A Guide To Responsible Desert Dwelling

Join our tradition of water conservation through mindful lifestyle choices.

Changes to Lifestyle

Stop eating meat. We know, the ONE thing you don’t want to hear. But it’s true. Look, if you want to feel better, just eat LESS meat! Even one day a week makes a massive difference. On average, skipping a SINGLE DAY of eating meat saves 660 gallons of water!
Steam your veggies instead of boiling them. This one is a little less annoying, right? PLUS, it turns out steaming your veggies is more nutritious! 
Use farmer’s markets. That’s right! This one helps save water, and boosts the local economy. While we’re at it, we should try and prioritize eating foods that are available in our climate seasonally.
Reduce food waste. Nearly ⅓ of all food purchased in America is thrown away. We don’t even want to calculate what a waste of water that is! 
Use a bucket and sponge to clean your car. In general, using a fixed body of water as opposed to a hose / faucet to do chores is a HUGE water saver. 
Switch back to good old fashioned bar soap. Weird, but true, body gel requires more water to rinse off your body than a bar of soap does. Plus, it doesn’t come in a gigantic single use plastic container! Double win. 
Only flush paper waste down the toilet if you absolutely need to, otherwise put it in the trash. This one might seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes those spring allergies are so bad your common sense gets overridden. If it’s not going to stink up your bathroom, it’s best to put it in the trashcan and save that flush. 
Use a broom instead of a hose to clean patios, driveways, and other outdoor areas. And if you HAVE to use water, remember to use a bucket and put some water in it. It will always be more efficient than using a hose! 
When you use water for cooking (for example boiling pasta), reuse it. Is anyone else’s spider plant looking thirsty? You might want to do some additional research before making a habit of this, some cooking ingredients can be bad for your plants. 
Try and get in the habit of wearing clothes multiple times before washing them. Especially in the heat of the summer, we know this is easier said than done. But it’s the effort that counts, and even if it’s your denim jeans, getting that extra wear out of them before washing them really adds up! 
Stop playing with water guns and water balloons. We know. Removing a child’s sense of joy should be low on this list. That’s why we put it at the bottom! But, they are the ones inheriting our community, and we promise when they have plenty of water, they will be thankful you didn’t let them blast your neighbor’s kid with that supersoaker.


If you have a yard, the best possible thing you can do to conserve water is to landscape with native and drought-tolerant plants. As a desert dweller, chances are you already find the land beautiful, so why not honor that in your own yard?

Landscaping Tips

  • Water your plants slowly, deeply, and less often. This encourages deeper root growth, helping plants withstand our extreme weather conditions like prolonged drought and windy monsoons. It also stops salts from building up in the soil. It’s better for the water and for the plants.
  • Have you ever turned on your hose to water a few plants, just to wake up the next morning to a pond in your yard? Avoid this with a $5 hose timer from your local home improvement store.
  • Avoid setting your irrigation system or watering your plants when evaporation is highest, between 10 AM - 6 PM. 
  • If you have a lawn, the single greatest thing you can do to save water is to let your grass go dormant in the winter and not overseed with winter grasses. You can also set your mower to around 1.5–⁠2 inches. The additional height creates more shade, which increases soil moisture and reduces the need for frequent watering.

Irrigation Systems

  • If you have an irrigation system, check it monthly for leaks by running each watering zone. Look for overspray and wet spots that may indicate leaks at valves, in drip lines and at spray heads. If you have sprinklers, look for areas where water sprays onto walkways, driveways or walls and adjust the sprinkler heads. Irrigation system leaks are by far the biggest contributor to water waste, and even a small one adds up.
  • Set a reminder on your phone or calendar to check your irrigation system’s schedule four times a year to adjust for plants’ changing water needs with each season. You can also sign up to receive a monthly text from Tucson Water that offers tips on caring for your landscape and watering. Text Tucson WaterWiser to 468311.

Swimming Pools

The typical swimming pool can lose the equivalent of its entire water volume to evaporation (10,000–25,000 gallons) in one year. This is the amount of water needed to meet the average Tucson family's water needs for three months.

You don’t necessarily need to drain yours and turn it into a water harvesting storage tank but there are some simple things you can do to help minimize the waste from your local watering hole.

