Are you willing to do a little experiment for a day? The kitchen is a great place to start when learning how to live without running water. You probably have everything you need in your home right now. It just takes a little bit of relearning. My family uses around 8 to 10 gallons of water a day in the kitchen, more than any other room in the house. I will explain how we conserve water in the bathroom in a future article, but using a composting toilet in place of a flushing one goes a long way in conserving water.
Making a kitchen work without running water and what you can do to learn this skill.
I do a LOT of cooking and I have not had running water for almost two years. I am proof that it can be done long term. But even if you have no desire to do this long term, I believe that it is an important prepper skill to learn.
- I manually pump and carry all of our water into our home. Water becomes so precious this way! And there really is no better way of learning your water usage and how to conserve it. We have faucets because our house is a manufactured home and we plan to have a system to use them one day, hopefully this coming spring. I have not reached to turn the handle of a faucet in a long time. I always keep it pushed out of the way, but it can be entertaining for me to watch a guest try to turn on the water! I know it is just out of habit. In order to practice living without running water, I suggest filling containers with water and then putting painters tape or masking tape over your faucet and handles so that you don’t turn the water on by accident. But I’m sure that you will still try to reach for it multiple times a day! The dishwasher also gets a vacation for the day!
- I primarily use 1/2 gallon size juice bottles to store water. I fill these at our well and distribute them around the house. I always have a crate of them in the kitchen. I like them because they were free! My parents saved them every time they opened a juice bottle. I love re-purposing things! But I also like their size and that they are easy to pour from. But if you plan on doing a “no running water” experiment, any container will do. Just fill a bunch from your faucet.
- Whenever I am asked if I miss anything about living in a regular house, I am quick to say, “Hot Running Water!” It really is such a wonderful thing! We will one day have a wood burning hot water heater or some other way to get hot water through our faucets, but until then I have learned to heat water the old-fashioned way: on the stove. I have tea kettles devoted to this purpose, but any pot would work. In the colder times of year, I heat water on my wood stove and pour it into a 2 gallon igloo dispenser. It keeps water hot all day! In the warmer seasons, I heat water for dishes on our propane stove.
- I have learned how to conserve water and reuse it! When thinking about water, it’s important to keep in mind that all water does not have to be clean enough for drinking. In America, we are very blessed to be able to turn on a faucet and fill an entire bathtub with clean drinking water. But that isn’t the case for many people around the world. Water does not have to be crystal clear to be usable! In order to conserve water we have to get out of the habit of letting perfectly usable water go down the drain. Water can have multiple lives! Water that is not used for drinking can really have many uses before it goes down the drain. I’ll explain that more below, but when learning how to conserve water it is really important to change how we look at water. I’ve found that it’s pretty wasteful to turn on the faucet to rinse dishes, wash hands, etc. and have all that useful water go down the drain.
Conserving Water in Four Areas of Kitchen Water Usage.
Drinking is the most obvious.
I fill our Big Berkey water filter (1 1/2 gallon capacity) around twice a day. Depending on the season, my family of four uses between 3 and 4 gallons of water a day. That may seem like a lot, but this is our staple drink. Juice and milk are both rare treats in our home, and soda is non-existent. I use some of our filtered water for making water kefir, as well as brushing our teeth.
Food Preparation and Cooking.
When I lived in a house with running water, I used a lot of water in this area. I was always turning on the faucet to rinse something sticky off my hands or rinse a speck of food down the drain. I still use the same amount of water that I always used for actual cooking like boiling pasta or potatoes, but I’m more careful about my water usage in food preparation.
- When I need to wash produce, I fill a bowl with enough water to wash my fruit or vegetables. I can reuse this water for things like wiping counters or sticky messes off the floor. But once water has been used for the floor, it isn’t used for jobs where cleaner water is required. The floor is usually its last use.
- When I have sticky fingers, I use a wet washcloth instead of pouring water over my hands.
- If I need to rinse a utensil to use again, I pour a small amount of clean water over it, catching the water in my plugged sink. I always keep my sink plugged to have water to pre-rinse dishes before washing. More on that below.
Washing dishes can be the biggest use of water in the kitchen.
There are three things that I do to conserve water in this area. No running water means that I am the dishwasher!
- I try to only do dishes once a day. I usually use around 2 gallons, 1 gallon for washing and 1 gallon for rinsing. If I have a lot of dishes, I’ll start with less than a gallon in each side of the sink and keep adding hot water as I go. A large drainer is a must when washing dishes by hand. It’s one of my most important kitchen tools.
- It’s important to have water in both sides of the sink. The biggest drain (pun intended) on water when doing dishes by hand is allowing the faucet to run while rinsing. Good plugs with drain baskets are an absolute necessity for me! There has been more than one occasion when a plug got loose and all my water went down the drain before I could stop it. Ugghhh! I have to start all over again. I hate losing hot water down the drain.
- I always pre-rinse the dishes. Without doing this simple thing, dishwater can get so yucky that dishes cannot possibly get clean. Pre-rinsed dishes save me from having to empty the sink and get fresh water half way through. But doesn’t it take even more water to rinse them? No! Because after the previous time of washing dishes, I didn’t let the water go down the drain! I always save the water for pre-rinsing throughout the following day. This way I don’t have dried on food and I can get my dishes ready for the once a day washing. With this system, I can use the same 2 gallons of water for washing the dishes and pre-rinsing dishes for next time. When I’m ready to wash dishes again, I’ll use the drain basket to collect all the food bits, dump those in the trash, use a little water to wash out the sink, and fill it again. Yes, the water gets dirtier as it gets closer to time to do dishes again. That may be a bit offensive to some and there have been times that I have emptied my sink and filled it with fresh water before time to do dishes. I use my judgment. But I only use the dirty water for rinsing dirty dishes! I use the cleaner water on the rinse side of the sink for things like rinsing off my hands while cooking or getting my dishcloth wet for wiping off the kitchen table and counters.
Everyone in my family uses the kitchen sink to wash their hands. I usually hold a bottle of water so that a small stream comes out. It doesn’t take a lot of water and again it falls into my plugged sink to use for pre-rinsing dishes and soaking sticky things like a bread bowl. When a friend visited recently, she suggested trying a spray bottle for hands. I don’t use this tip regularly, but it can help kids wash off their own hands.
I would love to hear if you tried your own experiment in your kitchen. Did you learn anything? How much water did you use? Let me know how it went for you!
For more thoughts about living without running water, check out 9 Lessons Learned From Living Without Running Water and Getting Water Off Grid.