Surviving the Drought: 25 Easy Ways to Conserve Water

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

If you aren’t already storing and conserving water, it is absolutely your top preparedness priority as our country suffers from the drought that has now reached epic proportions. Forget, for now, about the beans and rice – how are you going to cook them without any water?

From a survival aspect, you absolutely must focus on a long-term source of water. All of your best-laid plans will be for naught if you don’t have water rights on your property, a collection system for rainfall, and second and third sources to rely on, as well as reliable purification systems. Safe municipal water (although with the inclusion of all the toxic additives ‘safe’ is debatable) could soon be a thing of the past.

It’s beyond dispute that the United States is facing a water crisis. On the West Coast, where much of our produce is raised, California has statewide restrictions on water use. On the East Coast, the water is plentiful but is polluted by chemical spills, as seen in West Virginia and radioactive leaks, as seen in South Carolina. In Detroit, thousands of people who couldn’t afford to pay their bills no longer have running water in their homes.

Several years ago, Michael Snyder wrote about the endless drought of 2012, calling it the largest natural disaster in American history.  He predicted a water shortage that will change the lives of every person on the planet.

It’s certainly beginning to look like he was right.

How much water are you using?

One thing that people don’t always stop to consider is exactly how much water they use each day. Everyone in the preparedness realm knows the adage about 1 gallon per person per day, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t include the vast amount of water we customarily use for hygiene purposes. This video shows how easily the average American goes through at least 100 gallons of water per day.

Clearly, in an off-grid scenario, many of the activities in that video won’t be possible. But what if it is a slightly different situation – perhaps your water supply is rationed and limited by the public utility companies? (That’s actually happening right now in a small town in California – households are beings strictly limited to 50 gallons per person, per day.) Regardless of restrictions, you’re still going to want clean clothes, clean dishes, and a clean body. You’ll want to be able to flush your toilet without using half of your day’s “ration” of water.

Tips for conserving water

Here are a few suggestions for reducing the amount of water you use on a daily basis. These and many more can be found in my new book, The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide. The list is by no means comprehensive, and not all of these solutions will work for everyone’s situation.

First, take notes from those who live without running water. Just think: If you had to physically acquire every drop of water used in your home, whether by pumping it by hand from a well or lugging it from a water source, you’d already be taking many of these lower-tech steps.

  • Reuse cooking water – if you have boiled pasta or vegetables, use this water for making soup. You will have retained some of the nutrients and flavor from the first thing you cooked in the water.
  • Landscape with plants that grow naturally in your area.  They should require little in the way of additional watering. Your county extension office can often help with this. You can also take a hike and find many lovely plants that thrive whatever you climate happens to be.
  • Grow organic. Chemical fertilizers can increase a plant’s need for water. (This book has some amazing tips for organic drought gardening.)
  • Wash some clothing by hand – it will use far less water than your washing machine. Be sure and save the water for other uses.
  • When shaving, rinse your razor in a cup instead of under running water.
  • Skip the dishwasher and do the dishes by hand.
  • Instead of running water over each dish to rinse, fill one side of the sink or a basin with rinse water containing a splash of white vinegar. Running water uses up to 4 gallons per minute. If you use a basin, you can use your rinse water for other purposes.
  • Use a glass of water to brush your teeth instead of running the tap the entire time.
  • Use an organic mulch in your garden to help retain moisture.
  • Wash produce in a basin of water instead of under running water.
  • When you clean out your fish tank, reserve the water for your garden. Your veggies will love the nutrient boost!
  • Harvest rainwater for your garden. (In some places, where the government believes they own the water falling from the sky, subtlety may be in order.) This one looks like an attractive planter that can be discreetly placed at the downspouts of your house.

These next options assume that running water is not an issue, but that you still wish to conserve.

  • Add an inexpensive displacement bag to fill space in the back of the toilet tank. This reduces the amount of water used in each flush. You can also use a brick, but I like that the bags are more flexible.
  • Speaking of flushing, you may have heard the rhyme, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”
  • Devise a gray water catchment system for your shower, your washing machine, and your kitchen. This water can be used for flushing, watering plants, and for cleaning. Do keep in mind that some counties do not allow gray water to be reused, even in the midst of an epic drought. Do what you will with this information.
  • Take shorter showers – try to reduce them to 5 minutes – this can save up to 1000 gallons per month! If you can’t handle a 5-minute shower, every 2 minutes you shorten your shower time by can save approximately 150-200 gallons per month.
  • Install a water-saving shower head.
  • When you have a shower, plug the tub. Use the water you collect for handwashing laundry or for watering plants. If you aren’t absolutely filthy when you get in the shower, this shouldn’t be a problem.
  • If you do use a dishwasher, run it only when it’s completely full – this can save you 1000 gallons per month.
  • If you drop a tray of ice cubes, pop them into a pet dish or into your potted plants.
  • When washing your hands, dip them in a basin of water, lather up, then rinse under running water. Running water uses up to 4 gallons per minute.
  • Upgrade your faucets with inexpensive (and very simple to install) aerators with flow restrictors.
  • Use a nozzle on your hose so that you are only putting water where you want it, not spraying it uselessly as you walk to the garden.
  • Repair leaks. At the rate of one drip per second, that adds up to 5 gallons per day…literally down the drain.
  • If you are buying new items for your home, opt for those which use water more efficiently, like front-loading washing machines and low flush toilets.

