Save water, save the world

South Florida water officials put out the warning on Thursday: Cut back on use because we're running out of the stuff.

Among the orders from the South Florida Water Management District is that landscape watering is allowed no more than one day a week. That means you need to find ways to maximize your minimal water.

It's really not that difficult. There are some simple and affordable steps -- and a variety of products available to help -- you cut down on both household and outdoor water use.

"Anybody who just takes a hose and shoots out the water is over watering," says Thomas A. Bouchard, a veteran plumber and the resident water expert at Strunk Ace Hardware on Eaton Street in Key West.

He suggests using a drip or mist watering system that provides less water over a longer period of time. Simple plastic inserts can convert regular hoses into drip watering systems at minimal cost. At Strunk, there are a number of options for drip systems, with the hardware costing less than $10.

"Everybody that has been putting these in is coming back and saying their water bill is cut down 30 percent," Bouchard says.

The Water Management District ordered Keys residents and businesses to restrict outdoor watering to midnight to 10 a.m. and/or 4 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. for odd-numbered addresses on Saturdays and even-numbered addresses on Sundays.

The district makes an exception for drip systems and similar conservation techniques that apply water directly to plant root zones, but suggests a voluntary reduction.

Another simple water-saving solution is installing a screen into kitchen sink aerators. The screens, which cost less than $1, cut down on water flow while simultaneously increasing pressure, so things like washing dishes may actually get easier.

Other water-saving measures can be implemented in the bathroom. A shower-head flow-control device, costing around $10, is a simple metal fitting installed between the shower head and the wall connection that reduces use.

Bouchard says a typical shower uses about five gallons of water and a flow controller can cut that down to three gallons. He called this the "quickest fix," noting, "Everybody has to shower -- you can cut back big-time."

What about the toilet? Everyone has to, well, use the toilet, too.

A new fill valve can reduce the usage of a three-gallon toilet tank down to half that for around 15 bucks. In a nutshell, the fill valve can be adjusted so that the tank uses just enough water to flush rather than a pre-set amount. The same thing can be done by filling a plastic milk jug or sturdy zipper bag with water and putting that in the tank.

But if you're serious, there's the two-button toilet.

Depending on which button is pushed, one for liquid waste and another for solid, the toilet will use a flush-specific amount of water. This rig runs around $200.

"You've got to cover everything," Bouchard says. "Water is going to be what gets us in trouble." As for conservation, "It makes sense and you're saving the world."

For all of the new water rules ordered Thursday, go to

Keynoter photos by SEAN KINNEY