Pot o’ Goodness: Low, Low-Tech Water Conservation

Mrs. Homegrown here:

Continuing on the greywater theme, on big cooking days, when I’m doing a lot of boiling, steaming, soaking and rinsing, I collect all that used water in a big pot and take it out to the garden to water the plants. It’s full of nutrients, and won’t cause any blackwater* problems as long as you:

  • Use it immediately. It will turn foul if left to sit too long.
  • Pour it straight into the soil–don’t splash it all over edible leaves. Remember, soil purifies water.
  • Don’t use water full of food chunks or grease, as this will attract vermin and cause smells.

I know it’s only a little bit water that I’m saving by doing this, but to me it’s a symbolic act, almost a prayer. And heck, it hasn’t rained here since March, so every bit counts. Also, the plants really like the super-water. I think of it as a smoothie for them.

Another option is to re-use cooking waters as stock. This is something I don’t know much about. Sometimes I’ll take some nice bright green water leftover from steaming or blanching greens and use that to start a vegetable stock. But I’ve heard of people using pasta water as the base of soups. Have any of you tried that, or other techniques along those lines? Do tell.

And let us know if you have any quirky ways of saving water.

*What’s blackwater? It’s water which is dirtier than greywater, and therefore not usually recycled. Typically this is water coming from the toilet and the kitchen sink. Food particles from the sink turn septic quickly, and grease and heavy soap are not good for soil. However, our greywater guru, Art Ludwig, does say that kitchen sink water is nutrient rich, and suggests workarounds that allow sink water re-use, like grease traps or plumbing the sink so only the rinse water goes to the garden.

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17 Comments

  1. I try to save the water but my husband always pours it down the drain when I’m waiting for it to cool down. If I say something he just tells me he “forgot.” LOL

  2. I’ve never used pasta water to start soup, but I have used a bit of it to help dress the pasta before adding the pasta sauce (instead of oil.) Pasta water also works well in packaged mac & cheese in place of the milk if you find that you’re out at the last minute. I tend to salt my pasta water heavily, so I would be wary of using it in a soup, though YMMV.

    I’ve also used potato water in place of milk when making mashed potatoes for lactose intolerant folks. If you start with gold potatoes, they still tast rich and buttery. I imagine that you can use potato water in any way that you would use pasta water.

  3. Pasta water is a wonderful ingredient. I don’t know that I’d use it as the basis of a stock, since all that cooking might do unpleasant things to the wheat proteins. But I use it to thin down soups and sauces and it works great.

  4. @Joel:

    Comment bugginess continues today–yours won’t publish either. Conspiracy in action???? ;) Hopefully this bug will pass and your comment will appear.

    But yes, ha ha. I had to restrain myself from making Blackwater jokes.

  5. Thanks for the idea of using cooking ‘greywater’ for the garden and plants! As much as I try to remember to use the veggie water, unless stock is happening at the moment, it goes down the sink. Much better. When I boil corn on the cob, use the water the next day for pasta; his wheat, mine corn. I’m gluten intolerant so his water can’t go into stock anyway, but again, it can all go to water the trees outside the kitchen door. A while back saw something about splitting a double kitchen sink, so the slightly dirtier than cooking water went into a “pond” created with an old bathtub and water plants for purifying. then drained off via the overflow to the garden. The other side of the sink was to the septic for the greasier dirty stuff. Thought it was a cool idea, but He who can sulk better than anyone I know, said no

  6. I’ve used cooking water to water plants, both inside and out, for decades.
    Because I use dry milk in many recipes, I use potato water in cooking – especially good in bread.
    We have rain barrels to use for outdoor watering so when I water hanging plants I put a 5-gal bucket under them to catch any runoff & that gets used for in-ground plant watering. We’ve been under drought conditions for about 4 years so we do anything to save water.

  7. A ps to my previous post – am currently canning beans, so lots of soak and rinse water – all of which is now being captured and being used to either add water to the composter or water the trees. Thanks again for the reminder!!

  8. I have bailed my bath water to carry outside to thirsty trees. The window ac unit drips into a five-gallon bucket for vegetables. Dehumidifier water is carried outside for vegetables.
    Pasta water, potato water, or egg-boiling water is used for the water to cook oatmeal for my hens. They prefer cooked oatmeal to dry. My hens are only give whole wheat bread. Sometimes I soak the bread in cooking water to give them extra nutrition.

  9. my mom always used the tater water for the gravey, rain water collected in buckets and barrels works for me too, just have to make sure and use it b4 the mosquitos move ine in. I would like to build a gray water system for the ranch when i get out there….

  10. Love your ideas! Keep them coming! We capture all our washing machine water and end up with the greenest garden and lowest water bills of all our neighbors. It is awesome.

  11. I started in April saving the cold water that runs through the tap in order to get hot water for the dishwasher to start washing, otherwise it fills with cold water to wash the dishes. It usually amounts to about 2 gallons, as the water tank is on opposite of house.
    I transfer to outside 5 gallon buckets and use as needed on plant area.
    Also, thanks for tips on outdoor sink area. I will start with a dry sink and use bucket grey water as needed. It started because I wanted to have outdoor cooking/prep area in the hot weather. I am from the midwest and window for this opportunity is shorter. Sort of seems like a vacation ‘away from home’, a change of pace.

  12. fun idea to use pasta water. i have heard though that water from cooking greens contains something that you wouldn’t want to reuse, such as oxalates, that really aren’t good for you. however i think cooking water from any starchy vegetable or pasta or rice would work great.

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