Imagine flocking to your local supermarket and fighting with local residents over bottled mineral water because your tap water has been declared undrinkable. Or watching fruit withering on the vine because farmers are faced with restrictions on watering crops. Or watching your once lush, green lawn dry out because of a ban on watering. Or taking two-minute showers. We use water for drinking and personal hygiene but also for watering plants, washing dishes, and irrigating crops. The list is endless. For most Americans it is difficult to imagine how devastating a water shortage can be largely because of the free availability of water. But as parts of the U.S. face severe and unprecedented drought conditions, it is important to begin to develop habits that preserve our water supply. Through the combined resources of four countries and over 12 universities and government agencies, a concerted effort to develop ways to conserve water has produced this helpful tip list. Saving Water in Your Home ‘ Take a quick shower rather than a bath and save an average of 20 gallons of water. ‘ Clean vegetables in a sink or pan partially filled with water rather than running water from the tap. ‘ Re-use the water that vegetables are washed in for watering houseplants or for cleaning. ‘ If you wash dishes by hand, rinse them in a sink partially filled with clean water instead of under running water. ‘ Instead of waiting for tap water to get cold enough for drinking, keep a bottle of water in the refrigerator. ‘ Whenever possible, compost food scraps or dispose of them in the garbage rather than using the garbage disposal which requires a high level of water for operation. ‘ A full dishwasher is more water efficient than washing the same load by hand. ‘ Only run your dishwasher when it is full to make the best use of water, energy and detergent. ‘ Cut down on the amount of rinsing you do before loading the dishwasher. ‘ Wait until you have a full load of laundry before running the machine to save both water and energy. If you can’t wait for a full load, use the right water level to match the size of the load. ‘ When washing clothes by hand, the water should not be left running. Fill a laundry tub with water, and re-use wash-and-rinse water as much as possible. ‘ Turn off the bathroom faucet while brushing teeth or shaving. ‘ Take short showers rather than long showers or baths, and turn the water off while soaping. ‘ Don’t use the toilet as a trash can. Toilets should be used only to carry away sanitary waste. Saving Water Outdoors ‘ Don’t follow a fixed watering schedule. Water when the grass or plants show signs of needing it. Over watering is bad for plants and lawns. It promotes shallow root growth, making your lawn less hardy. ‘ Maintain a lawn height of 2 1/2 to 3 inches to help protect the roots from heat stress and reduce the loss of moisture to evaporation. Allowing the grass to grow slightly taller reduces water loss by providing more ground shade for the roots and by promoting water retention in the soil. ‘ Be sure to adjust irrigation system controllers according to seasonal irrigation needs. Install moisture sensors in each irrigation zone (sunny, shady, etc.) to better determine irrigation needs. ‘ Avoid water loss to evaporation; don’t water the lawn during midday. ‘ Water before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m., and avoid watering on windy days. ‘ Water in several short sessions rather than one long one, to allow the lawn to better absorb the water. ‘ Avoid sprinklers that spray a fine mist, which increases evaporation. ‘Wash your car with a bucket of soapy water and use a nozzle to stop the flow of water from the hose between rinsing. ‘ Consider washing your car on the lawn if possible to reduce runoff. ‘ Clean driveways and sidewalks with a broom instead of the hose. ‘ Check for leaks in outdoor faucets, pipes and hoses. ‘ To prevent leaks from developing, shut off and drain water lines to outside spigots in the winter. ‘ Cover your spa or pool to reduce evaporation. Also, check your spa or pool for leaks and have them repaired promptly. ‘ Consider Xeriscape landscaping which takes into consideration how the yard will be used and how it can provide the greatest benefit with the least amount of maintenance.