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Every drop counts: Do your part to conserve water

Sure you're irritated. You have a nice yard, nothing excessive, and now you face the prospect of seeing it become a plot of brown tumbleweed. You're asked to conserve and you're understandably resentful, knowing your sacrifice is but a drop in the bucket compared with water hogs like those vast agribusiness farms.

But the water shortage, like the economic meltdown, is a complex problem years in the making. Most of us, to some degree, have been participants. Haven't we all, at one time or another, grown plants and turf we knew needed more water than any rainfall could provide?

The best thing people can do now is figure out how they can make a difference in their own small corners and hope every other individual will try for the same. That means, for example, that the owners of those big moisture-sucking acreages maybe can't turn off the taps in their fields. (Don't forget, those crops contribute a lot to the state economy.) But they can do something personally. We all can.

Severe water restrictions are nothing new in other parts of the country. If you happened to be staying at even the toniest resort on California's Monterey Peninsula about a decade ago, you would have seen a sign in the bathroom exhorting you to turn off the shower while you lathered up. And to understand that fresh towels would not be delivered daily so that water could be conserved. And you might have read in the local newspaper of desperate (and outrageously expensive) suggestions to alleviate the dire water shortage by barging it in from melted polar ice caps.

We could be close to that here. Even strong summer rains that will bring back your brown lawn will not be enough to banish the long-term threat of drought.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Which is why we are suggesting, metaphorically of course, to throw out the baby but save the bath water. Actually, the baby part is metaphorical; the bath water part is real.

Conservation mostly requires common sense and creative thinking. Here are a few water-saving ideas from Times correspondent and master gardener Yvonne Swanson. Remember that something considered extreme, even eccentric, can become a matter of normal habit over time.

TIP | Reuse your water

Instead of pouring water used to boil or steam vegetables down the drain, let it cool and then use it to water plants. You can use dishwater on plants as well, as long as you wash with a mild detergent (not Dawn or products with borax). The same is true for bath water.

TIP | Make your own watering spikes

Drill 4 to 8 small holes into the cap of a 2-liter plastic bottle. Next, use a sharp knife to remove all or part of the bottom of the bottle to create a funnel for pouring in water. Turn the bottle upside down and bury about half the bottle in a hole next to a plant. Fill the bottle with water, which should slowly drip into the soil. Refill the bottle as needed.

TIP | Wash the car and pets on the lawn

Even when you use a hose with a shut-off device, your dry turf will get a much-needed watering from the runoff.

TIP | Turn the hose off at the faucet

Outdoor hoses can leak because of worn washers and holes, so always use the faucet, not the nozzle, to shut off water.

TIP | Repair leaky faucets

A dripping faucet can waste gallons of water in no time. Place a bucket or container under leaking faucets to collect water until they're repaired.

TIP | Save aquarium water

The next time you drain the aquarium, pour the old water, which is loaded with nutrient-rich fish excrement, on outdoor plants.

TIP | Collect rainwater without a rain barrel

Simply put leak-proof containers outdoors prior to a rain shower to collect water. Store the water in a covered container (to prevent mosquito larvae from forming) or use promptly to water plants.

TIP | Don't dump cooler ice

After a day at the beach, let it melt and warm to room temperature, then use it to water plants.

TIP | Don't waste pool water

The next time you backflush the pool, direct the flow onto your lawn, not down the sewer. Chlorinated pool water shouldn't harm turf when applied occasionally.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8293.


Inside: new gardening
helper: the old-fashioned watering can. 4H

Send us your tips

We'd like to know what you are doing to save water in your home or garden. Please share your suggestions by e-mailing them to [email protected] Put WATER TIPS in the subject line. Mail submissions to Water Tips, Homes, Newsfeatures, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731-1121. Include your name, city of residence and phone number.

* For more tips, go to and

Inside: The new go-to gardening helper: an old-fashioned watering can. Page 4H

Every drop counts: Do your part to conserve water 03/27/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 11:15am]
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