This is not about compliance

I dislike rules, limitations on natural resources, and mandatory restrictions as much as the next person, but this is not about complying to government-issued mandates. It’s not about bowing to the restrictions of Agenda 21. This is about adapting to survive in a world where resources may one day not be as readily available as they are today.

What methods do you use to conserve water? Have you considered how to make limited water meet all of your needs if the current crisis continues?

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Collect and use water from air conditioner or dehumidifier. Good for watering plants if not laden with metals from the devices. Filter it if needed (personal use or to store).

  • I know a family (lives in Arizona) that diverted all rinse water from the washer and saved that water for the garden.

    They were able to grow a lot of food using this water in their raised garden beds.

  • I save cooking water for ma pigs or chickens. I cook vege peals and cull potatoes in it and thicken with a little ground barley.
    Use drip irigation on your garden. I use drip tape and supply the water fro
    a tank on my pickup bed by gravity. This works well for me since I haul water from a public well. It would also work well for rain catchment or gray water. Drip irrigation does not work well for getting new seeds to sprout. I hand water with a watering can to get them started.

  • Great list of helpful ideas. I try to boil my thinking down to two thoughts:

    1) no drains allowed (except for the toilet)
    2) no running taps allowed (as much as possible)

  • Great article and very timely. Well done!

    “Reuse cooking water…”

    Good idea. Try steaming veggies instead of boiling them. This uses less water and the cooled condensed steam can be used to water plants and give them a boost of vitamins and minerals.

    “When shaving, rinse your razor in a cup instead of under running water.”

    Better yet, use an electric razor, especially if you can recharge it from a small solar charger.

    “Use an organic mulch in your garden to help retain moisture.”

    Terrific idea and a great way to make use of any grass clippings you might have.

    “Harvest rainwater for your garden. (In some places, where the government believes they own the water falling from the sky, subtlety may be in order.)”

    When the SHTF, no one will be worried about people capturing rainwater. While the location where I live does not restrict rainwater capture, that could change if the current drought continues. The main thing is to be thinking about this and having on hand what we need to do it when the time comes.

    “Add an inexpensive displacement bag to fill space in the back of the toilet tank. This reduces the amount of water used in each flush. You can also use a brick, but I like that the bags are more flexible.”

    I’ve never liked the idea of using a brick to take up space in a toilet tank, so use a 1/2 gallon bleach or milk bottle instead. Fill this with water, put it in the take where it doesn’t interfere with the flushing mechanism, and it will work for many months. It doesn’t even need a cap on it to work well but if you live in a very dry place, you can use a cap to stop evaporation from the bottle.

    “Take shorter showers…”

    Indeed. Or, get one of those overhead shower heads that has a pull chain on it to cause water to flow. That way you can shower “Navy style”, where you get wet with a 10-15 second flow of water, stop the flow, soap up without running water, and rinse off, all with a much smaller amount of water. Failing this, shower with a friend. 😉

  • A lot of good ideas. I was thinking of running a pipe from the drain in the bathroom sink into the toilet tank. Or use gray water for hydroponics, although I don’t have room at the moment for the setup I want.

  • No mention of the link between the deliberate manipulation of our weather via geoengineering and the man-made drought in the west. You can also observe on satellite images how any low pressure systems approaching the west coast are being redirected by means of HAARP technology. We also have an unlimited source of water underground that no one mentions called, “primary water”. Look it up at The powers that think they be, don’t want us to know this important information. There is no shortage or primary water, instead of fracking, they should be drilling for primary water.

  • Great post! The truth is, this crisis likely isn’t going anywhere and we all must do our part to take any and all necessary steps to proactively reduce and limit our water use. You made a valuable point about repairing leaks–this can not only save your water use, but also a lot of potential damage headaches on your own.

    But now its not enough just to repair leaks, you should also GO OUT LOOKING FOR THEM. You make be wasting precious drops that you don’t even realize. It also doesn’t hurt to tighten all your fittings while you’re out investigating. There are various approaches to test for hidden leaks. This article may be helpful in your quest to do so:

    We all have a responsibility of constant vigilance on this. Thanks for sharing!

  • “Wash some clothing by hand – it will use far less water than your washing machine. Be sure and save the water for other uses.”

