Saving water from your clothes washer & dishwasher

DOWNEY - In one sense, it's amazing how many public programs there are hoping to convince you to save water. They have catchy names, like "WaterSense," "Energy Star," "Bewaterwise," "SoCal Water Smart," "Shut Your Tap" (my personal favorite), and the City of Downey Department of Public Works Utilities Division. Okay, maybe that last one wasn't quite so catchy. But you get the idea.On the other hand, these public agencies are acutely aware that the water supply is among our most precious resources. And in California in particular, these same public organizations recognize that constant care and vigilance are necessary to insure that our water supply is able to meet the needs of the population. So we continue this week with our assessment of water conservation tips as provided by the aforementioned (not too catchy) Public Works Utilities Division. We are still seeking ways to conserve water indoors, and still more opportunities present themselves, specifically with clothes washers and dishwashers. There's one simple no-(additional)cost rule for saving water and energy with these appliances: make sure you're always washing full loads. Clearly the cycle will use the same amount of water, regardless of how many clothes or dishes there are in each load. So common sense dictates a full load every time. Both clothes washer and dishwasher will also undoubtedly have different cycle options, so it's a good idea to read the manual so you're familiar with the water and energy usage of each available cycle, and choose accordingly. (As far as energy use is concerned, you can, of course, save a bit more if you select an all-cold clothes washing cycle.) Most other gains in water savings with these devices come from the technology, and once again, the EPA's websites are delighted to project what kind of water and energy savings are achievable. While the WaterSense site deals primarily with bathroom devices, EPA's Energy Star website lists standards and potential for clothes washers and dishwashers. The Energy Star site estimates that "the average American family washes almost 300 loads of laundry each year." Further, Energy Star qualified clothes washers use "14 gallons of water per load, compared to the 27 gallons used by a standard machine"--a 50% reduction. The lifetime water savings of each of these new machines is therefore estimated to be 43,000 gallons. From another perspective, the Energy Star site declares ebulliently that, "if every clothes washer purchased in the U.S. this year earned the Energy Star, we would save...32 billion gallons of water." Closer to home, the Metropolitan Water District water conservation site,, offers rebates to single-family residential customers through its SoCal Water Smart program on High-Efficiency Clothes Washers. Similarly, Central Basin Municipal Water District also offers a menu of rebates on "HECWs" (or HEWs), as they are sometimes called. CBMWD also sponsors the "Shut Your Tap" water conservation program. To be clear, while the City of Downey participates as a member of both the CBMWD and the MWD, Downey supplies all its own water from local wells, so an interested party would need to consult directly with each agency to determine rebate eligibility. Returning to dishwashers, Energy Star models use 5.8 gallons per cycle or less, whereas older machines use 10 or more additional gallons per cycle. Two low-cost tips from the EPA Energy Star site (and you can trust them, because I've heard these guys do all their own dishes) are to scrape food rather than rinsing, and to use the dishwasher rather than washing dishes by hand. According to Energy Star, using qualified dishwashers will save 5,000 gallons of water annually over hand washing. More importantly, using an Energy Star qualified dishwasher, rather than washing by hand, will annually save you 230 hours of your time. Giving you more free time to read The Downey Patriot.

********** Published: February 2, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 42

FeaturesEric Pierce