Saving your gallon?

Governor Mike Easley wants us all to cut our water use in half. How are you doing it?

"Whenever you use water, cut the amount by half, whether it is taking a shower or washing the dishes," Easley said. "We all need to know whether this will be extremely difficult or easily doable."

Few water managers described Easley's request as easily doable. Having already slashed usage by about 20 percent by eliminating most outdoor watering, the next step is to head indoors where water use often isn't considered optional.

That means three-minute showers, limited washing of clothes and dishes, and strategic toilet flushing. Other possibilities: turning off the tap while shaving and brushing teeth, and collecting water in a bucket from your shower to use elsewhere.
- | Easley: Cut water use by half, 10/23/07



In my house we save the water that runs while the shower water gets hot to flush the toilet when needed,have a big pot in the sink and save rinse water for plants.Only run full loads of clothes and dishes,take "get wet,turn off,rinse" showers.
I don't understand why Easley would ask folks to cut water usage by %50 but not take executive action to mandate that state agencies set an example by cutting usage by %50-except for health related agencies.
I would like him to take a stronger stance on this before we become another Ga.
Jacquie Gist

(FWIW I posted this on 17 Oct, after Easley was quoted on WUNC as saying everyone should try to conserve at least one gallon of water a day. See this link from WRAL.)

I've been drinking beer instead of tap water, flushing the toilet less, and letting the plants die. It's a win-win situation.

Taking a Navy shower can help too. Get wet. Turn off the water. Wash with soap etc. Turn the water back on to rinse off. Saves a lot of water.


I've been using your Navy shower technique and it works pretty well except when I go to turn the shower back on with a soap-covered hand I find it hard to get a good grip on that knob. A minor inconvenience I can live with but it sure would be nice to have a big button you could just thump on.

When I was pre-kindergarten, we lived in a creaky old house with a cranky, stingy well. Most of the summer we had to "share flushes," and a couple of times we had to bathe in the Ipswich river (which you could do then, never would now).

For now, I have to say the logic behind contemporary water-saver toilets doesn't seem to play well in reality. Are we really saving water when there are so many occasions on which one must "double-flush"?

After years of reminding my daughter to flush, I can now turn my parenting attention elsewhere and conserve water too.

Shower-wise: I get in the tub, do the things folks normally do in the sink, then turn on the water and shower. (By the middle tasks I mean brush my teeth and irrigate my sinuses--if I shaved I'd do that then also.) I also just use one soap (Dr Bronner's, but no label reading in the shower :-), no shampoo or conditioner, to save time fiddling. Also @ Pacifica we have the inline heaters, so one doesn't need to run water to heat up. I'll try the "Navy shower" technique.

Plant-wise: if they can't handle drought, they got no business being here. Pacifica has cisterns, and my neighbors installed rain barrels, but the only assistance I provide is ...

Flush-wise: being a guy I have several easy options for "number one". While one is often told, "if it's yellow, let it mellow", but that gets funky real fast :-( Better instead to "collect then distribute": nourish plants and scare deer, too! Details offline :-)

[hope this formats correctly]

Priscilla Murphy 11:16am 11/1/2007
> Are we really saving water when there are so many occasions on which
> one must "double-flush"?

I'm wondering, how "contemporary" is your water-saving toilet? Older ones (really contemporary water-saver toilets are quite good. Also, considering they typically require 1.6 gpf while older ones required 3-4 gpf, even a water-saving double-flush beats an old-style single-flush. (ICBW, and invite the correction of plumbing professionals.)

[hope *this* formats better than my previous attempt: why doesn't OP have a preview mode?]

Priscilla Murphy 11:16am 11/1/2007
> Are we really saving water when there are so many occasions on which
> one must "double-flush"?

I'm wondering, how "contemporary" is your water-saving toilet? Older ones (< 5 years) did tend to suck (pun intended), but in my (limited) experience really contemporary water-saver toilets are quite good. Also, considering they typically require 1.6 gpf while older ones required 3-4 gpf, even a water-saving double-flush beats an old-style single-flush. (ICBW, and invite the correction of plumbing professionals.)

