How to Conserve Water and Still Have Fun this Summer
Summer is here and you know what that means: Days so hot that chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs and cows giving evaporated milk!
When the summer sun shines mercilessly down on you and your family, sometimes all you can think about is finding ways to escape the uncomfortable heat. Let’s face it, the higher the needle goes up the thermometer, the more the temptation to splash ourselves with cool, refreshing water.
This is one of the reasons water usage spikes as it usually does during the summer. On most days other than those in summer, the typical family uses in the vicinity of 320 gallons of water. During the summer, however, that number can jump to 1000 gallons, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In some cases, families have been known to use up to 3000 gallons per day. That’s the equivalent of leaving a garden hose running non-stop for 8 hours.
This level of water usage can not only impact residential resources but can cause havoc with your water bill. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to beat the heat while still keeping water conservation in mind. After all, everyone looks forward to some summertime fun and too-hot temperatures outside don’t mean you have to stay cooped up just to conserve water and save a few bucks.
Here are some great water conservation tips and family-friendly ideas that will help you save water and still have fun in the summer heat.
Water your lawn and cool off at the same time
For kids young and old, plus those who are children at heart, water play with hoses and sprinklers can often bring some of the most memorable summer moments. But water-based activities such as sprinkler play have a habit of using up more water than you might assume. Fortunately, however, water play doesn’t have to stop altogether.
Many of us water our grass and plants to sustain their beauty as well as keep our home-grown food sprouting. So, why not have fun while doing it? Let your family cool off on a hot day by using a sprinkler as a water toy. Having the kids jumping back and forth through the water jets while simultaneously taking care of your property is one of the easiest ways to get the most out of watering your lawn and garden.
Don’t have a sprinkler? No problem. Use a hose and have your kids jump through the stream. All anyone needs is a bathing suit to take part in the fun.
One other thing – you might want to look into purchasing a high-efficiency nozzle for your water hose to conserve water usage. This type of nozzle means that you can control the amount of water being sent through the hose, and what pressure it’s sent through at, to enjoy short bursts of water play while watering your lawn or garden at the same time.
While these playful activities may be fun for everyone, as we just pointed out, hoses and sprinklers can use up a large amount of water in a short period of time. If you need to run your sprinkler to water a lawn or a food-growing garden, make sure you do so for a limited time, optimally around 15 minutes.
By the way, when you are simply watering your lawn without water play, you might want to consider doing so in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler. When you run your sprinkler during the day, much of that water is evaporating right away. Less water will evaporate and more will get absorbed into the ground during the morning and evening hours. As a result, you might even be able to get away with watering less often.
Another chore your child can help to stay cool and enjoy some water play is washing your vehicle. Again, by investing in a high-efficiency spray nozzle you can control exactly how much water is being sprayed at any point.
Summer fun fact: Over the course of 80 hours, grillmaster Jan Greef of Columbus, GA, cooked up 1000 hot dogs, 558 burgers, 526 boerewors (South African sausages), 104 pieces of chicken and 200 pieces of corn. He set the record on April 27, 2014, for the largest bar-be-que ever, according to Guinness World Records.
Teach your kids to garden
If you’ve got a green thumb, it’s never too early to teach your kids valued life skills, including how to take care of things around the home. Gardening is an activity that does just that while also providing valuable lessons in water conservation. The best way to do this is to use locally grown plants. If certain species are known to grow wildly in your area, it means they’re used to the climate and can grow on their own without a lot of supervision.
This just might help your kids learn about patience while waiting for the fruits of their labor to bloom. It can also teach them the importance of starting and finishing a project.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a pool in your backyard, you don’t have to look too far to cool off. The problem with having your own pool is that it can get a bit repetitive by the end of the summer, so look for games to play in the water. At the big box stores, you can usually find cheap water toys such as packs of water guns or water balloons. Or, make up your own games using beach balls and pool noodles.
Note: Having a pool at home is a great way to stay cool during the summer. But when you’re not using the pool, keep it covered to conserve water. Keeping it open can allow a lot of water to evaporate off the surface. By covering it, you’ll keep the water in the pool where it belongs and won’t have to keep adding (wasting) more water.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have your own pool, with the restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 virus, there are few options this summer for using a public pool. As of this writing, most or all the public pools in the Pittsburgh area will not be opened this summer.
Summer fun fact: Did you know the Eiffel Tower grows more than 6 inches each summer? The tower comprises 7000 metric tons of iron that expand with the heat.
No pool, no problem
Don’t have a pool or can’t use a public pool this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic? As those of us with toddlers probably already know, they can have a blast with a few plastic bowls of water and paintbrushes in the driveway.
