Beyond the Tooth-Brushing Routine

Beyond the Tooth-Brushing Routine

You wouldn’t even guess that this garden doesn’t need that much water.

What immediately comes to your mind when you hear the word water?

  • a cold drink

  • a hot shower

  • a dip in a pool

  • that you are thirsty and need to hydrate

  • that your body is around 75% water

  • your vegetable garden

  • that your area needs rain

Or maybe you think storms, flooding, hurricanes. No mater what the word water triggers in your brain, it is an absolutely essential and invaluable resource, one that with global warming and climate change we must honor and use wisely. And in our daily lives right now, it is no longer just about not running the water while brushing your teeth.

I now live in California and thus my care-free days of watching storm after storm plow through the plains of Iowa are over. And when growing up in Chicago, we would look at Lake Michigan and never fear that it would dry up and we wouldn’t have water. California and other states out west are a different story. In California, it hardly ever rains, though we are hoping for an El Nino that could bring lots of rain via the ocean. FINGERS CROSSED. In the meantime, it won’t hurt anyone living in the U.S. to consider conserving water.

Truly the ability to turn on the tap and get clean fresh water is something we have all taken for granted. Now conserving or reusing water is becoming as important as recycling.

A friend from Chicago was recently visiting and stepped up to wash the dishes. A wonderful gesture, but habits die hard and the water was flowing. I had to kindly stop the process, as conserving water is now part of how I do things. Yes, there is always room for improvement, but I am getting there.

  1. Preparing and Cooking Food. It’s amazing how much water we use during this process. When cleaning vegetables, set a strainer over another container to catch the water–and don’t have the tap running full-blast, use a brush to scrub instead of the pressure of the water to do the cleaning. The saved water can be used in your garden or to water your house plants.
  2. Make sure you have a low-flow faucet (1.5 gallons per minute) so that you aren’t running water and money down the drain.
  3. Don’t use water to defrost foods, but think ahead and defrost in your refrigerator.
  4. When boiling pasta, potatoes, veggies, just cover the food with water. You will save water and the fuel necessary to heat an amount that is not necessary. Plus more nutrients will stay in your vegetables and not be thrown away with the water. After your meal, when this water has cooled, use it again in your garden.
  5. The Cleanup. Energy-efficient dishwashers are the best way to wash dishes. However, not everything can go in the machine–so first, load it up. Then turn on the faucet is get hot water flowing (dish washers work faster if they start with hot water) but save that hot water in a tub or large cooking pan and after adding soap wash up those items that can’t go in the dishwasher. Don’t just let the water run. Turn on only when you need to rinse. You’ll get used to this process and find yourself turning off the tap after each rinse. IT DOES BECOME A HABIT.
  6. Other Kitchen Tips. Compost food scraps or have a medium-size garbage basket with a liner for your after-meal cleanup. Garbage disposals might be going away, as they require lots of water to flush and prevent clogging.
  7. Buy a container and keep water in your fridge so you don’t have to run the tap to cool water down. And don’t buy bottled water, which requires water in the manufacturing process not to mention filling up landfills.
  8. If you spill ice cubes on your floor, you can always put them in your plants or collect and toss in your garden.
  9. Showers, Sinks, Toilets, Hoses: To heat up shower water, collect the cool and again save for other purposes. Use low-flow shower heads and limit your time in the shower as each minute of showering is 5-7 gallons of water.
  10. When washing your car, use a hose that allows you to turn the water on and off–don’t let it just run into the street.
  11. When possible, purchase high-efficiency toilets. They use 1.28 or less gallons of water per flush. Using these could cut indoor water use by as much as 20%. Older toilets use 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush. And don’t use a toilet for a wastebasket. Have one right there in the bathroom, instead!
  12. If your water bill is high, have a plumber check for water leaks.
  13. Install faucet aerators. Older faucets use between 3 and 7 gallons per minute. Low-flow faucet aerators use no more than 1.5 gallons of water per minute. The aerators can be attached to most existing faucets.
  14. Install drip irrigation instead of using sprinklers that waste water because of evaporation. And depending on the zone you live in, replace water sucking plants with drought-tolerant.
  15. Create a new mantra; CAPTURE THE WATER! and discover how many ways you can do this.

I am sure there are many more ways to save water. We learn as we go. When in July we Californians were treated to two days of wonderful rain, I went out and bought a new plastic garbage can to place under a gutter and also to store pots and buckets of water saved from showering, washing veggies etc. Rain barrels are a great investment if your house can accommodate one.

