My family and I just recently moved to Tucson, Arizona. I must admit that I find it fascinating that so many people can live in a place where rainfall is decidedly NOT plentiful. In fact, Tucson averages just 11.3 inches of rain a year. (Compare that to our old home town, Chicago, which averages 36.9 inches a year.)
Even though we live in the desert, we’re finding ways to conserve water and keep our monthly water bill low.
Strategies We’re Using to Conserve Water
Landscape with plants that have a low water requirement.
There is no water-hungry grass in our front or backyard. Instead, the yard is landscaped with stones and various cacti. We do have two trees, but they are well established and thus far have done fine without regular watering. I’m guessing we’ll need to start watering them this winter if there is no rain.
Collect air conditioning condensation.
On the side of our house, we have a spout that slowly drips out water condensation from the air conditioner. We’ve put a container underneath to catch that water. During the hot summer months, the container fills up at least twice a day. Now that it’s fall and a bit cooler, the air conditioning is running fewer hours a day. Still, the container fills halfway up each day.
Wash veggies in a bowl.
Rather than rinsing veggies under running water to clean them as we used to do, we instead fill a bowl with water and rinse the veggies in there. Then we can reuse the water to water our garden.
Reuse gray water.
We use our rice cooker almost every day. My husband likes to rinse the rice three times to get the extra starch out. Instead of letting that water go down the drain, he collects it in a bowl to water our garden.
Have a container to collect shower water.
Sometimes we need to run our shower water for a minute before it warms up. Rather than letting it go down the drain, we collect it in a container we’ve put in the shower.
Turn off the water when showering.
We take “navy” showers now. We wet down completely and then turn off the water while we soap up. The water comes on again for a quick rinse off. With 5 of us in the family, taking showers this way saves hundreds of gallons of water every month
Whenever there is a chance of rain, we set out all the miscellaneous tubs and containers we can find to collect the rain water and then we use it throughout the next several weeks.
Plant our garden where it receives some shade.
We have two trees in our backyard. We planted our garden close enough to one of the trees that it receives some shade during the day. By shading the garden some of the time, we’re able to use less water than if the garden were in full desert sun for 12 hours a day.
Using these methods, we’ve not yet had to use the hose to water our vegetable garden. So far we’ve been able to water with repurposed water using the methods above.
Strategies We Plan to Use in the Future
However, there are some strategies we’ve not been able to implement that we plan to use in the future.
Install a rain barrel.
Tucson gets most of its rain during the monsoon season that runs from July to September. Next monsoon season, I’m hoping to have a rain barrel installed to collect all of the rain water to use during the months after monsoon season.
Utilize gray water.
I belong to a Tucson gardening site, and several people have set up their washing machines so that the gray water is emptied into the back yard to water nearby plants and gardens. I’m not sure how practical this is to set up, but it’s something I’d like to look into. However, extreme care must be taken with the type of soap used so as not to kill the plants.
How do you conserve water?