Confessions of an H20 Addict

I remember seeing this video once, as a little girl:

It made me sort of uncomfortable, even back then. I never gave a second thought to my water usage, and I guess I didn’t like my thoughtlessness to be questioned. It’s kind of like when you spend time around someone who is extremely conscious of what they eat. Not like they only eat fat-free-sugar-free diet food, but they are very aware of where they food comes from and what it does to their body when they eat it.

You feel uncomfortable because you’ve probably never had to think about it before.

This post is not meant to make anyone uncomfortable, honestly. I’ve said this before about my writing, but I don’t write to inform or instruct but to simply share my journey.

In case you didn’t know, the entire eastern border of our city straddles Lake Michigan. Because the lake is only about a ten minute drive from basically anywhere in Milwaukee proper, I don’t think about water that much.

Until this year. We haven’t had rain in most of the Midwest since Memorial Weekend. I think it’s sprinkled a few times, but no real, nourishing rain. As of Monday, 42 counties in Wisconsin were declared to be in a state of severe drought.

How does this affect me right now? It simply means that I have to get up and water my small crop every single day. Our water bill is a bit higher. It means our lawn, at least the parts that get full sun, looks more like a hayfield than an actual lawn. Which, if you’re a new homeowner and haven’t had time to buy a lawnmower yet, isn’t exactly a bad thing. Oh yeah, and it means that I sort of cringe at the thought of having a bonfire in our backyard. We haven’t had an occasion to have a fire yet, but even if the occasion should arise I don’t know if I’m comfortable doing it.

As with any problem that affects society at large, it’s very tempting to stick my head in the sand. Lalala, I don’t care that farmers all over our state are suffering immensely right now, I don’t care that in a very short period of time everything and anything involving this summer’s harvest (fuel, groceries, even next year’s seeds) is going to cost an arm and a leg. I don’t want to think about the fact that ten acres of wheat went up in flames last week. And God forbid I think about the fact that, globally, people are dying from drought-related conditions. That the act of turning on my tap and getting clean drinking water is a privilege that’s denied to millions of people every single day. I’ve got good ol’ Lake Michigan two miles away from my house. I will NEVER know what it’s like to turn on my tap and not have clean water! I’m set for life, right?

You get my point. Lake Michigan is literally a lifesaver for my city right now, but it is not going to stop skyrocketing prices everywhere. It is not going to ease the burden of the rest of our state. I’m not talking about suburban homes with yellow lawns; I’m talking about people losing their livelihood.

But what does one do? I could frantically start growing food and preserving it for the winter…but starting seeds, caring for a plant, cleaning the fruit, canning and washing up all use water. I could raise my own chickens to avoid having to pay the high costs for poultry in the grocery store, but wait…what would I feed them? I could start biking more to conserve on fuel, but wouldn’t I need to drink more water because I’m out sweating in the heat? I could take a trip up to Woodman’s and stockpile some of the staples before the prices get out of hand. But if I buy every bag of flour, isn’t that going to drive prices up for other people even quicker?

And here’s where I would like to give you some beautiful, simple solution about banding together as communities and, in one fell swoop, saving ourselves from the upcoming hardships.

But I don’t have that solution.

I have a confession, though. For someone that doesn’t drink enough water in any given day, I’m a water addict. I love showers. I like baths even more. It’s not simply the act of getting clean, it’s the relaxation, the refreshment, the “starting over” feeling. I take a shower every single day. Sometimes, if it’s terribly hot or if I’ve been working outside getting dirty, I take two. One in the morning, one at night to cool down before bed (we don’t have A/C).

I wash my face with natural products (raw honey and grapeseed oil) because they seem to be the only things that keep my complexion mildly clear. However, they require the hottest water tolerable to really work their magic. And we all know that water doesn’t come out of the tap hot. You have to run it for awhile.

One huge pet peeve of Jason’s is that I’m not very good about wearing my clothes more than once, especially lately. In my defense, because we’re without air conditioning in both our car and our house, I’m honestly sweating through things quite a bit more. But that’s not always the case. In fact, the past few days have been much cooler. Of course, if I go right out to the garden in my nice(er) clothes and start working instead of changing into the set of clothes I’d worn the day before while gardening, I might be able to wear said nice clothes more than once…right?

Let’s talk about watering. I do have a few flower baskets that hang vs. sit in a container on the ground. When I water them, there is a fair amount that comes out the bottom. The most I’ve done with that is move one pot under another to catch the run off. One pot out of, well, quite a few.

Oh, and the other night, I canned a jar of sweet and spicy banana peppers. One jar – because that’s all my plants have produced and if I waited for more peppers the ripe ones would be too far along. But, do you know what I did with the canning water? I poured it down the drain. Because I didn’t want to deal with it. Because I wasn’t thinking about stuff like droughts and crop failure.

My point is that I can’t save the world by making all of these small changes. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make them. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t create a culture in our home that is responsible with our resources.

It also doesn’t mean that I have to quit any and all of my water-using habits cold turkey. I’m not about to start using synthetic products on my face, or wearing smelly clothes or stop canning or growing a garden. I still intend to shower every day. But even if I continued to do everything that I’m currently doing, just did it a bit differently, I can reduce our water waste.

Potted plants should be moved underneath hanging plants to catch the runoff.

I should get better about keeping a separate set of clothes for working in the garden so that I can re-wear my nicer clothes more than once. Not only that, but I could start letting the washer empty into a bucket and re-using it for another load of laundry or for flushing the toilet.

Canning water is a no-brainer. It’s been boiled, it’s almost perfectly clean. THAT needs to be re-used.

I could start putting a bowl under the faucet when I’m washing my face while the water is warming up.

I could put a timer in the shower to limit myself. Even better, I could try capturing some of our runoff in a plastic tote and using it to flush. And instead of taking another shower in the evenings to cool down/clean up, I could simply wipe down with a damp washcloth.

I’m sure there’s more; some things may be a bit ambitious for us (like a full greywater filtering system) and some things might be so easy that I could smack myself for not seeing them in the first place.

What are some water-saving tips you’ve put into practice that have been fairly simple and successful?

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One Comment to “Confessions of an H20 Addict”

  1. Believe it or not , shower water with a “little” natural soap can be good to water plants. Not a lot of soap though! Also in years unlike this one, in the old days, like when we first bought the cottage, remember the cow trough on the side of the house? It was under a gutter and used to collect rain water for Great Grandma’s plants! Full of nutrients! Probably could do the same thing with some king of a garbage can or barrel under your downspout. And maybe…just maybe… we will get a touch of rain Sat. guess I will have to get out our rain stick, and dance like my Great Grannies mom, (Delight Babba)!

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