I keep a plastic bucket in my shower. No, it’s not used to give sponge baths, but rather to collect a few gallons of the cold water that comes out when I turn on the hot water to take a shower. In the house that I just moved in to, I am very lucky to have a tankless water heater which only heats up water when you need it, meaning it doesn’t constantly keep hundreds of gallons hot like a typical water heater does. When I turn on the hot water tap, cold water travels in a pipe through the tankless heater, where a gas burner heats the water as it gets sent to my faucet. While this saves a ton of energy (and money on my utility bill), it still takes a little bit for the water to be hot enough to take a shower with. For my entire life, I have been letting that cold running water go right down the drain until it gets warm, and I can only imagine just how many tens of thousands of gallons of clean water I have wasted over the years. But no more, because now I have my trusty little blue bucket:
For a whopping $4, I now can save 2.75 gallons of water every morning from going straight into the sewer. That’s 19.25 gallons per week or 77 gallons per month. 77 gallons of water! When I learned that nearly 1 billion people don’t have safe water to drink and a child dies every 15 seconds from a lack of clean water, it really started to bother me that I sent several gallons of clean, fresh water straight to the sewer each and every morning. A person living in Sub-Saharan Africa uses between 2.6-5.26 gallons of water a day, and here I have been wasting at least that much if not way more. So now with my $4 bucket, I take 2.75 gallons out to my trees and plants and let them have the water instead of wasting it. I no longer have to turn on the hose for the majority of plants around my house, because this recycled water seems to be enough for almost everything if I take turns on different sides of the house each day.
My next project will be finagling my washing machine (when I finally get one) to drain into a raised-bed planter rather than the sewer. The Earthship I stayed at in Taos back in 2008 recycled all of its fresh and greywater into planters inside the house, so I figure I can easily do the same out in my backyard. I plan on building a few raised beds out back, and this could save me hundreds of gallons of water a month for my watering needs. When the time comes, I will definitely document this for a future post!
While it may be a little unconventional and seen as a pain in the you-know-what by some people, keeping that bucket in the bathroom hasn’t exactly been difficult. It gets filled up, I take a shower, and then I carry it outside to dump on the plants. Why waste perfectly good water that could be put to good use? If you can carry a bucket full of water and have plants outside that you normally water with the hose, I recommend you give the bucket a try. At the very minimum you could cut your water bill down significantly, and at the most you could help conserve the single most important element on our planet. What do you have to lose, the $4 for the bucket?
Give it a shot.