Hey, as another alternative, you might want to think about looking for a nearby creek! Whether you call it a creek, a stream or a brook, space where there’s running water can provide plenty of cooling entertainment for youngsters and oldsters alike. Kids of all ages can splash around and use their imaginations. It’s also a great place for finding little critters and learning more about their habitats. You might also want to show them how to make boats out of sticks, leaves, acorns, and pieces of bark, and have boat races down the stream. Water shoes or an old pair of sneakers will make splashing around in the water easier. You might even pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
Summer fun fact: Frisbees were invented in the 1870s as a pie plate, but in the 1940s, college students began throwing them around. They have since stopped being used for pie plates and are now a summertime staple.
So, what else do you do when it’s scorching hot outdoors and you’ve run out of ideas to keep the kids cool? You get a bit creative with what you have lying around so the kids can beat the heat.
For example, try getting outside to play in the rain when lightning and thunder areas are absent. Think about saving rainwater for a future water balloon fight or invest in a small pool for your younger kids that has a lid to minimize water evaporation.
You might want to look into securing a rain barrel that your child can use to make water balloons or perhaps even clean their toys. They can get wet and have fun while learning about the importance of taking care of their things. Help your kids understand the importance of water conservation while having the time of their lives. Importantly, ensure that an adult is always present as your kids use the water and keep water balloons away from toddlers.
While water balloons might be a fun activity, sponge balls are an absolute blast. These spiky guys are easy to make and don’t hurt when they hit their target. The water in the sponge splashes on impact which offers satisfaction to both the thrower and the target. Refilling them is as simple as tossing them into a bucket of water. It’s a competitive friendly game and it doesn’t use a lot of water.
You can purchase these “thingies” at most big-box stores or pool supply businesses. But if you’re into DIY, here’s how to make them yourself: Pick up a bunch of sponges from a dollar store. Stack three on top of one another and cut them lengthwise into three strips. Cinch them in the middle with a rubber band, then fan out the strips to create a ball shape. Fill up a bucket of water, duck them in, then fire away.
Summer fun fact: In 1905, 11-year old Frank Epperson accidentally left a cup of soda and a stirring stick outside on his porch. The next morning, he found the drink had frozen. In 1923, he launched “Epsicles” until his kids persuaded him to change the name to “Pop’s sicles.” Today, around two billion Popsicles are sold each year.
How about a game of water conservation bingo?
If you’re looking for water-based activities for your kids to play other than a hose a sprinkler or a pool you’re not short on options.
Games are both fun and educational for kids, so why not turn water conservation into one?
Kids actually thrive on educational content that is also fun which can be repeated on a daily basis. One such game is conservation bingo wherein you create a bingo card and fill it completely up with water-saving practices like turning off the tap while brushing teeth, making sure that showers are no more than five minutes long, choosing to have a shower instead of a bath and so forth.
The family member who first completes all the water-saving practices listed on their card should be rewarded with a prize such as a snack of their favorite Summer treat or an entire week off from chores. For kids, creating an engaging and fun educational game surrounding the use of water conservation is a great way to integrate good habits into their daily routines.
Remember, keeping cool in summer can be fun and you don’t have to get a hefty water bill to beat the heat.
Okay, we’ve talked about having fun in the water, yet still conserving it.
Here are some tips on how to better conserve water not only in the summer but year ‘round.
- Adjust the water in your toilet tank to a lower level so you and your family use less water per flush to conserve water.
- Draw a pitcher of water to keep in the fridge so water isn’t wasted while you wait for the tap water to cool to the desired temperature.
- Turn the water off while shampooing, brushing teeth, or shaving.
- Run the dishwasher only when you have a full load, and plug the sink while washing dishes.
- Rather than running leftover food through the garbage disposal, compost it to reduce water usage. While you’re at it, why not teach kids about composting?
- Wash fewer, larger loads of laundry rather than multiple smaller loads.
- Fix faucets that drip or have a small leak – the sooner the better.
- Collect water from your dehumidifier and use that to nourish house plants.
- Look for rebates or cost-share programs on the purchase or installation of water-efficient fixtures and appliances.
To conserve water outdoors:
- Sweep driveways, sidewalks, porches, and decks rather than using water to rinse off dust and debris.
- Purchase an inexpensive soil moisture probe to assess soil moisture and the need to water vegetables, flowers, trees, and shrubs.
- Plant native or drought-tolerant plants that require less water.
- Ensure your in-ground irrigation system has a rain sensor installed; check that it is functioning to ensure your system does not run immediately after or during a rain shower.