I do remember the years of brushing my teeth and just watching that water go down the drain. Those days are long gone. You don’t need to live in the western states to realize that saving water is part of our future. So get in the habit and share ways that you save.

Photo: Thanks to


18 thoughts on “Beyond the Tooth-Brushing Routine

  1. Hi, Elizabeth

    We used to live in CA from 1989 to 2004. We did not experience dry seasons like that you are having now.
    A lot of things in life we really take it for granted until we do not have it. Water is not just an important resource only, it becomes a commodity (I can’t believe I have tp pay money for the water to drink).
    Amazing list of saving the amount of water.
    Thanks for the post
    Have a awesome week ahead.

    • Thanks for your comment, Stella. Water will become even more precious as the years pass. Think of all the people in 3rd world countries who don’t have water. It shocks me when I contemplate not bathing or washing or drinking.

  2. I live in Los Angeles so I appreciate your awesome tips. Luckily it’s actually raining a little bit today. I haven’t washed my car in a long time. It looks awful but I can always write “saving water” on my dirty window. I’ve never had great luck with low flush toilets though. It seems like you have to flush them 3 times when 1 good flush would do. Hoping for El Nino as well.

    • Hi Rebecca. Ironically both my husband I washed our cars yesterday. It had been a very long time! Love the rain today. We bought a low flush after we moved in, and it works fine. We got a rebate from the state as well. Thanks for reading and I’m with you on the El Nino, Beth

  3. Excellent tips. I hope rain comes more regularly for you. Just yesterday I met a couple who are thinking of moving here to Portland or to Seattle because of the water situation in So Cal. They asked me about gardening and watering procedures and I swear they had a whimsical look in their eyes when I told them. I was clear to also mention when the rains come they continue for months but they had the look of flowers and vegetables and berries dancing in their minds.

    • So glad you have plenty of water for your garden, Haralee. I am hoping for some good rains this fall and it actually rained last night! Yippee!

      I loved Seattle when I visited years ago. I have never been to Portland, but hear wonderful things about it. Thanks. Beth

  4. Hi Beth,

    I grew up on a farm, which meant that we were well-dependent. One winter we ran out of water and the habits I cultivated at that age have stayed with me all these years.

    This summer, with the drought we experienced in the “Wet Coast” has reminded me how important the lessons are that you impart in this post.

    Water conversation/conservation occurs one drop at a time.

    • Thanks, Marianna. And love your quote at the bottom. Going to tweet that. And it’s true, when you HAVE to conserve you learn things that you never forget!!

  5. Wow, I constantly spill ice cubes on the floor, constantly, and never would I have thought in a million years to pick them up and use them to water plants. Nor would I have thought to collect the cool water that comes out as I wait for the shower to warm up. You’re so right about all this waste. Lots to think about here. Thank you!

  6. Hi Julie, thanks for your positive comments. I learned over the weekend that when dogs are hot after a walk they like to crunch on ice cubes! Who knew. Beth

  7. Observing young children to the elderly carrying the only available water with plastic containers up to 2 miles has left a lifelong impression
    We are so truly blessed

    • I agree. Yet all of us need to conserve and think about the future of this planet. If we use too much, there won’t be enough for generations to come.

  8. We are fortunate here in the northeast. Rainfall has been plentiful, for the most part, but water conservation is important everywhere. Thanks for sharing your helpful tips which I will try to incorporate into our routine.

  9. You are so welcome, Helene. Wishing you a beautiful fall. I MISS THE CHANGE OF SEASONS. Beth

  10. I live in the Texas Hill Country, north of San Antonio. We have severe draught problems, especially those with wells. I’m always happy to see new homes built with water catchment systems. Of course we need water to fill those up, but they’re smart homeowners. Brenda

    • That’s creative technology that grows out of the need to preserve water. I guess each person on the planet needs to grow in the understanding that water is now more a gift that something we can use and throw away. Life changes and we have to adapt. Thanks for sharing, Brenda.

  11. I live in Philadelphia, but we’ve even had a dryer than normal year here. However, we don’t get PSA’s about conserving water. Maybe we should be employing your tips before we HAVE to. Water shortages in the world have huge geopolitical effects that many of us never think about.

  12. Suzanne, thanks for your comment and you are so correct. I think the future just might be about a water shortage, or water being in places where we don’t want it to be. Now is the time to exam, rethink policy and conserve. Take care, Beth

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