Water conservation will offset summer drought costs

Temperatures are not the only thing high during this hot and dry summer. Water bills are skyrocketing as homeowners try to maintain their outdoor plants and lawns.

In Michigan, we look forward to summer during our entire winter season. Summers are supposed to be warm. But hot? And dry? Some years we get hot but wet weather. Other years we get wet but cool. This year it appears we are getting both hot and dry. Just look out the window at your grass – unless you’ve been faithfully watering it to keep it green. If you’re not using a well for irrigation, all that watering gets expensive.

Since there are still six more weeks of official summer, what are some ways you can maintain your outdoor landscape and keep your water bill from skyrocketing? 

Start with the yard.

  • Water the lawn early in the day. This reduces evaporation and helps prevent the growth of fungus on the lawn.
  • Add mulch or other organic matter around trees and shrubs. This material holds moisture and reduces the need for frequent watering.
  • Make sure the sprinkler is set correctly to water the lawn. Overspray just runs down the walk or driveway and into the storm sewer.
  • Use a timer when watering the lawn to remember to move the sprinkler to a new area or turn it off.
  • Use a broom to clean off sidewalks and driveways. Using a hose to clean these areas can use 80 gallons each time.   

Remember, by conserving water inside the house, it will help offset the additional water use outside. Try some of these ideas:

The bathroom is the biggest area of water use with the toilet being the number one user of water in the home.

  • Check the toilet for leaks. Place a few drops of food coloring into the tank. Within 30 minutes, if the food coloring appears in the bowl without flushing, there is a leak that needs repair. 
  • Install low–flow faucet aerators and showerheads. Using these low-flow devices is the best water conservation action to take and usually the cheapest.
  • Take showers instead of baths. Filling the tub uses more water than a shower. Take shorter showers. Every minute, five to ten gallons of hot water runs down the drain if a low flow showerhead is not installed.

Laundry is the second largest use of water in the home.

  • Wash only full loads of clothes or adjust the water level to the amount of clothes.
  • Use the correct amount of detergent to eliminate second rinses.

The kitchen offers several ways to reduce water use.

  • Run the dishwasher only when there’s a full load.
  • Check dishwasher detergent directions. Most do not recommend pre-rinsing dishes before putting in the dishwasher.
  • When hand washing dishes, use one bowl to wash and fill the other bowl with rinse water. For a single bowl, wash and stack dishes in a drainer, then rinse with a sprayer
  • Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Disposers require a lot of water to run properly. 
  • Use a bowl or pan filled with water to wash and rinse fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep a pitcher or beverage dispenser of water in the refrigerator. This will eliminate running the faucet to get a cold glass of water.  

If you want to check on how extensive the drought is affecting your community, visit the National Integrated Drought Information System. By putting in your zip code, it will give a reading of the level of the drought in your area.

For more information and water saving ideas, see Michigan State University Extension’s Home*A*Syst bulletin (WQ 51) available through your local MSU Extension office or the MSU Extension Bookstore.

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