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***Listen to the WATD Green Quick Fixes 5 Podcast***

To be green, you’ve got to be blue!

Modern plumbing and the ability to access potable water so easily has made us lose our appreciation of water as the precious resource that it is. In summer, water is something we think about more. Its only when water supplies start running dangerously dry that water becomes more valuable than gold. Without access, society would be mayhem!

Massachusetts has a few dozen water use restrictions in July 2011—the official map was updated July 19th before the heat wave. Plymouth. Middleboro, Raynham, Wareham, and Marion on the Southshore  have bans. Near Boston the towns of Lincoln, Danvers, and Middleton are short on water. Go to Mass.gov/dep and search “water use” and open the Municipal Water Use Restrictions water ban map for details about your city.

To conserve water supplies–the whole year through–reduce water use and capture rainwater. You can help reduce the human drain on water resources and you’ll also start to see your water bill go down.

1. Green Quick Fixes you can do in the house:

Turn off taps as much as possible — while washing dishes and brushing teeth. Water lawns at dawn and dusk only.

Fix leaks. Toilet leaks are the worst! The U.S. Geological Survey claims that most American toilets have a constant leak of 22 gallons per day. If your street has 10 homes on it, in one year’s time it’s is leaking about 80,300 gallons. SEE COMMENT BELOW FOR HOW TO FIND A LEAK

Install water-saving plumbing equipment.

This model from Moen is deluxe at around $20.

Today’s low-flow shower heads cut water usage in half from those of the early 1990s. Water conservationists always say you should try to shorten your shower by one minute. This has always been my toughest challenge — especially in winter! With the low-flow shower head, I don’t feel as guilty.

Look for low-flow faucets as well — from 0.5 -1.5 GPM for the bathroom. In the early 1990s most bathroom faucets ran 3.0 – 5.0 GPM. Note that there are no federal requirements for kitchen faucets, but they can run up to 7.0 GPM. Slow them down with low-cost aerator attachments or replace them with low-flow models.

Switch from 3 gpm toilets to 1 gpm — save 2 gallons with every flush.

Wash only full loads — dishes and laundry. You’ll waste less water by washing fewer loads.

2. Harvest rainwater.

Connect a rain barrel to a downspout.

The water coming off your roof (55,000 gallons per 2,000 square feet) can be captured in 55-gallon barrels that start at about $65 (the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection offers subsidies to many towns). A tap or spigot allows hose connections. A mesh screen keeps out mosquitoes.

Try rain chains and cisterns.

Easy to make, rain chains catch water that keeps deck and patio plants hydrated. Attach a chain to the overhang or awning and connect it to a weighted bucket. Use the water captured for your plants. You can also attach them straight from the gutter to the ground. Here’s a video from a green architect on how to make a rain chain.

A basement, below ground, or backyard cistern will keep large yards, vegetable gardens, small greenhouses, and ornamental flowers going and can even infiltrate groundwater. Check out the Charles River Watershed Association’s SmartStorm system.

3.  Take advantage of Rain Barrel discounts.

The North & South Rivers Watershed Association with The New England Rain Barrel Company are offering bulk discounts

-Rain barrel for $80.70

-RainPerfect solar pump for $127.95

-Bio-Orb composter for $97.95.

The last day to place the order is July 26, 2011, so call the New England Rain Barrel Company at 877.977.3135 or order online at nerainbarrel.com.

Pick up is July 28, 2011 from 4:00 p.m. to 07:00 p.m.; 214 South St. Norwell, MA.

Try making your own rain barrel on the DIYnetwork.com!