During periods of drought, it may be impossible for your water system to provide both unlimited irrigation and a minimum water reserve for fire protection. If your water system is affected by drought, it is up to you to take the steps necessary to conserve water. Montana state agencies provide the following tips:
Lawn Watering, Car Washing, and Sidewalk Cleaning
Watering lawns during cool parts of the day, deep soaking the lawn when watering, and watering only when needed will keep your lawn healthy and save thousands of gallons of water.
Turning off the hose as you soap the car and after rinsing.
Use a broom instead of a hose to clean sidewalks and driveways.
Mow only when necessary. Set the mower to cut 2 to 3 inches high during warm weather. Longer grass keeps the soil cool, minimizing evaporation and conserving water.
Apply 1 to 1.5 inches per setting, no more often than twice in 7 to 10 days, on gardens and lawns. The average garden soil should be watered with 2.5 inches of water every 10 days during peak growth periods. (See Methods for Measuring Applied Water.)
Don't apply water faster than the soil can handle.
Gardens should be soaked once a week rather than watered frequently.
Watering during windy conditions is wasteful, as excessive evaporation may take place.
Water gardens in the morning or early afternoon so that foliage will dry before nightfall.
Inside the House
A slow drip from a single faucet can waste 15 to 20 gallons of water every day. That can amount to nearly 6,000 gallons of water per year. It is simple to replace washers and repair leaking faucets.
A toilet leak can waste hundreds of gallons of water each day. To see if your toilet tank leaks, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank. Without flushing, wait a few minutes to see if the color shows up in the bowl. If color appears, check the flush arm mechanism in the tank to see if the chain attached to the arm is tangled. If the flush mechanism appears to be in proper condition, you may have to replace the flap valve at the bottom of the tank even though the valve may appear to be in good condition. If your tank is overflowing, adjust the water level control mechanism until the water level is at least one-half inch below the overflow level.
Don't use toilets as trash cans.
Each time you flush, you use between 1.5 and 5 gallons of water. Using the toilet to flush spiders or cigarette butts is wasteful. If you have an older toilet, you can save water by placing a plastic bottle filled with water in the tank. Choose a bottle size that allows the toilet to function properly and that does not interfere with the flushing mechanism.
Dishwashers and clothes washers.
Try to use these appliances only with full loads. Even short-cycle options are generally less water-efficient than running full loads. Also, using a dishwasher will save more water than hand-washing dishes.
Each minute of showering can use 5 gallons or more of water. Limiting shower length and installing low-flow fixtures or orifices can save significant quantities of water. (Low-flow orifices are about the size of a nickel and have a small hole in the middle. They restrict the flow through a faucet or showerhead, are easy and inexpensive to install, and are available at most hardware stores.) Turning the water off between rinses will also help. Bathing generally consumes less water, but a short shower will use less water than a bathtub filled with 5 inches of water.