First - on the much-perpetuated myth that low-flush toilets need double-flushing:

Like any other line of products, all toilets do not perform the same. Most will achieve the 1.6 gallon flush, some will do a fine job with less, and some will fail and need to be flushed again.

Like any other purchase, research should be done to ensure that you get a toilet that does the job.

One of the very best is also one of the cheapest. The Toto "Carusoe" sells for $131 for the round model and $146 for the elongated at Wilkinson Supply in Carrboro.

For a comprehensive report:

I've been undercooking my rice. Losing weight and helping the community...


Mark, that PDF report is awesome. It's way too detailed for me to get much out of it but I *loved* the 'test media' photos of the 'sinkers' and 'floaters' colored yellow and brown.

I also love that they ran their tests with up to 60 'floaters' or 'sinkers' per flush! That's a lot of floaters!!

My day is much better for having looked at this.

Now that I think about it - I almost remember that at one time OWASA was giving away free flapper valve upgrades that save you water - but I might just be imagining that.

I will call them now to see if they are still giving those away. My 2 toilets are from 1963 or so and use copius amounts of water and seem to flush themselves from time to time. They probably need a replacement piece or a brick in the tank if I can find an unused single plain brick. Where do you buy one of those anyway? Anyone have a brick I can have?

Hooray for us! One chronically leaking faucet (old fixture) needed professional attention so I called Sparrow and got it fixed. This is the only actual money we've spent on water conservation here. I very much did not want to replace the fixture. I stand by my earlier statement that it should not be necessary to buy a bunch of new stuff to save water.

The mister pisses off the deck on occasion. My showers are shorter because I don't have any hair. This also saves on shampoo.

I like the idea of replacing my toilets with modern ones but given that my water bill is already at the lowest measurable quantity each month (It shows a "1" on the usage bar graph on my bill) and it's so cheap, it doesn't make any fiscal sense unless I plan to live there for decades or more users populate my household.

We have a high-efficiency front-loading washer, so it only uses the exact amount of water needed.

In a past drought, I used to keep a bucket in the shower and use the water for my garden, but I don't have much of a garden anymore. I will try to do that and use the water for flushing the toilet this time. We moved last year from a house with a yard to a townhouse with a postage stamp, so there's really not much to water but a few leggy herbs on the deck.

I already take pretty fast showers and don't do it daily. I think my husband would object if I lower the frequency any further, but I will try Mayor Chilton's "Navy" method next time.


I've heard of people just filling up a 1/2 gallon plastic bottle with water and using it instead of a brick. It won't break off over time and potentially jam your flapper.

Rip Van Easley finally stirred and gave us advice that didn't rise above what you might get from The Cookie Monster on Sesame Street. Look for him to boldly advise turning off lights if they are not being used when we have an energy crisis in North Carolina. When it comes to ecological awareness and preparing for the challenges of our future in an ecologically stressed world, a random eigth grader would provide a better perspective.

Easley has spent his entire political career as Corporate Man, doing the bidding of Big Business as predictably as lobbyists work for who pays them. It should come as no surprise that on the rare occasions when he needs to change out of his Corporate Man costume and into the humble trappings of the people's servant, it takes him forever to find a phone booth. When he finally emerges, he's clueless in the unfamiliar role.

He missed the golden opportunity of the drought of 2001-2002 to set in motion state-wide constructive water conservation policies. He was so concerned that his Big Business cronies might have their profits affected by slower growth. Even now his message is simplistic and totally devoid of vision. Where are the calls for re-using wastewater. for year-round conservation measures, for legisaltion allowing greywater systems like Europe and California have, and for landscape irrigation policies that don't squander water?

I stopper my tub when i shower, then bail the water into 5-gallon buckets. I use that water to flush the toilet (which i only flush for solids or every third use) or to help fill my washing machine for the wash cycle.

I wrote a post in my blog about what we're doing at my work (the dyeshop of the PlayMakers Repertory Company) here:

I just talked to OWASA and they said you can just come in to the office and go to the Cashier's Area up front and they will give you free water-efficient toilet flapper valves. If I recall, it wasn't very difficult to install that at all when I got one about 6 years ago. So there's a free measure for conservation you can take right there. Enjoy!

Porta-johns at UNC hone football games would save a good bit of water.

