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Archive for the ‘water conservation’ Category

Graywater in the Desert

Posted by Going Green Consultant on January 16, 2009

This past fall, the city council of Tucson approved regulations requiring all new homes being built in the city after mid-2010 to include plumbing for a graywater system.  Graywater is the water that goes down the drains from your washing machine, bathroom sinks and showers and can be used for watering your vegetation or re-used for your toilet (instead of using drinking water to flush).  As most of the West Coast will see water shortages in the upcoming decades, I think this is a step in the right direction.  Reducing use and conservation are two key elements to protecting our most precious resource.


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Graywater: A New Solution to a Vanishing Resource

Posted by Going Green Consultant on November 23, 2008


graywater system

graywater system

Have you ever stopped to consider how much drinking water is being used for landscaping? During the Summer months, it can range from 40 to 65% of an average water bill, depending on your location. One solution that I touched upon a while back is rainwater harvesting, which I am a huge proponent of its use. Another and often controversial method is graywater capture. 

Graywater is the water that goes down the drains from your washing machine, bathroom sinks and showers. When you stop to think about it, the average top-loading washing machine will use between 25 and 35 gallons of water per load. Just multiple that out by how many loads you do a week, and then a month, which you can see will quickly add up to big numbers. Now imagine your shower and how many gallons that is… A lot of wasted water that is going down the drain.

Graywater harvesting is the capture, filtering, and reuse of this water. The most common use of this graywater is for irrigation purposes. Another use that is starting to catch on is the shower/sink to toilet system. Is is basically capturing water from your bathroom shower and/or sink to be used for your toilet tank.

Over the next few weeks, I will touch on some of the different graywater capture systems that are available on the market, as well as explain why graywater reuse is controversial and not legal in some areas of the country.

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You Don’t Have To Be Joe the Plumber….

Posted by Going Green Consultant on October 28, 2008

One of the biggest water wastes in your home is often the undetected leaky toilet. The two most common types of leaks are the “silent leak” and the “ghost flush”. These types, especially the silent leak, can cost you about 100 to 150 gallons of water per day. And if you have several toilets in your home, well this can add up pretty quickly. Is it hard to stop these leaks?

The silent leak is probably the most common and most overlooked leak in your house. This is caused when the water level in the tank is to high and runs down the over-flow tube. It is easy to detect and fix, if you don’t mind looking for it. First, take the tank lid off the back of the toilet. Notice the water level. If it is flowing into the tube (which is usually located in the center area), then you have a silent leak. You need to bring the water level down below the top of that tube. At the top of the float arm, you should see a white plastic piece with a screw on top. Flush the toilet to let the water level go down and turn the screw clockwise. On the newer toilets, just adjust the float arm down so the float sits lower. Watch and see where the water level ends up, then make some additional adjustments if you have to. About a half to three-quarters of an inch below the top of the over-flow tube is fine.

Ghost flushes are those mysterious flushes that happen when you are usually alone and no one is around. You know, the toilet just flushed on its own. This is usually caused by a worn out flapper or one that is not closing correctly. Take the tank lid off and check the linkage to make sure it isn’t tangled and moving freely. Also check the seal around the flapper to make sure nothing is hindering it from closing all the way. If it is old and looks worn out, then you might want to consider replacing it. If everything looks ok but you are still hearing the phantom flushes on occasion, then add some food coloring or place a few dye tablets into the tank. Wait about 15 minutes or so and then check to see if there is any coloration in the bowl. If there is, then you have a leaky flapper valve and should consider replacing it.  Video

So there you have it. You just fixed your leaky toilet like Joe the Plumber, lowered your monthly water bill, and saved 100+ gallons per day from being wasted.

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Saving Money With Every Flush

Posted by Going Green Consultant on October 27, 2008

You may have noticed that dual flush toilets are all the rage these days. After all, they’re a great way of reducing your demand on water when you flush. But what do you do if you aren’t remodeling, nor have the money to upgrade?

Well, here is a simple trick? Take an empty half gallon plastic milk container. Fill it full of water and put the cap back on. Next, remove the toilet tank lid. Place the container inside of the tank. Make sure that none of the mechanisms are hindered by the container. Place the lid back on and you are done.

This little trick just saved you about 15% of your monthly water use, as well as saved 7,500 gallons yearly from the local water supply.

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Rain Barrels

Posted by Going Green Consultant on October 25, 2008

An average rainstorm in most of the U.S. produces about one inch of water in 24 hours. That might not sound like much, but believe it or not that is about 700 gallons of water running off a single roof of a typical home. And multiple that by the number of homes on your street. That’s a lot of storm water runoff.

What is even more surprising is that 30-50% of the average American home’s water use is for landscaping. Again, think of how many homes there are on your street. That’s a lot of water. And potable water, too! Is there a solution?

Yes, install a rain barrel. A rain barrel is just a container that collects rain water from your roof. They come in all different sizes and shapes, but they all do the same thing: they capture and save water from you roof, which decreases the amount of storm water runoff. This captured water can then be used for your landscaping and garden.

You can build your won using simple recycled containers, or you can purchase them online. Terracycle has some recycled wine oak barrels which are pretty neat. I have also seen people make them out of 55 gallon plastic containers (video).

Whatever approach you take, whether it is to make on or buy one, you will be doing your part to help conserve water and lessen the impact of storm water runoff. And you will save money, too!

