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Conserving water in the kitchen

August 21, 2002|by LYNN F. LITTLE

As drought conditions continue, it's wise to consider different ways to conserve water.

On average, Americans use 50 to 100 gallons of water per day for personal and household use, not counting watering lawns and outdoor plants. While the toilet, shower and bathroom sink are obvious places to start when conserving water in the home, the kitchen is also an area where water use can be reduced with a few simple and easy changes.

Following are some tips and suggestions for conserving water in the kitchen.

  • Scrub fruits and vegetables in a bowl or pan of water, rather than under continuously running water. Once cleaned, rinse with clear water. Save the water used to wash fruits and vegetables for rinsing dirty dishes or for watering plants.

  • Thaw meats and other frozen foods in the refrigerator overnight or in the microwave oven, rather than under running water.

  • Store drinking water in the refrigerator. It will be ice cold and save you from having to run the tap until the water cools.

  • When you need hot water, heat it on the stove or in the microwave oven.

    If you do need to run tap water and wait for it to get hot or cold, capture the water for other uses such as watering plants or soaking dishes.

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  • Use the minimum amount of water necessary when cooking foods such as frozen vegetables and stews. This will maximize nutritional value as well as save water.

  • Minimize the number of cooking utensils and dishes to cut down on the water needed for dishwashing.

  • Kitchen sink disposals require lots of water to operate properly. To limit disposal use, peel vegetables, eggs and other food onto paper towels, then dispose in a garbage container or add to the compost pile if you have available outdoor space. Limiting use of garbage disposals also helps decrease the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and organic matter added to wastewater, thus helping to improve water quality and prolong the life of septic tanks.

  • Scrape dishes but don't rinse before loading into your dishwasher, especially if you'll be running the dishwasher within a few hours. If rinsing is necessary, put water in a basin in the sink and use that water for rinsing, rather than under a running faucet.

  • Run only full dishwasher loads. Select the cycles that use the least number of washes and rinses. You can cut the amount of water used for dishwashing in half by choosing short-run cycles.

  • Reduce the number of dishwasher loads by washing large cooking and serving utensils by hand in a pan of hot water. Wash or at least soak soon after use so that food does not harden on dishes and thus require more water to clean.

  • When hand-washing dishes, save water by filling two containers - one with soapy water and the other with rinse water containing a small amount of chlorine bleach (1/2 teaspoon per 2 quarts water).

  • Try to do one thing each day that will result in saving water. Don't worry if the savings are minimal. Every drop counts, especially when multiplied over many days and many households. You can make a difference.


  • Lynn F. Little is the family and consumer sciences educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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