This thread gives the term "potty mouth" an entirely new meaning.

Thanks for fascinating perspectives, links. Think we'll ever get back to the idea of community baths/showers?

Great to hear that so many folks are taking this situation seriously. Anyone have any OWASA bills to compare their before and after numbers? Care to share your success stories?

We got some low flow shower heads at Lowes with a easy- to-flip switch at the top to turn them off while we lather up. It works well with soapy hands.

We're all using the reclaimed shower water to flush toilets and to wash clothes. We are going to work this weekend on figuring out how to reclaim the washer water rather than letting it drain out. It should work fine for toilets and basic cleaning. We should even be able to get another washload out of the rinse water. Our clothes aren't THAT dirty!

Yes, Mark, I'll share our water consumption comparisons once I've had a chance to look at them. My kids know a dinner out at their favorite restaurant is riding on this one.

On a disappointing note, I am shocked at how many people---both local and from other areas of the state---aren't doing much of anything to change their water consumption. I was at some friends' house in Asheville this weekend--lots of people there, who were clueless or indifferent about their role in water conservation. I'm beginning to believe the adage that we only value what we pay for. Many of those folks were on wells and felt that they were exempt from the need to conserve.

I let the grass die. Didn't like it much anyway. As a bonus, no fossil fuels needed for mowing.

I was shocked at how much water you can collect as the shower warms up (at least a couple of gallons). You can buy cheap plastic buckets at Roses I believe.

Mark M., what is average residential usage, for say, a family of four?

McBrides (four people, dawg, and home based business) currently weigh in at 3-4K gallons/month and would like to see a "2" on a future OWASA bill here and there. No promises about the 50%.

I was shocked to read a week or two ago that the governor's mansion irrigation system alone used 11,000 + gallons of water per DAY. Here is the N&O article quote:
"The mansion cut down dramatically on its lawn watering this year. From June to July, the mansion's irrigation system, which is on a separate meter, used a daily average of 11,402 gallons. On Aug. 12, all watering was stopped on the property. Consumption for the irrigation system fell by half from July to September." That grass must have been nice and green.
For us, I have saved water from our most recent rainfall and kick the kids out of their luxurious hot shower after 3 minutes which isn't easy to do and is quite the battle. Laundry for everyone, once per week if that. And the other small stuff that adds up like the toothbrushing, etc. I was glad no one said they quit brushing their teeth. :)

Frank, I know you were asking Mark M, but I will respond anyway. If you are using 1,000 gallons per person per month, then you are doing a pretty decent job of conserving. If you are below that, then you are doing well.

So for a household of 4, four thousand gallons a month or less should be your goal. Obviously anyone who can do better than that should do so. Folks who are still over the 1,000 gallons per person per month mark should probably examine their water usage further. Or that is my estimate based on talking with OWASA.


You mean we weren't supposed to??

As a dentist (I may unofficially retire soon) you wouldn't believe the excuses I've heard. It begins with, the dog licks my toothbrush every day; I got sick and threw out my toothbrush and haven't been back to the store; why should I brush little Johnny's teeth because they're "milk" teeth and will just fall on out anyway. I've never heard the "I'm trying to conserve water" excuse. :) By the way, I don't know the numbers on dental offices (I'm not a practice owner), but they sure do use a lot of water every day.

I've been traveling quite a bit and therefore have been using water in other states. Guess I'll wait til I get to South Carolina tomorrow to use the potty.

Yes - 1000 gal. per person is a good general number.

So in a month our clueless governor used enough water on his grass to provide for 348 people.

I'm thinking that the issue has taken on a "crisis of the week" flavor to which many people have become somewhat numb. The main ways they'd hear about water conservation are A. the OWASA flyer (which is necessarily rather detailed); B. the gov's exhortation; and C. media stories on A and B plus a number of buried lists suggesting "what you can do" combining the obvious with the unlikely.

Doesn't seem to have really sunk in yet that we're NOT just waiting for the next good soaking rain and all will be fine. Realistically you aren't going to get the already apathetic to buy and install water-saver shower heads and toilets if they think the water's coming back soon and this is just another scare-campaign to keep the media busy.

