During drought periods Braintree, Holbrook and Randolph reservoir’s capacity can become diminished. Our water supply also draws water from the Farm River, which takes water away from river herring run. In order to continue to have water for drinking, food preparation, natural fish runs and sanitation, we all need to conserve water as much as possible, both now and into the future. Here are some tips for doing that:
In the kitchen:
1. Only run the dishwasher when it’s full. If your household is too small to fill a dishwasher in a day, hand wash the dishes.
How to hand wash dishes: A. Stack dishes in the sink. B. Moisten anything that has food stuck to it (just sitting there wet for a few minutes will loosen this a lot). C. Wet the sponge or scrubby with dish soap and water, then turn off the water. D. Wash the dishes with the wet soapy sponge and stack them on the counter or in the other half of the sink (whichever you have). E. Now run the water only while efficiently rinsing the dishes and stacking them in the rack to dry. The trick, in other words, is never to fill a sink with water or let the tap run except at those moments when running water is actually needed.
2. Fix any leaks you see.
3. If you have a water softener, track your water’s hardness and regenerate less often – only when really needed.
In the laundry:
4. Only run the washing machine when full. If you only have a small load, be sure to set the water level for a small load. If you can’t do that and only have a couple of items, hand wash them.
5. Dry your washed clothes promptly so you won’t have to rewash them.
In the bathroom:
6. Turn the water on and off as appropriate while brushing teeth: do not let the water run. It’s not hard to make this a habit once you think of it.
7. Take short showers, not full-tub baths or lengthy showers. If you really get into it, you can often get pretty clean with just a sponge bath.
8. If appropriate, remember the old hippie saying: “Save water; shower with a friend.”
9. Get a low-flow showerhead (i.e., 1.5 gallons per minute).
10. Keep toilet in repair so it never runs; fix any leaks.
11. Get a low-flow toilet, or put a brick in the tank.
12. Regarding the toilet, whenever feasible act on the saying, “When it’s yellow, let it mellow; when it’s brown, flush it down.”
13. Let the lawn go brown – recognizing that a brown lawn is not dead. The natural life-cycle of lawn grass is to go dormant during dry summers and green up again by itself when the Fall brings rain and cooler weather. Consider that when most lawns are brown, it’s the green one that looks bad because it indicates water-wasting misbehavior.
14. Do not wash the car. Once upon a time, salt and dirt might have damaged paint and led to rust, but way back in the 1990s new techniques for rust-proofing became standard, along with better paints and coatings. Washing a car now does no good, and actually damages the clearcoat and therefore over time will leave the car looking dull. Unless your vehicle predates 1990, move your car care into the 21st century: leave it unwashed. Rain – when it ever comes – will make it shiny again.
15. If you have a swimming pool, limit evaporation by using a cover and heating it less. Clean the filter no oftener than necessary (check back-pressure to see when to do it rather than following an arbitrary schedule).
And in the garden:
16. Collect water (when it does rain!) in a rain barrel.
17. Water by hand with a watering can, placing water on the soil at each plant’s roots to minimize evaporation and maximize efficiency of water use.
18. Use mulch around trees and in garden beds to keep soil as shaded and moist as possible.
19. Xeriscape: use ornamental garden plants that need little or no watering. Plants to try include such perennials as: sedums, succulants like yucca, prickly pear, and hens-and-chicks, lavenders, coreopsis, ornamental grasses, some penstemons, some salvias, agastache, some beardtongues, some asters, anemone, wild lupine, evening primrose, potentilla, sensitive plant, some goldenrods, and some spiderworts. These plants may need some watering their first year, but once established they do well in dryer soils.
20. Collect “gray water” for use on garden plants that need it (like vegetables). If your dish soap is safe (Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap is both great for hand washing dishes and safe for flora and fauna, for example), a watering can in the sink can capture rinse water. The water distilled by a dehumidifier can be used for watering plants. What’s left in the bird bath and a pet’s water bowl, when you go to change and refresh it, can be used in the garden. A bucket in the (short) shower will catch some water (again, if your soap is plant-safe).
It may seem as if each of these measures is small and puny. But each of them saves another cup or pint or quart of water; each toilet flush you don’t do saves gallons, as does each minute of shower-time you eliminate. Multiply that by Braintree’s thousands of residents, each doing what we can all day every day, and we can really hope to save enough water to keep our reservoir able to supply our real needs.