Guest Posts

Appreciating Each Drop (of Water)

water chart

soap & pitcherNote from Pamela: Over the past couple of years, we have been trying to become more water-aware, which has led us to discover some wonderfully easy ways to conserve and appreciate water. Currently, I am staying in a house in Cambria, California, which is practicing the highest level of water conservation, due to the low levels of water in the community. Using clean water for gardens or car-washing is strictly forbidden. When I learned that taking a shower requires 2.5 gallons of water per minute, I decided to try an experiment. In addition to one shower, I knew the house we were staying in had a big old-fashioned bathtub. However, I did not plan on taking a bath, as 28 or so gallons of water are required to fill a tub. Instead, before leaving from Los Angeles, I was on the lookout for the “just right” mini tub to place inside the big tub. I found the perfect thing: an Igloo ice-chest, with a plug (for draining).

tub in tub

First day here, I washed my hair by kneeling outside the tub and rinsing my hair with clean warm water which I scooped out of my mini-tub with the pitcher. I wrapped my wet hair in a towel, climbed into the big tub, and using a pitcher and washcloth, had a very nice standing bath/shower. I announced to Bill and Natalie that I managed to fully bathe using three gallons of warm water. They were appropriately impressed. Although each is sticking with his/her own water-saving method. For Bill, it is the “navy shower” (i.e. turning water on and off). For Natalie, it is the two-minute shower.

Below are the new discoveries Bill has made about water usage around our own house. We are all having fun thinking up creative ways to appreciate each drop.


Appreciating Each Drop (of Water) by William McDonald

LANDSCAPING ACCOUNTS FOR ROUGHLY 53% OF HOUSEHOLD WATER USE IN CALIFORNIA – THAT’S ROUGHLY 190 GALLONS A DAY. When we learned how much water lawns need, we decided to remove our lawns. We did it in steps – removing the backyard lawn one year and then three sections of front lawn this past year. Here’s a picture of our front yard without lawn. We don’t miss our lawn.

front gardenThen I decided to answer an energy and water usage survey issued by the Department of Water and Power. Here’s the helpful pie chart I received with the different amounts of water usage in our home.

water usageI noticed the faucets (21%) and showers/baths (36%) and started thinking of all the water that gets tossed down our sinks.  I decided to place a glass pitcher by the sink to pour “leftover” water into. Now when there’s water left in someone’s water glass or in one of our refillable water bottles, it gets poured into the pitcher.

water saving 1 copyWhen the pitcher is full, I walk it out to one of the six 32-gallon containers I’ve placed in the front and back yard. I’m shocked how much water I’ve reclaimed simply by using my glass pitcher. My success led me to another idea.

water saving 4 copyOccasionally, we like to take a hot bath. Ever since we travelled to Japan years ago, we use the Japanese method, which is to take a quick “washing” shower and then soak in the tub. It’s easy to do in our bathroom, where the tub and shower are separate. It also allows two of us to share bath water (just like the Japanese families do). However, I stared at all that water and thought there had to be a way to reclaim it for the garden. But how could we get it out to the garden?

This is what I figured out. I found a “painter’s pail,” which has a flat edge and easy to hold handle. I used the pail to scoop water into a bigger bucket, which I then carry out to my 32-gallon container. It takes 4-5 trips as the bathtub holds 25 gallons of water. I’m happy to do it with my easy-to-use painter’s pail.  Besides, getting a little physical work-out, I end up giving the garden some natural fertilizer (as we like to use plain unscented Epsom salts in our bath).

water saving 2 copy

water saving 3 copyThis is the amazing thing: I haven’t had to use any water from the hose since installing my simple system. I’ve been using the reclaimed water in our front and back yard containers to water the plants in our garden.

Here are a few other tips for saving water, which we’re trying to follow:

–Reducing shower time by two minutes.

–Turn off water while brushing teeth. Turn on when ready to rinse mouth.

–Wet hands to wash, then lather and wash hands with faucet off. Turn on faucet to rinse.

–When hand washing dishes, fill a plastic tub or half the sink (if it’s divided) with hot soapy water. Scrape dishes into trash or compost using a small piece of paper towel to wipe the dish (and/or quick rinse). Then add a group of dishes to hot soapy water, washing with dishcloth. Rinse a few at a time and place in drying rack. Do this instead of keeping water on while washing dishes, which uses too much water.




  • Linda Ching-Ikiri

    Love your water usage chart and tips, but I was surprised that the Epsom salts in your bath water do not have an adverse effect on your plants. We have a tankless water heater which takes at least a bucket of water before it warms up. Been hauling it out to water the lawn, which we hope to start removing. I did fill at trash can last year when it rained, but noticed it is full of algae (weird, as it isn’t clear). Would like to get some cisterns with spigots to collect the buckets of water. I’m almost tempted to also buy the camping shower systems and start solar heating at a small level. We need to look into a rooftop system, too!
    Thanks and keep posting!

    • TwointheMiddle

      We love the idea of using a camping style shower to take a shower outdoors, especially during the summer, and especially if you have a private garden. Do they come on a rolling stand so that the shower can be taken in any spot of the garden that needs watering? I might want to try this!
      Epsom salts (unscented) are a wonderful fertilizer. Gardeners apply it to tomatoes, peppers, and roses, hoping to produce more flowers, greener plants, and higher yields. You can use it to improve magnesium content if you know you have a soil that’s deficient in that element. When diluted with water, and especially when applied as a foliar spray, epsom salts can be taken up quickly by plants. Epsom salts’ magnesium content, high solubility, and ease of application as a foliar spray are the main reasons for the positive results many gardeners see.

  • Carolyn Goodart

    Reading about your bath/shower tactics reminded me of our visit to a friend who was living in a cabin in the Trinity Alps, up near Weaverville. The cabin didn’t have a bathtub or shower! And our friend “showered” outside with water from a hose that held water heated by the sun. There was just enough for our friend! Meanwhile, I started feeling grungy and suggested that we drive down to the Trinity river for a swim. I had the best swim of my life and felt a lot cleaner.

    • TwointheMiddle

      I think your friend should have told you to bring your own contraption to hold and heat water, don’t you? But, as always, you came up with a wonderful and much more fun idea and solution.

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