Water is perhaps the most wasted natural resource, due to its abundance in many U.S. regions. Americans use water for drinking, landscaping and washing, often disposing of it after one use. You don't need a big treatment facility and a laundry list of chemicals to recycle water at home. You can easily establish standard practices for recycling water to conserve this valuable natural resource.
Simple Water Recycling
Many people intuitively recycle water at home. Sharing the shower or saving bathwater for a pet's bath is a multiple-use strategy that conserves water. Using the water that drains from one houseplant to water the next is a simple recycling practice. Recycling the water in which you cooked vegetables into a soup base conserves the nutrients and flavor. You can recycle rainwater for bathing and hand-washing laundry, and residents of some Asian and African countries harvest rainwater as their primary water supply (see References 1).
Greywater results when you use fresh water to bathe, do laundry or wash dishes. This water works well for outdoor irrigation, provided the detergents you have added are phosphate-free and low-sodium. You can set up a diversion pipe to deliver greywater from a household source to lawn and garden areas, or you can transport greywater in containers to water individual planting beds (see References 2). Local municipalities may have regulations governing the use of greywater, so check first before investing in a greywater diversion system.
Treated Water Recycling
A home water filtration system will purify tap water for drinking if you don't like the taste or are concerned about additives or toxins in the municipal water supply. By purifying potable water, you can avoid the cost of bottled water as well as conserve the energy that goes into processing and packaging bottled products. Home filtration systems may recycle tap water via distillation, reverse osmosis, carbon filtration, ultraviolet disinfection or other purification processes. To help determine the type of filtration that best suits your needs, ask your public utility for its latest water-quality assessment to identify any contaminants that need to be addressed (see References 4).
Recycling in the Field
Recycling water when you are backpacking, hiking or cycling can cut down on the weight of your cargo as well as help you tread more lightly on the environment. Although water use rates are dropping, each adult likely uses 36 gallons or more per household per day (see References 5), yet when backpacking, you may get by with only 1 gallon of water per day for drinking, cooking and minimal washing. Not only does a limited water supply prevent you from letting the water run while you brush your teeth, it also forces you to actively recycle. Using the rest of your tea water for washing your face or rinsing out your teacup comes naturally when your available water supply is limited.
- Global Development Research Center: An Introduction to Rainwater Harvesting
- NSF International: Home Water Treatment Devices
- Natural Resources Defense Council; Consumer Guide to Water Filters; Jan. 9, 2006
- "Journal of the American Water Works Association"; Residential Water Use Trends in North America; Thomas D. Rockaway, et al.; February 2011
I have an MFA degree in Creative Writing and am a published poet who has received several poetry awards. I have established a reputation as an environmental activist, both through the group I co-founded -- see alternativeone.org -- and through a series of op-ed pieces in Montana newspapers. I have written extensively on alternative energy, recycling and endangered species.