Things people do with water but don't need to.....

I was washing the dishes the other day, listening to a report on the television about a wall of water that the group Action Contre le Faim (Action against starvation) is building here in Paris for world water day (not the official name, obviously).

I’ve known for a long time about the shrinking global drinkable water supply, so I’ve tried to use as little as possible. Yet, I got to thinking yesterday, there must be a lot of things we do with water that could be done with something else.

Washing the dishes, laundry, etc. What things do we do with water that could be done in another fashion?

Not running the tap while brushing one’s teeth is a biggie. As with all these things, it’s relatively small to the individual, but an economy of scale.

If you don’t use a dishwasher, save up washed dishes and rinse them all at once. Don’t run the tap while washing up.

If you do use a dishwasher, put it on the ‘economy’ setting and wait until it’s completely full before running it. If it’s just a fork you need, take it out of the dishwasher and wash it by hand.

Same with clothes washing - economy setting, and vow never to run the washing machine unless it’s totally full.

Have a rainwater barrel for garden use. Reduce sprinkler use, or use untreated water for sprinklers.

I mean things more along the lines of not using water at all. Like a waterless dishwasher.

Is that kind of thing possible?


Dunno then.

Dunk tanks.

Well, the thing is, we mostly use water as a kind of all purpose solvent. If we could use any other kind of liquid as a solvent, then we don’t need water. But water is so much cheaper than any other solvent that that’s what we use. For example, drycleaning.

Lat week I was driving home toward the setting sun with a dirty windscreen. I stopped at the supermarket and bought a can of windscreen cleaner that didn’t require water. You spray the foam on the windows and wipe it off with a paper towel. Works like a charm.

Mind you, using the usual windscreen cleaner only uses a tiny bit of water anyway.

I like the waterless urinals. They’re not going to eliminate the need for water to be used for waste transport, but they can reduce it.

The supply of water isn’t really shrinking because we don’t “use” water in the same way we use other things. It merely gets moved, maybe polluted some, cycled, and then treated again to be used tomorrow.

What if everyone started using 20% more water in my town that doesn’t have water shortages? The water treatment plant would have to work more but that is about it. There would be about the same amount of water that their always was because we have enough to cycle more than we do now.

The amount of pollutant is also key. If someone pees into 1/2 gallon of water or 1/8 gallon, the amount of pollution is the same and will all get mixed together at the treatment plant.

Waterless Washing Machine

Waterless dishwasher

Water Recycling Toilet

Waterless Water Cooler

The manufacturing process for the can and the paper towels use a lot of water so you still may be any further ahead.

‘Why don’t you hang them outside and let the sand blast them clean!’
Star Trek, ep. ‘Mudd’s Women’

I have a well and septic system. There’s also 4 feet of snow outside my house, and in the summer, it rains far too often.

I can’t really get worked up about conserving water.

Happily systems like this are becoming quite a common sight in my area. Most of the towns in our area have had at least some water restrictions over the last few years.

Household use of water is a literal drop in the bucket compared to agricultural use. And in the end the real problem isn’t raw quantity, it’s distribution. If you want to help, look in to various projects building wells and providing sanitation in affected areas. Or start looking in to what’s going on with dams, water privatization, etc.

When I first read this I thought wouldn’t that just be called a cooler? I was going to say I run into these quite often. Before this I had always thought they were just out of order. Now I see that they were waterless water fountains. Who knew?

Now the link finally loaded. So basicily you are drinking A/C condensate. Pure? That’s a joke right? Have you ever driven in a car with an A/C systems that smells funny? The smell is from mold and mildew growning in the A/C case. I have also read the MSDS sheet for the spray on coating to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. Trust me you don’t want that shit anywhere near your drinking water.

My suggestions:
Drink your whiskey neat, and buy a dishwasher that works good enough that you don’t have to wash the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.

This is absolutely not true. Google ‘water depletion’ and check out the first couple dozen of entries. While water doesn’t disappear by using it, it is removed from the fresh water supply (i.e. underground aquifers), and is thus not available for irrigation, cleaning, and drinking. Municiple water purification/treatment typically reuses only a small percentage of overall waste water; most of what is done is taking environmental water–rivers, streams, underground supplies–and treating it to remove natural bacteria and parasites.

This may become a critical ecological issue–far more so than air pollution, soil contamination, or deforestation–in the 21st Century. Aquifers can only be replunished at a certain rate via filtration of atmospheric precipitation (rain, snow), and if we extract water from underground sources faster than it can be replaced, groundwater supplies will become depleted, which is exactly what is happening with aquifers in the American West and Eurasia where intensive agriculture is common. We assume that because water has always been available that it will continue to appear, in the same way that consumers were once told that oil supplies would never be depleted. The truth is (as residents of the Southwest, save for those serviced by Mulholland’s Great Water Buyoff, are well-aware) potable water is a precious commodity. Read Cadillac Desert for a more in-depth discussion on this.

As for what can be done: demanding that consumers use less water is nearly as futile as insiting that they use less energy. Unless people are penalized financially for overuse of water (as happens in high altitute areas or ‘desert’ islands where water has to be shipped in), they won’t reduce the usage. However, it is possible–albeit with massive infrastructure modifications–to use non-potable “grey water”, i.e. water that has already been used for for light cleaning or some such–for wastewater purposes like sewage, industrial waste removal, et cetera. There’s no reason to use potable water in your toliet, save that there is no system for doing otherwise. The only other alternative is to tap into the mass of water that covers nearly 80% of the Earth’s surface; that water, however, is non-potable and regretably corrosive owing to its high alkilinity and resulting corrosiveness. In order to make use of it, we’d have to have a cost-effective way of desalinating the water, then distributing it into inland municiple water supplies.

Well, I have a warm and fuzzy feeling now that I’ve been conserving water all along without even realizing it. :wink:


It’s quite common here in DC to see the property owners of large office buildings hire people to stand out front and hose-down the sidewalk every morning. I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to do, maybe wash a few dozen leaves into the gutter? I don’t think that calls for 600 gallons of water, but hey they’re paying for it.

Whatever happened to using a broom and dustpan?

That’s a bad idea. Not that you should leave the tap on constantly, but if you don’t rinse them right away, the soap will dry on the dishes and leave a film. You like soap flavored food?


Don’t water your lawn so much. In fact, my father never waters the lawn, and it always looks green and lush.

Does that waterless washing machine work? The link says that it kills bacteria and reduces odors, but I can’t see any way for it to remove dirt, stains, or grease. That’s what the soap and water are for. It looks like a damn expensive version of Febreeze.