This Summer was dry in New England. Many towns were under water use bans and restrictions as water tables got very low. Living in the country, we do not have town water, we have a private well. And like many well owners this Summer, we experienced the shock of turning the water faucet on and having the water trickle to a stop. There are a series of things you check when you are responsible for your own water. Did the well pump die? Is the pressure tank filling? Is there a toilet running? Is something leaking?
You take the well cap off and drop ice cubes down the well and time how long it takes before it goes “plunk”. This tells you how much water you have. God I love math! You make phone calls to the well company and ask important questions.
We shut the well off and waited a few hours to see if it would come back. It did, a little. I shut it off again and I bought many gallons of bottled water. We used our rain barrels for flushing toilets. We did our laundry at our parent’s house. We talked about fracking, we talked about digging a new well, and we talked about money.
We danced, sang, prayed, and made offerings to the well.
The problem was actually really simple. There was NO RAIN and little Winter snow last year. Think of it like a bank account. If you are constantly spending faster than the money is coming in, then eventually you will hit zero or worse. That was what was happening to the water tables, we were spending in a time when we should have been saving.
Water was refilling just not as fast as we were using it, so some changes needed to be made if we were going to continue to enjoy things like showers. Our shower heads were pumping out water at 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm). I did some quick calculations. 2 Teenage girls taking a ten minute shower each (yes that is too long but let’s be real) is 50 gallons of water in 20 minutes. Even Angie and I doing a quick 5 minute shower together is 12.5 gallons. Add our already low flush toilets that flush at 1.3 gpm and you have some serious water use. That isn’t taking into consideration doing dishes, which we do by hand (that’s another blog post….), and laundry!!!! 100 gallons a day easy. That’s typical for a family of four. (National Average is higher but here is fun calculator you can try for yourself)
I went online and found low-flow faucet aerators and shower heads. They weren’t fancy but they had adjustable flow rates from 0.5gpm to 1.0gpm to 1.5 gpm. For $11.00 I changed all of the faucets and shower heads in our house. Angie and I are ok with the 0.5 gpm shower and you can’t beat 2.5 gallons of water for a 5 minute shower. The girls like the 1.0 gpm or the 1.5 gpm and have learned to take significantly shorter showers. And with the faucet aerators, even something as unconscious as rinsing out a bowl or dish uses very little water.
We have had plenty of rain and snow this Winter, so local water tables should be refilling nicely. But just because you are flush with cash doesn’t mean you should go on a spending spree. I think that is why it is difficult to convince people to be more conservative with natural resources. If you look around it seems like there is plenty. But the pendulum always swings back the other way and the lean times will come. It is best to have something in the bank, or in the ground, when that happens.
Changing ingrained habits can be hard and take time, so investing in conservation tools seemed like the best immediate option. Our water use compared to a year ago is significantly less. Of course we have sold the house but you can bet where ever we end up next, we’ll be installing these simple devices to reduce our water use. And the new owner will hopefully benefit from our conservation efforts.
Thanks for reading,