Water Usage…




My oldest son was home for a visit back in April. They moved to Seattle last November after their October wedding. They love Seattle and I am hoping to see their new home this summer when I take a trip there myself. The story that my son told that I thought was fun about their new home, other than Seattle being an incredibly “green” city, was that his new bride had embraced this green-ness by competing against the other residents in their apartment building with overall water usage. The funny part of this is that the other residence weren’t aware they were in a contest. Thomas and Bell live in a building that houses about six apartments that all share a garage like space on the bottom level for their cars etc. Each apartment’s water meter is also in this garage and as they would come into the garage, Belle would look at each apartment’s numbers on their perspective meters. She was trying to gauge how much water they were using in comparison to her neighbors. When she realized that the numbers didn’t reset at the beginning of the month, she kind of gave up because it would mean that she would have to set up a spread sheet and do a daily check of the numbers to see if they were ahead or behind. I just got a kick out of this story and the competitiveness of my new daughter-in-law.

Belle came to visit this week and I brought up this story and we laughed about it. She then said that I would be disappointed with how she washed dishes after I shared how I had noticed other people’s dish washing habits. I’m now wondering how this trend has come about and if people even think about their water usage in terms of what is going to save them the most. The way I look at it, every drop that comes out of my faucet is paid for by me and I want to make that money count with every drop. So, I thought I would share how I try and conserve water in my house and see if I can get any of you to help all of us to save even more water.

This trend that I spoke of to Belle, and which she confessed to doing, is washing dishes with the faucet running the entire time, no stopper in the sink and a continual stream of water going down the drain. I have witnessed this on many occasions, mainly with my kid’s generation.

When I was growing up, you would clean out the sink, and add the stopper and then fill the sink with your hot dish water and soap. Your companion sink, either to the right or left, depending on how your set up is, is filled with hot rinse water. As you wash your dishes you then dunk them into the hot rinse water and stack them into a dish drainer. NO additional running water. I would estimate that you probably are using about 3 gallons of water total. Two for the washing and maybe a gallon for the rinse.

In times of drought here in Virginia, I have used a plastic dish pan in the sink to wash the dishes in and rinse the dish above that dish pan of wash water capturing ALL the water and then that water in used to put on the garden in the evening to help keep a plant alive during those dry spells. I believe this is probably the best way to truly salvage all the water and not let any of it go down the drain.

I’m told that using the dishwasher is absolutely the best solution because it uses the water in the most efficient way. However, I see people washing their dishes in the running water method BEFORE they then load them into the dishwasher. While most dishwashers, mine does, should be able to handle the dirty dish without even rinsing off the foodstuff, I understand that some don’t and the dishes may need a little help before they go into the dishwasher but I believe that you could probably get away with a good scraping with a rubber spatula into the compost or trash instead of involving any water at all. I worked at a YWCA camp one year in college and each table had a rubber spatula that the kids were required to “squeegee” their plate before stacking them up, eliminating the extra pre-washing before loading them into the commercial dishwasher in the kitchen area.

I use a lot of water conservation techniques in my pottery too. I have a dishtub in the utility sink in our basement and try at all costs to avoid any of my chemicals going down the drain. That dish pan gets really full of waste water and maybe gets dumped out into my grass once a month. That same water is used to wash out brushes, containers, glaze buckets and even rinsing off my hands before I finish for the day.

Drinking Water Brochure Outside

Drinking Water Brochure Inside


This topic could obviously be a completely new post due to all the chemicals that get flushed down the drain daily and end up in our watersheds.

My hope is that you will share your dishwashing techniques with me and help others to think more about their water usage and maybe even get into the competitive spirit of my sweet daughter-in-law, who is having fun trying to save the planet in her small way in Seattle. Good luck Belle and I hope you can figure out a way to get your neighbors involved in your game! I really love the spirit of this idea!

5 thoughts on “Water Usage…

  1. Okay my friend, you’ve inspired me. I’ve recently started using my dishwasher(after being in this house 11 years….) but I must admit I’m guilty of making a sink of hot, soapy water and cleaning my dishes prior to loading them in the dishwasher. You’ve inspired me to conserve (and save). I’m going to try giving the dishes a good scrape and load them, minus the soapy wash first!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Good job, Mona. Our water has always been really expensive here in the Valley and I have just put a lot of thought into it since we seem to have such high water bills. Over the years the remainder of the county’s water system has also become as expensive and yet I see lots of waste and it really needs to become a priority to conserve. Let me know if you find that your new system works for you.

  2. Great conversation….here’s my input….I use my dishwasher most of the time, but when I have just a few dishes, I run only a small amount of water in the ‘washing’ sink and start washing the dishes. My second sink contains the dish drainer, so rather than running a sink of ‘rinse water’ I use the ‘washing’ sink as the ‘receiver’ sink for the small amount of rinse water. I turn the faucet off after rinsing each item, rather than letting the water run continuously. I wash smaller items first, and the addition of water into the ‘wash’ sink helps when more wash water is needed for larger items. On a related topic – I turn off the water when brushing my teeth rather than letting the water run the whole time until I’m ready to rinse my toothbrush. Thanks for the opportunity to comment on this topic! Diane

    • Awesome, Diane. This is exactly how I do it when I’m not using the dishwasher. Somehow the next generation is really not getting this or were just never shown how by another person. OR, they just don’t really think about it since you turn on the water and it is always there. Susie Hillard used to get on us in college for running the water while brushing our teeth. She would turn it off. I later realized she was absolutely correct it her thinking, that we need to stop doing that. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Great ideas Susie. I always scrape and soley use the dishwasher – completely full of course. I would add that everyone should plant their garden with water conservation in mind. I only plant drought tolerant and use a lot of native plants as well so I never water. A rainbarrel is great for watering containers – I’m looking for a good aesthetically pleasing, and affordable one.

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