Survival Basics: 15 Ways to Conserve Water

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It is my belief that preparedness is a lifestyle and to that end, we need to be proactive and embrace good habits now so when and if a crisis, disaster or collapse occurs, these habits will be second nature and intuitive.  One of those habits is the conservation of household water.

Today I share 15 ways to conserve water, beginning in the bathroom since interestingly enough, that is where 75% of all household water is used.

Water Conservation Vintage Poster


1.  The faucet at the bathroom sink does not need to be running continuously while you brush your teeth, wash your face or shave.  You will save between three and five gallons of water each minute your faucet is turned off.  That is a lot of water.! Instead, use the stopper on the sink and drain the basin when you are done.

2.  Only flush when needed.  A toilet is not a wastepaper basket for tissues, cotton balls or other bits of trash.

3.  Most toilets installed before 1980 use 5-7 gallons of water per flush. Toilets installed between 1980 and 1993 use 3.5 gallons per flush. Toilets installed since 1994 use 1.6 gallons.

If you happen to have an older toilet, consider filling a used soda bottle or jar with water and small pebbles or marbles and place it upright in the tank.  This will cut down on the amount of water that flows through the tank with each flush.  Just be careful not to place the bottle where it will jam the flushing mechanism.  Also, make sure you don’t displace so much water that you have to double-flush. Double flushing wastes more water than you would save.

4.  Check for leaky facets and toilets.  It is easy to replace worn washers and since a small leak can waste many gallons of water a day, it is well worth the effort to test for leaks now.

The way to test for toilet leaks is to put a few drops of food coloring in the tank to see if the colored water appears in the bowl.  This takes about 10 minutes.  If the water color changes, you have a leak.  Not to worry though.  Most leaks can be repaired with a kit that you can pick up at your local hardware store.  You can find lots of information on toilets and toilet repairs at the Toiletology 101 website.

Keep in mind that little leaks can add fast.  A faucet drip or invisible toilet leak that totals only two tablespoons a minute comes to 15 gallons a day. That’s 105 gallons a week or 5,460 wasted gallons of water a year.

Helpful hint:  Are you wondering how long the parts in your toilet tank should last?  The answer is: it depends.  Replaceable parts such as flappers and washers or seals inside the refill valve may last several years. However factors such as water treatment processes, toilet bowl cleaners, and high water pressure can cause parts to disintegrate much sooner. If you touch the flapper and get black “goo” on your hands, the flapper needs to be replaced.

5.  Check for hidden water leaks elsewhere in your home by reading your water meter.  What you do is read the house water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.

6.  Take shorter showers.  Bathing and showering consume huge amounts of water.  One good way to conserve is to turn the water off while you soap up.  I get too cold doing that so instead, I have installed a water saving shower head. Another option is to limit the length of your shower to 5 minutes or less. Reducing your shower time by 1 minute can save up to 1,000 gallons of water a year.

7.  When you take a bath, use lots of bubble bath.  I kid you not.  Stop up the tub, add a copious amount of bubble bath and and just a few inches of water.  It is totally an illusion but it will seem as though the water is higher than it really is.  In addition, remember to plug the tub before turning on water; that initial burst of cold water will be warmed later by adding hot water.

8.  Like your drinking water cold?  Keep a bottle or carafe of drinking water in the refrigerator so that you don’t let the water from the faucet run while getting a cold drink.  This applies only if you drink the water from your tap, of course.

9.  In the kitchen, don’t let the faucet run when you scrub vegetables or prepare other foods. Put a stopper in the sink instead.  Likewise, do not use running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost food overnight in the refrigerator instead.

10.  Instead of using a garbage disposal that requires running water to operate, start and use a compost pile.  Your garden will love you for it.

11.  Most people know that you can leave some water running in order to prevent pipes from freezing in cold weather.  Except for the most extreme of situations, all you need is a very thin trickle of water running to accomplish that goal.