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Our Waterways – Dead Zones

Posted by Going Green Consultant on October 23, 2008

I received a nice comment the other day from Jessica at greenwithoutthescene, and it got me thinking. Most people that live in this country travel at one time or another across a bridge. Some, as here in the Chesapeake Bay area, commute daily across these bridges, which got me thinking about how we take the water around us for granted and what little knowledge we have of its over-all health. They just drive and occasionally glance over at the water and think it is a beautiful scene. But how many of these commuters know what is really happening under the surface of that water and how their lifestyle is impacting it? 

My guess would be not to many people. They see a scenic view from the bridge, which only reinforces their thoughts that there is nothing wrong with our waterways. Out of sight, out of mind mentality. What most people don’t realize is that the world’s oceans and waterways are in really bad shape, which will have a serious impact on our future lives and planet.

The Chesapeake Bay, for example, like so many other waterways and oceans, has developed a “dead zone” every summer that stretches for hundreds of square miles. Although the commuters who cross the Bay Bridge every day can’t see this dead zone, it is there and has a devastating impact on the creatures living in the Bay and its many tributaries. What causes these dead zones?

The main culprit is nutrient pollution, primarily nitrogen. These pollutants come from a variety of sources: from agricultural runoff to sewage treatment plants to every day residential practices and habits. Once these nutrient pollutants enter the waterways, they begin to stimulate microscopic plant growth, know simply as “algae blooms”. When these algae die they sink to the bottom and begin to decompose, thus removing oxygen from the water. This first creates a condition known as hypoxia, which is very low oxygen levels. With a lot less oxygen in the water, aquatic life begins to get stressed, which in turn slows down growth and reproduction. When aquatic life is not healthy, it becomes very susceptible to disease and starvation. When there becomes no oxygen present in the water, also known as anoxic, all aquatic animals and plants will be killed off, thus creating a true “dead zone”. So what can we do to stop these dead zones from occurring?

1. Join a local organization that helps educate and fights to preserve our waterways. 

2. Get some neighbors and friends together and take a trip through the small tributaries picking up trash and other debris that might one day end up in our lakes and oceans.

3. Get involved with non-profit organizations that help plant trees along shorelines and help restore our wetlands.

4. Create a grass roots organization that help creates initiatives pushing for cleaner water standards of our rivers and streams. 

5.Use less toxic chemicals when cleaning around your house.

6. Wash your car on your grass or take it to a car wash – or not as often.

7. Buy locally grown organic food or shop at local farmers markets. 

8. Support organically grown and free-trade clothing. 

9. Look at harvesting your greywater.

10.Use less water, which will help the treatment plants become more efficient.

11.Try to wash your laundry with less phosphates or switch to a natural soap or even use a soap nut.

12. Be conscientious of your choices and actions and think about the impact they might have somewhere else.

13. Get out and get involved. 

14. Read my post on Stormwater Runoff.

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Saving Water – And Money, Too!

Posted by Going Green Consultant on October 19, 2008

Since about 20 to 25% of the average home water use is in the shower, switching to a low-flow shower heads only makes sense. If you are one of the millions of households that are still using “old standard” shower heads, then you should consider that for about every five minutes in the shower uses about 30 gallons of water. Multiple that by the other family members in your household, and you can quickly see how many gallons per day that adds up to.

A low-flow shower head can cut your shower water consumption by as much as two-thirds. And with the modern low-flow heads, you hardly will notice the difference. But the real savings will come from an often forgot about source -your hot water heater. By reducing the amount of hot water needed/used, the heater isn’t working so hard to maintain that set temperature, thus not working as much. Ka-ching, Savings!

How do I find low-flow shower heads and can I install it myself?

Low-flow heads are now the norm and are actually starting to be required in some communities. The first place to look would be to contact your utility company to see if they have any free give-aways or can hook you up with coupons or rebates if you buy one yourself. If they don’t, then check your local plumbing supply or hardware store. There is always online, too.

There are two kinds of low-flow shower heads: aerating and non-aerating. Aerating is allowing air to mix into the stream. This helps maintain a steady pressure so the flow will have an even, full shower spray. Because air is being mixed in with the water, the water temperature can sometimes cool down a bit towards the floor of the shower. Aerating shower heads are by far the most poplular type of low-flow shower heads.

Non-aerating is simply not including air into the water stream. This maintains temperature well and delivers a strong spray. The water flow pulses, which gives you more of that massaging shower head effect.

Which either one you decide to go with, the price range is usually within the $8 to $50, depending on the features and styles. The one that I think is the best has a turnoff valve on it. This allows you to put the water on hold while you soap up. The advantage of this is that the water is instantly there and you don’t need to fiddle trying to re-adjust the temperature again. But when you are selecting your low-flow shower head, look for ones that are less than 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute). 

Installing a low-flow shower head is really easy. First get out a pair of adjustable pliers and unscrew the old shower head (without the water on, of course). Once you have it off, clean up the threads on the pipe. Peplace the white teflon tape, wrapping it in the same direction as you are going to screw the new low-flow shower head (Righty tighty, lefty loosey). Now screw on your low-flow shower head (make sure the rubber washer is in place on the shower head). Check for leaks. 

See it wasn’t that hard. And you are saving water and energy – and money, too!

Here is a helpful video: replacing shower head

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