Maybe the only way to get people's committed attention (short of group dope-slaps) would be some fairly simple but ubiquitous slogan-campaign -- big bright ads, short PSA's, the occasional well-placed banner or placard, mall kiosks, etc. Maybe "Share a shower with someone you love!" or "Don't let it all go down the drain!"

Seriously, I don't think people really get it yet -- the average awareness is as Anita described it. What will they do when we have to start rotating neighborhoods with water by day of the week?

The News and Observer this morning reports that the use of grey water is illegal.
More confusing policies for people - you can save your water while you wait for it to warm up in the shower or sink but you shouldn't save the water from washing "pathogens" from your body.
Of course, if we don't conserve water we're not going to have water to wash pathogens from our bodies.

We put out a bucket to collect rain water last week for the apple trees this week. I want to put out more buckets if this big Atlantic storms come to fruition.

I suppose not having house plants is a way to save water. We have jades and they thrive while we forget about them.

North Carolina needs to address the greywater issue and enter into the modern era. Europe and California have greywater rules that are realistic.

I guess full-body condoms are in order until we solve the pathogen problem on ouir bodies.

I'm sure I don't have any pathogens on MY body.....

I do have 4 very thirsty, huge indoor gardenias, and they are getting all my warming-up-the-shower water before the pathogens start to swarm.

I appreciate the governor focusing on water consumption. I think it would be more effective to ask folks to get their consumption to a reasonable level rather than "everyone cut use in half". For instance, I'd hazard a guess that the folks on this blog are already pretty near maximum efficiency. It's the inneficient who need to understand that using more than 1,000 gallons a month per person (if that's the number) is unecessary. So, thanks for that number Mark Marcopolis. Is that a generally accepted nubmber? It would be great to see OWASA publicize it heavily so the more wasteful folks get the idea. A good op-ed in the N&O might be valuable, giving the gov props for focusing on the issue but pointing out that a reasonable individual standard of use is probably much more valuable than an "everybody cut use in half" directive.

Also, in relation to Ruby's comments on the campaign finance thread, I think it demeans and detracts from productive discussion to be insulting the governor by calling him "Rip Van Easely" and "clueless". Perhaps I take things to personally, but it just turns me off. Too often I talk to people who have stopped paying attn to this sight b/c too many posts are overly sarcastic, or focus on trivial bickering, or are just down right insulting. I think that limits the reach and effectiveness of this online community.

I'm sure I've been guilty of such offenses (if you want to point them out to me but want to spare other folks suffering them again, feel free to email me directly at But I think many of us, myself included, need to step back and ask what is the point of some of our posts and certainly what is the point of demeaning language.

OP can be a very useful sight for discussion and information sharing and I plan to give Ruby a bit of funds, esp. after how much I've learned about Joe H. here. And I sometimes think that OP could be a statewide model for a progressive web site in every county that helps share information and solve problems that concern all of us. But I sense a stagnation and even decline in OP participation and interest and I can't help but think a lot of it relates to an overly snippy attitude amongst too many of us and I'm not sure that is Ruby's intent. I do want to end this point on a positive note, so have a great weekend everyone :).

Does anyone know whether it's possible to check one's water consumption online via the OWASA website? Or do you just have to wait to see your paper bill?

Eric, I think the only way to do it is to wait for your bill. And remember, the bill uses whole numbers and is not always covering the same number of days. This year, we have had "No. of usage days" running between 25 and 33.

I already knew it was illegal to use gray water. Honestly, I consider that a bit of a bonus. Makes me feel all bad-ass and anti-authority...I make a point of wearing my leather jacket when I dump the bathwater on my Japanese maples.

Yeah, keeping my plants alive is my form of civil disobedience.

Seriously, though, it DOES seem ridiculous that it's illegal to use the bathwater for flushing toilets. (It is, btw.) I mean...shower and bathwater pathogens are worse than...poo? ummmm....yeah....

Yes, all these water saving techniques are great and those of you volunteering are noble to say the least. Kudos. Realizing that we are not separate from the surrounding ecology is a large leap for some people.

But like the token gestures we volunteers make in fighting the greater climate crisis, unless tighter restrictions of or water use are mandated across the board by the government, it will mean nothing after the .

