We've all heard the advice about how to conserve water, especially during the summer months when drought and brush fires hit even the Pacific Northwest. Water conservation is incredibly important and intrinsic to all of life on this planet. For those of us who work with Water as a spiritual aspect of our paths, practicing water worship can sometimes leave one feeling guilty.
So, how do we honor Water without wasting it?
We start by honoring methods of conservation to preserve what is sacred. We also must be mindful as we perform rituals to use only as much as we need, and show our gratitude at every step.
These are a mix of familiar, practical ways of working with water, as well as spiritual ones.
1. Showering. If you're like me, stepping into a shower is invigorating, and if I'm not paying attention to my actions, or I'm not in a rush, I feel a strong urge to stay in the water and be embraced by its fluid arms. Thankfully, I spent a few of my formative years in California, where water conservation is drilled into the heads of middle schoolers several times a year. Unless you're especially dirty or have an illness that demands staying in the water longer, showers can be kept three minutes (my daily target) or up to five minutes in length.
When starting up the shower, it's recommended you collect the cool water in a bucket or bin while waiting for the water to get hot, and while it's great on a garden or to water your plants, it's also excellent for any divination work, blessings, or other water work you're planning on doing that day.
2. Baths. Whether you clean or just soak in a bath, make it count. Plug up the drain as soon as you start, turning on the hot water only until it gets hot, then begin to adjust the cold water. If it's too hot, turn down the hot water rather than turn up the cold. Fill the tub only to the amount you need. Use this time in a tub to meditate, cast spells based on water, or give thanks to the water beings, gods, or goddesses with whom you manifest intention. A bath oil at the end of the bath will help seal in the water you've enjoyed, and continue its blessings.
I use my bath soaks primarily for self-healing work. I add epsom salts, herbs, or oils depending on what I need. Mugwort, steeped as a tea for two hours ahead of time, is an excellent addition for women needing to balance their hormones and regulate menstrual cycles. It's very cleansing, and if you have tea left over, it's good for a once-a-month lucid dreaming session when drunk at night. For women needing an after birth soak, or if you're a person who suffers from cysts or tears in your pelvic floor, a postpartum sitz herbal bath* is incredibly beneficial. When healing in the tub, I ground, open chakras, and then perform Reiki on the affected areas that need the most healing.
3. Kitchen Rituals. The water you drink each day is a blessing in itself. Before taking the first sip of each glass, take a moment to thank the water and to put into it the intentions for healing, continued health, or ritual. I recommend avoiding bottled water, as its production and consumption wastes water, harms global and local ecologies, and often harms the people living near bottled water plants by destroying local aquifers. If you find your tap water unpalatable, add a filter to your faucet, keep a water filtration pitcher (add mineral rocks for an extra boost), or add fresh fruit and herbs** to your water pitcher for a hint of flavor.
Any kitchen witchery that uses water from boiling to washing should employ basic conservation methods: save water after straining, left over teas, etc. for watering plants. If your ritual or meal left a bath of broth, freeze it for soup or reduce into a magical sauce. (Don't forget to sing while you cook!) The glass of water in the image was used to water my indoor plants after its intended use; remember to give back to the earth or a nearby stream as often as you're able.
When cleaning your ritual tools, set aside a bin or half sink for soaking, to minimize water waste.
4. Gardening. From shower and kitchen come rich water that can be used to tend your garden. Pay attention to what might have mixed into the water in question and use where most beneficial: you don't want to use a broth that came from peppers in the same soil where you're growing them! Also, save your cooking water for outdoors, or you might have odors you didn't expect. Your shower water is better for indoor plants.
If you have an outdoor garden and can afford either the cost or the energy to install a gray water system, such as a reed pond, you can create a luscious place for meditation and ritual while making the most of your water and attracting beneficial wildlife (here, froggy, froggy!).
Another wonderful feature to include in any witch's garden is a rain barrel both for irrigating medicinal herbs and casting late night spells. A splash of captured rain water on your feet as blessing or into the soil where you've planted a fertility talisman is perfectly safe. Just be certain you use potable water for any portions of your ritual that require drinking.
5. Community Involvement. Whether you're a solo practitioner or part of a group or coven, show Water you're dedicated by taking part in community conservation efforts. Reach out to stewardship groups, societies for the conservation of a given body of water, or watershed protection groups.^ Many of these groups need volunteers, as well as donations, to help clean or maintain local bodies of water. If your local watershed is being threatened by a company, talk to your representative about stopping or constraining harmful practices.
Take time to both offer prayers and blessings to your favorite ocean, pond, lake, or river, while also picking up garbage along the water's edge. Get others involved in your efforts, and you can begin and end each volunteer session with a call to Spirit, a prayer, or a sung blessing (you might even dive right in, if the day's warm enough).
Water provides us with life, take care of it, bless it, and it will bless you right back. Don't forget to go for a swim!
*Use a premixed blend of sitz bath herbs, or make your own using 1/4 cup each of comfrey leaf, plantain leaf, red raspberry leaf, yarrow flower, calendula flower, sheperd's purse, uva ursi (a.k.a. bearberry) leaf, and epsom salts. Steep for thirty minutes in boiled water, and add to a shallow bath.
**Making my own fruit waters has made summer more enjoyable. Some of my family's favorite blends are: blackberry with sage, raspberry with mint, blueberry with peach, cucumber with lemon slices, strawberry with nasturtiums, and orange with lime slices.
^There are a host of non-profits working both on local and national levels to conserve waterways. Those I love most in Washington include Stewardship Partners, People of Puget Sound, and Water Tenders.