12.  When doing the laundry in a washing machine, run full loads only.  The same applies to dishes in a dishwasher.

Hint:  Instead of pre-washing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, spray them with a mixture of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap and water (3 tablespoons per quart of water).  Sponge or brush off the excess food, perhaps using a bit more of your spray.  No additional water is needed.

13.  Install inexpensive faucet aerators in your bathroom and kitchen.  Consider this:  If you can bathe your whole body with a showerhead that uses less than 2.5 gallons per minute, why use up to 7 gallons just to wash your hands in the sink?  An aerator that supplies 2.5 gallons per minute should be fine in the kitchen. In the bathroom, a 1-gallon-per-minute aerator will provide plenty of water to brush your teeth, wash your hands.

14.  When watering your plants, deep soak each time you water. Many people water lightly and frequently, causing a shallow root system. Watering deeply and infrequently creates a healthy root system that is better equipped to withstand heat and drought.  Also, use watering cans, whenever possible, especially when watering just a few patio plants. Watering with a hose may actually put more water on the patio than in the containers as you move from plant to plant.

15.  Use buckets when washing your car instead of letting the water from the hose run continuously.  Your vehicle will become just as clean and when you are done, a quick rinse will whisk away the final remnants of dirt.


Curious to see how you are doing when it comes to water conservation.  I found this nifty home water audit online at the Water Use It Wisely website – it only takes a moment to complete and you might be surprised at the results.  I actually scored 31 out of 36 but then again, where I live the water cost is about a dollar a flush so I am extra careful when it comes to water.


Like so many things in life, the use of water can be a mindless process mired in habit.  After all, you turn on the faucet and there it is: fresh, clear water.  Alas, the availability of water may be a problem following a disaster.  If you are lucky, you will at least have some water and if not, well, hopefully you will have plenty of water stored away and you will have learned in advance  to be frugal in its use.

While most of the tips outlined today apply to a situation normal – after all, a bubble bath would be out of the question following a disaster – they are still useful in that they get you into the proper mindset of paying attention and being aware of the importance of water for you daily living needs.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!


If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Backdoor Survival on Facebook to be updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Bargain Bin:  There are many basic supplies in a survival kit that are inexpensive. Below you will find a list of some of these items. Most are less than $20 and many are less than $10. Take a look – do you have these items set aside for an emergency?

Low Flow Massage Showerhead:  Think you might need a low water flow showerhead?  This highly rated low-flow showerhead is less than $10.

Grabber Big Pack Hand Warmers: This is something most people don’t think about. Put one in your car, one in your desk, one in your coat closet, and one in your emergency kit. Never be without portable heat when you need it. These air-activated Hand Warmers keep hands and fingers toasty for over 7 hours. Less than $9.

Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pack with QuikClot: This trauma kit is designed to stop bleeding and control serious trauma at the scene so more advanced care can be sought later.

The Emergency Bandage 6″ (Israeli Bandage): This 4″ wide, all-in-one device consolidates multiple first-aid devices such as a primary dressing, pressure applicator, secondary dressing, and a foolproof closure apparatus to secure the bandage in place.

Cyalume SnapLight Chemical Light Sticks: Read all about light sticks at Lighting Your Way With Chemical Lighting.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you. Be sure to test one out in advance so that you have the confidence to trust the blanket in an emergency.

Emergency Shelter Tent: The Emergency Tent is a lightweight and compact emergency shelter. It is wind and waterproof and easy to set up and is roomy enough for two people. Less than $10.

Emergency Sleeping Bag: Another low cost item designed to keep you warm in an emergency situation.

Rothco Paracord: I love paracord! Pick your favorite color but be aware that different colors are priced differently. Me? I get the color that is the least expensive although I must admit the camouflage is my favorite.  Be sure to also read 44 Really Cool Uses of Paracord for Survival.

Streamlight 73001 Nano Light Miniature Keychain LED Flashlight: This small and super-bright light, features a high-intensity, 100,000-hour LED that will last up to eight hours on four alkaline button cell batteries which are included.