Also, what we need instead of water restrictions is water rationing. To understand the difference: if I do not water my lawn it does not mean I conserve water in any other aspects of my life. I might mean that I take longer showers because I am not spending the money on water my lawn. But with rationing, I get 1000 gallons per month. Period.

My other question is this: Why does Carrboro government have to wait for Easely to tell how the town uses its' water? Can't the town of Carrboro enact more strict restrictions?

I imagine a bumper sticker that says "If you outlaw grey water, only outlaws will have flowers."

You are right Carrboro can and will restrict it's own water use by town facilties.I was talkng about the Gov's call for %50 reduction and suggesting that he mandate state institutions,Carrboro facilities are town not state owned,cut water usage.

Thanks for clearing me up on that Jacquie.

But now another question after I read

Why there are no surcharges for non-residential (business) customers? In fact, they are paying less now that the water situation is worse. Instead of the "peak seasonal rates" of $5.51 per 1,000 gallons of water they are being charged "off-peak" rate of $3.08. [ ] S

o if they use more then 3000 gallons per month they pay less then a residential customer. That sounds silly to me being that they probably use more water. I am calling tomorrow to find out what percent of demand is from businesses.

Anyway, instead of trying to reduce the demand for water, Owasa and the Town should artificially reduce the supply and institute water rationing.

You can also read your own meter and compare it to your last bill. It probably will take a little while to know how much, exactly, you're using per day or week, but I think there was a GRE question about reading such meters.

A few weeks ago I found a beautiful 5 gallon Carolina blue bucket with wheels at Lowe's . Makes it much easier to move the water from shower to toilet, in proper style.

In the summer I found a watering can at Target with a hole on the side which allows it to fit until the spigot in little sinks. This was pre-drought and perfect for watering our plants at the office. If you want to collect sink water as it is heats up, this would work also. Don't know if the cans were a seasonal item; hope not as we could use them at the house now.

Linda C.

I became a vegetarian. Vegetarianism increases the water supply by not using water to water feed for livestock and the livestock themselves; it is the single most important and extensive thing anyone can do to conserve water.

I urge all environmentally conscious Orange Countyites to do the same. It is also a very healthy choice.

Cary was the first community in North Carolina to begin using reclaimed water (highly treated wastewater from the treatment plant).

A plumber cannot legally set up a greywater (wastewater collected prior to entering the sewer system) due to the possibility of untreated feces from baby/invalid bathwater or laundry rinse water being applied to the land.

But untreated feces is not the only hazard of using greywater. Many commercially manufactured personal care and consumer products contain chemicals that disrupt the endocrine systems of wildlife (reducing the number of male frogs and fish born) either directly or seepage into groundwater or stormwater runoff. Most of us use these products assuming they are safe. But increasingly, the EPA and other public health groups are finding that they aren't. New research is showing residual effects on humans as well. But before they are regulated the science must show, to a certain level of confidence, direct proof.

Until these products are regulated, you can minimize their impact by watching the kinds of materials goods you use. Choose shampoos and soaps without dyes or perfumes. Select other personal care products such as toothpaste, dishwashing liquids, etc. that do not contain chemical additives (especially the antibacterial soaps).

Unfortunately these products are woven into every fabric of our lives, from the fire retardants in our clothing to the plastics in our food and drink containers. We can't eliminate them altogether, but we can all minimize our use, especially if you are carrying your own greywater out to the garden (which I do).

We all want to save water, and using greywater is a great idea. We just need to pay attention to what we put in that water before we reuse it.

As a landscape contractor in the Chapel Hill area, I have not planted any shrubs or trees in client yards since July. I have done all of the site prep work, and have informed my clients that until the use restrictions are lifted I won't be doing any planting.
This is of course, hard on my business, but it is even harder on our community water supply if businesses disregard the drought situation. I have other work installing deer fences and controlling invasive plants which keeps me busy.

On another note, I have two small pond pumps which work great for pumping water out of the tub and into my greywater tanks.

I thought you all might be interested to know how the University of Georgia Athletic Department is conserving water, from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Football fans at Saturday's homecoming game at the University of Georgia at Athens were being asked to leave the job of flushing the toilets to stadium bathroom attendants

I am pretty good about not always flushing at home, but EW!



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