Help stop a valuable resource from going down the drain
By Jonathan Jucker Original Print Publication: May, 2008
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!
- 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.