Mobile Washer

Mobile Washer: This is hand operated washing machine. Like a plunger, it uses a technique of pushing and pulling the water through clothes to clean them well without wearing them out. It uses a minimum of water and less soap due to the agitation motion. Use in a bucket (5-gallon suggested), sink or tub. The best part is that it is only $14.95.

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Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials: The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.

Emergency Essential Order Jul 2013_03

One of the sale items this month is the Meat Variety Combowhich is 35% off.  Included are cans of Salmon, Diced Roast Beef, White Turkey, Ham, Ground Beef and Smokey Flavored Chicken Chunks.  This month I purchased this combo for my own food storage.

Not to be left out, the Freeze-Dried Fruit Variety Combo is also on sale. Lately I have been using FD fruit in my own “Survival” Sangria and fruit smoothies that also use the Creamy Vanilla Drink Mix.

I am frequently asked how I accumulate FD products for food storage.  I set a budget of $100 (more or less) and place a small order every month.  Over time, it all adds up – faster than you might think.  Of course, in my case, I am always opening the cans and using my food storage.  For me, it makes sense especially when in comes to things like butter powder, green onions, pepper dices and other pantry items that I often run out of.

In the gear department, this month the Katadyn Combi Water Filter is 34% off at $144.00.  There are a lot of other items on sale this month so take a peek!

Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials


Survival Basics: 15 Ways to Conserve Water — 15 Comments

  1. I built my house in 1978, so you know I have the toilets that take 5-7 gallons per flush. I have replaced one of them with the newer 1.6 gallon per flush. With just me living here, you know which one gets used.
    One more thing. In a SHTF environment, remember, ‘yellow, let it mellow’, ‘brown, flush it down’.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your artice. It has given me lot to think about. I will definitely be implementing some of your ideas in my bug out plan.

  3. We will be working on #s 5 and 13 tomorrow — and thanks for the link to the home water audit online at the Water Use It Wisely website, too!

  4. Use a hot water recirculating pump/system. I’ve been using a D’MAND pump for about 5 years and have saved TONS of water.

  5. I use an old cat litter pan to soak my fusia’s on the porch, only 2 gallons for 5 plants, and only once every 3-5 days. you can also take a 2-liter soda bottle, take the cap off, insert it in the dirt next to your plant and fill half way.

  6. This list has been around so long it belongs in the Smithsonian. And some of it is the marketing of gizmos and devices.

    But please add to it: 1) DO NOT SPRINKLE YOUR LAWN. 2) GET RID OF YOUR SWIMMING POOL (or cover it and use it as a cistern to collect rainwater for gardening and other “outdoor” uses).

  7. The biggest water user in many single family homes in some regions is for landscaping irrigation., Switch to low water landscaping or used grey/recycled water.

  8. Another huge water saver, and one that is fairly easy if you have enough land to do composting, is a Lovable Loo from the Humanure Handbook ( The idea may take a little getting-used-to, but it works flawlessly and odorlessly, when used as directed.

  9. I’ve been living in either a truck sleeper (while I was longhaulling, using truck stop showers) or a van since the mid 80’s, where I have been using a large tea kettle as a water heater, and a Sterilite container for a washbasin, using 2 gallons of water a day, sometimes from the river:-)

    • Have spent a lot of time boating, I know that you can conserve if you are motivated. We used to shower using a “Sun Shower”. I had two of them but they are buried somewhere in my garage – I need to find them.

      For those that are curious, the water in a sun shower heats up and can get very hot – even in our cloudy PNW climate.

  10. Living in Texas, during this drought, I heard an excellent idea to conserve water. While taking your shower, place a 5-gallon bucket (readily available at any home improvement store) in the tub with you, right by the drain. As you shower, some of the water will end up in the bucket, instead of going down the drain.

    Now use that recycled water to water your plants! Pretty much a poor man’s gray water system.

  11. You can buy a “pause” button for your shower for $5 at Home Depot or Lowes. It’s just a little 1″ adapter that goes between your shower head pipe and the shower head. You press the plunger on one side to pause, and then the other side to resume. Makes taking a shower less of a water waste.

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