Photo: How to conserve water

A brown lawn isn't dead, just dormant (like a bear in winter). (Credit: Cindee Snider via Flickr)

It's hot. Many provinces are in flames and there's a water shortage.

Now, for the bad news: Our households consume about 340 litres of water per day. And the thirstiest culprit is your toilet, followed by laundry, faucets, showers and leaks.

This is not a problem of the week or this summer. This is what lies ahead.

Five water-saving habits inside your home (in order of impact)

Flush less

"If it's yellow, let it mellow..." is the two-part jingle. But what about all the other times?

  • Don't flush tissue or toilet paper each time you blow your nose. Switch to hankies (see laundering tip below).
  • Stop flushing the unflushables like baby wipes, floss and hair. Don't treat your toilet like a garbage can.
  • Install low-flow toilet(s). Old toilets use about 12 litres; low flow will cut that in half.

Subscribe to the Queen of Green digest

Launder less

  • Most clothing can be worn a few times before washing. Some people never wash denim!
  • Avoid using the pre-wash rinse cycle — poopy cloth diapers a possible exception.
  • Invest in a water- and energy-efficient machine (savings are from 150 to 75 litres).

Faucets off!

  • Don't run the tap for a cold drink. Fill a jug and leave it in the fridge. Or drink what you get.
  • Wet your toothbrush. Then rinse the spit with waste water from your short shower (read below).
  • Use the water at the bottom of your salad spinner to give plants a drink.

Short showers

  • Set your phone alarm to two to three minutes. Or listen to a two-minute song ('cause I know you like to sing along). Turn the water off while you soap up.
  • Don't wash your hair every day.
  • Save shower water in a pail for washing floors, the car or rinsing toothpaste spit.

Fix leaks

  • Does your bathroom or laundry room smell mouldy? Check for leaks from big water sucks — toilet(s), washing machine and faucets.
  • Metro Vancouver explains how to check a toilet: "Put a few drops of food colouring in the tank. If it shows up in the bowl, your toilet is leaking water."

Outside: Prioritize watering edibles over ornamentals and annuals

  • A brown lawn isn't dead, just dormant (like a bear in winter). Metro Vancouver recommends one hour of lawn watering per week (unless, of course, it rains).
  • Garden hoses are the least efficient way. Use a drip system or try clay pots!
  • Follow your city restrictions. Water in the early morning — usually no wind and lower temperatures, so less water evaporates. The worst time to water is late evening because the lawn stays wet all night, making it more susceptible to disease.

Caught someone watering when they shouldn't? Read this before reacting.

What's a solution to saving water you think is underutilized?

Sincerely, Lindsay Coulter
A fellow Queen of Green

July 9, 2015

Read more

Post a comment


Jul 04, 2016
10:03 AM

I save water from washing veggies and fruit and put it on plants both indoors and out. I have a water saving shower head. I save dishwasher water for other wipe-ups and for washing pet bowls…………..

Aug 15, 2015
8:20 PM

There are also several water conserving devices like toilet tank water displacement devices for those without low-flush toilets. Check out for a simple product called the Toilet Tank Bank!

Aug 14, 2015
8:07 AM

I was listening to a talk program on water conservation where a yard farmer told of re-plumbing her bathroom sink to let the used/excess water flow into the toilet tank. Evidently a simple procedure. Sounded good to me!

Aug 10, 2015
6:33 PM

At a very young age we taught our kids to brush their teeth in a cup of water,not under a running tap. We are on water delivery with a storage tank in our house so water conservation is necessary every day of the year. Other tips: - some plants like the dregs of the teapot or coffee pot (let cool first). - warm the teapot before making the tea with a little water from the kettle that is heating up to boil. No need to run the hot water tap. - pour this warming water into the watering can for indoor plants. - rather than pouring down the drain, empty your kids water bottles onto plants, indoors or outdoors at the end of each day. - refuse to purchase, choose or use ANY bottled water. I am lucky that I live up north where the water quality is excellent.

Aug 08, 2015
11:31 AM

Our pets need clean fresh water too but instead of emptying partially filled bowl down the drain i pour it into a watering can that is nearby and use that water to water plants inside and outside in containers.

Jul 24, 2015
1:14 PM

This is high time guys, we have to conserve water. Thankfully there is rain pouring today.

Jul 24, 2015
9:50 AM

Anyone know if its more water-wise to use the dishwasher or wash by hand…generally speaking, as there will be variables, of course…? I like to wash be hand…

Jul 17, 2015
4:44 PM

Here in victoria I have managed to get my established producing veggie and flower gardens down to watering every second morning by laying 10 cm plus of mulch on all the beds. Now if I could only water with my gray water. Cheers Rebecca

Jul 17, 2015
10:30 AM

Great ideas! One I might add is retrofitting your regular toilet to a dual flush system. Saves sending the old one to the landfill and cost me about $30 for a kit at Canadian Tire. Has been working great for the past 5 years. Installed it myself and I am not very handy at all.

Jul 16, 2015
10:23 PM

Water conservation is an important topic right now — and will continue to be in BC as climate change keeps shifting our weather to warmer and dryer conditions.

I love that you linked to the clay pot idea. There’s a Vancouver company that is selling these in the US and Canada:

Full disclosure, my husband is a partner, but I’ve been using them in my garden the last two years and they have been amazing for my tomatoes and greens.

Thought I’d share :)

Keep up the great advice!

Jul 16, 2015
2:55 PM

As a friend pointed out to me, is it really necessary to wash our “garbage” ie our recyclables. Don’t run them through the dishwasher! Use the leftover water after washing your supper dishes and do all your recyclables that need to be washed then. They don’t need to be sanitary, just not attract bugs or smell.

Jul 16, 2015
1:24 PM

run the hose from your furnace/ac condensating pump’s hose into a bucket and use it in your washer or for watering your plants.

Jul 16, 2015
12:56 PM

Plumber taught me if you can’t afford a new toilet. Put a 2 litre pop bottle. Filled with water in the tank. You will use alot less water when flushing.

Jul 16, 2015
7:17 AM

Hello queen of green — I have been following your ideas and cleaning product ideas. For the last two years I have been making green products with my class of 27 students and giving them as gifts in our school and to our families. We recently won evergreen’s watershed champion honourable mention and will continue to do this every year. Here is what we’ve been experimenting and making: environmentally safe shampoo, deodorant, weed killer, dishwasher detergent. Next we are making and refining recipes for conditioner and sun block. I think that having 30 kids making these items makes a big difference and opens them up to making things for themselves. Rejecting brand loyalty/conditioning and decreasing harmful things for the environment. Cheers to you! Kiersten Brookes teacher at Strawberry Vale School

Jul 13, 2015
12:46 PM

We thoroughly enjoyed the water saving suggestions on Global News this morning. Our bathroom sink and shower are the furthest away from the hot water tank, so we use a container (large Becel container) ) to hold the cold water from the sink and shower until the hot water arrives and use the cold water to water our plants. We try our best to let as little clean water as possible go down the drain wastefully. We hope you like this suggestion.

Kind Regards, Ron

Jul 10, 2015
10:13 AM

Rather than run the tap to get hot water, I use a kettle and heat it. Water that I use to rinse fruit or vegetables goes on the garden as does the rinse water from my dishwasher. I spot was more often than take showers or use the bath tub. I bought a toilet that uses 3 litres of water or 6, if necessary.

The David Suzuki Foundation does not necessarily endorse the comments or views posted within this forum. All contributors acknowledge DSF's right to remove product/service endorsements and refuse publication of comments deemed to be offensive or that contravene our operating principles as a charitable organization. Please note that all comments are pre-moderated. Privacy Policy »