Pool Tips

  • Use a pool cover. This will dramatically reduce the amount of evaporation, which will substantially cut down on water waste.
  • Did you know you can check for pool leaks with a bucket and two pieces of tape? Learn how here.
  • If you need to drain your pool, give that water a second life by discharging it into your sewer clean-out. The water will be treated and recycled, either used for irrigation or stored for the future.

Everyday Living

If there is only one tip you take away from this guide, it’s this: LEAKS ARE A BIG DEAL. One drip per second adds up to 5 gallons a day. Even though leaks are easy to ignore, please don’t! They make a huge difference, both on our community’s water, and on your bill.

Bathroom Tips

  • The bathroom is where any desert dweller can conserve water. And the number one indoor water waster (other than a teenager in the shower) is leaking toilets.
  • If you notice your toilet is running all day long, take action right away! Constantly running toilets can leak up to 200 gallons of water a day. The most common causes are the flapper, fill valve, and flush lever. Check these parts if you suspect a leak.
  • You can’t always hear a toilet leaking. Want to make sure? Put a few drops of food coloring (or dye tabs) in the tank and wait 10 minutes. If there’s color in the bowl, you’ve got a leak!
  • Back to that teenager taking the long showers: shortening your shower by just a minute or two can save up to 150 gallons a month. We know you’ve probably been hearing this since the 80s, but it’s stood the test of time for a reason. And think twice before filling up a bath as that uses significantly more water.
  • And finally the classic: don’t run the tap when brushing your teeth. The one thing we all know, yet sometimes forget to do.

Kitchen Tips

  • If you have a dishwasher, use it! Waiting for full loads before running is best, but even a partial load is more water-efficient than washing by hand. With newer models you usually don’t need to rinse dishes, yet many people still do it out of habit.
  • If you don’t have a dishwasher, fill your sink with water and use it to wash dishes instead of running the tap.
  • Keep some chilled drinking water in the fridge. This way, you’re not running the tap waiting for it to get cold. And, it tastes better!
  • Consider composting instead of using a garbage disposal. Garbage disposals not only use water to run, but food put into the pipes goes straight into the wastewater system, requiring energy for processing. Putting your food down the drain is exactly what it sounds like: a wasted opportunity to conserve water as well as enrich our soil.

Laundry Tips

  • Wash full loads. If you are washing less than a full load, be sure to double-check and adjust the load setting on your machine accordingly.
  • Using the cold water setting reduces your energy consumption and is better for the environment.
  • Try to get in the habit of wearing some clothes multiple times before washing them. We’re not talking about your gym clothes, but getting the extra wear out of a pair of jeans before washing really adds up!

Other Tips

  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean patios, driveways, and other outdoor areas.
  • Many desert homes are still cooled with evaporative coolers because they use much less energy than air conditioners, but they do use more water. Make sure your system is properly maintained to keep using water efficiently throughout the year.

Home Improvements

Are you ready to invest in being the ultimate desert dweller? Here are some changes you can make that require a bit of an investment, but don’t worry – Tucson Water has rebates for most of them!

  • Replace all your sink faucet aerators with WaterSense products.
  • Switch to a washing machine with an ENERGY STAR logo.
  • Switch to a dishwasher with an ENERGY STAR logo.
  • Replace all your toilets with WaterSense products.
  • Replace all your showerheads with WaterSense products.
  • Replace thirsty plants with native or low-water use ones.
  • Replace your current irrigation system with a more efficient one.
  • Install an instant water heater near your bathroom or kitchen; you’ll never again have to run the water while it heats up.
  • If you are using a reverse-osmosis system, make sure it’s water efficient. They can often waste 4 gallons of water for each gallon they produce.

Water Recycling

This is the final frontier of Desert Dwelling, and often the one that is most daunting. Here are two ways you can recycle water with the help of Tucson Water.

Gray Water Irrigation

Rainwater Harvesting

  • Gray water is wastewater collected from the drains of hand-washing sinks, showers, bathtubs and clothes washing machines—a total of 31% of your water usage! With the right setup, you can use that water to irrigate your landscaping. And Tucson Water will help with a 50% rebate, up to $1,000. Learn more
  • Did you know that more rain falls on Tucson every year than our customers use? Some of the rain that falls on your property can be captured, stored, and used to water your landscaping. Tucson Water has resources for getting started and generous rebates you can take advantage of to build your ultimate desert dwelling. Learn more

Looking for even more tips?

Explore 100+ water-saving tips from our regional partners at Water Use it Wisely.
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