    What could you use that water for? Granted, I’m assuming using detergent (which I’ve done when washing in the sink previously), but even with a homemade detergent, still doesn’t seem like something I’d want to throw in my garden. Maybe could re-use it for the toilet…..

    • Yep, flushing water or some gray water rinsing (getting the chunks off of dishes, etc. before you actually wash them.) This would also be ok on non-edible plants, depending on the detergent used.

  • Right now, we are saturated with rain water. We’ve had so much that it’s sitting on top of the ground. BUT, I have been saving and storing some water. I don’t have a whole lot right now, but a. Slowly storing some.

  • There’s even an alternative to a short shower.
    The old dug well on our farm sometimes got very low in a dry summer, so I learned *very* young about not wasting water. We’d fill the bathroom wash-basin and take a sponge-bath using that. Trust me, you can keep yourself perfectly clean with just a couple of gallons of water a day. In fact, some sources say you’ll actually be healthier *not* over-showering–too much washing can disrupt your skin’s microbiome–sure, wash face, hands, neck, armpits, groin, but if you haven’t really gotten dirty or sweaty, don’t worry about even a few days between showers.

  • All good points. But unless one has stored water available, the conservation of (unavailable) water becomes a hypothetical concern at best.

    I’d like to see more tips on retaining rain water in cisterns, etc. Would also like more info about selecting durable, food grade, water tanks that we can fill before the taps stop running.

    Thanks! 🙂

  • I use ollas in my garden when the natural rainfall is too little. They are made from gluing two clay pots together at their tops, blocking the hole in the bottom pot and filling the olla from the hole in the top one. The whole thing is buried amongst 5 or 6 plants, with only a couple of inches showing out of the ground. I found I only had to refill them with water once a week or so and my tomatoes and peppers were happy.

  • Daisy, along with conservation the best plan is to have a well that has a hand pump as a backup. If you live in town and can’t have a well, install a swimming pool–the water can be easily dechlorinated and filtered to be safe for drinking and cooking. Same goes for a spa. When my wife and I lived in Las Vegas we had a 14,400 gallon pool (roughly 30′ x 15′ x avg depth of 4.5′) and an 850 gallon spa. We also had an AquaRain 400 water filtration and purification device that would filter both of those sources into safe drinking water. We actually got the device because the local tap water gave us cramps. The AquaRain filtered out whatever was causing the problem from the tap water and kept us from having to rely on bottled water for drinking and cooking.

    No pool or spa can save you indefinitely because unless you have a well, or live where it rains a lot they won’t likely be a replenishable water supply. Rain catchment systems can help or even work as a replenishable supply if you have either enough rain or a large enough catchment basin. And recycling gray water to your gardens is a great idea. Our gray water system is tied to our septic system and helps feed and water our fruit trees.

    • You are so right! My house came with a pool in back. This house, built in the sixties, had a problem last winter where the main water feeder line broke. While we were saving up money for a fix, we used water out of the pool for washing, flushing, etc. Next step is to get a filter so we could drink it too.

  • About the comment on steaming food. It’s an excellent way to preserve flavor, conserve water, and even get by with less than pristine quality water if you’re in a situation where water is extremely scarce. If water is really grubby, bring it to a boil, and for a couple of minutes let any VOCs (volatile organic chemicals) steam off first. Any steam after that will be perfectly safe for cooking food. You can even think of cooking this way as “distilling on the fly.” Oh, some of the world’s best food steam cooking literature comes from the Chinese and the French.

    Not mentioned above is using a double boiler to safely heat up food without over-heating it. Again, less than pristine quality water works here as well.

    Also, learning how to do stir-fry cooking with a Chinese wok requires high temperature cooking oils (such as peanut oil), but no water.

    Not mentioned above is getting double use from hot water, whether super clean or somewhat dirty. After either steaming or double boiling, if you’re thoughtful about this, plan on having enough water left over that already hot and ready to do all but the final clean rinse when washing your dishes (by hand, of course). It’s amazing how little water it takes to get double duty this way. (This is especially practical for campers, hikers, etc.)

    The comment about taking sponge baths is a good one. A lot of hospitals use that routinely, whether the patient is standing up or sitting down. It uses perhaps half the water that the traditional third world bucket bath uses. (If you’ve never seen a bucket bath, there are multiple how-to videos on YouTube.)


  • Daisy,
    A few times recently, you have mention about the chemical contamination of the drinking water in WV. This was limited to the capital city of Charleston and did nor affect to majority of the state. It was very bad for those residents who used water from one pumping and distribution plant only. OH yeah, they didn’t inform the public for a few days after it happened and the PTB knew about it.

  • Using a spray bottle to rinse your dishes greatly reduces the amount of fresh water needed. This is a common technique used by sailors on crusing sailboats where you are limited to the water in your onboard tanks.

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