rain barrel to catch water for use on your garden.
  • Reduce the amount of water your garden needs: plant native plants that can survive your local climate without watering.
  • Keep pools covered when not in use to prevent water loss to evaporation.
  • If you are passionate about gardening, consider installing a graywater recycling system in your home to provide water for irrigation (plants love the phosphates and nitrogen in gray water). You can buy a DIY kit (www. thenaturalhome.com, $695 USD) or have a contractor install one.

Finally ... Get those leaks and drips fixed! A faucet dripping every five seconds adds up to 2,387 liters of water wasted each year.

The true cost of water

Most of us don’t think twice about paying $5 pesos for a 500ml bottle of Bonafont down at the Oxxo, but what if we had to pay the same price for our household water? 

Brushing your teeth:  $20
Flushing the toilet:   $180
Running the dishwasher:  $400
Five minutes in the shower:  $1,000
Doing a small load of laundry: $1,000
Taking a hot bath: $1,300
Watering your yard for ten minutes: $3,800

Calculate your water usage here.

Sources:  United States Geological Survey; Environment Canada; Town of Payson, Arizona; American Water Works Association; Soap and Detergent Association; The Home Depot, Architerra Enterprises Inc.

 

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