Here are just a few random tips on the important subject of saving water in the home:

If you have planted some new shrubs or trees or a garden, regular watering will be vital to keep the plant healthy, and finding the water might be a serious probelm if there has been a drought in your area. One solution is to rig up a version of the old rain barrel and collect water for use during dry spells. The receptacles do not have to be barrels, of course -- plastic or metal trash cans or any sizable buckets or tubs make fine containers.

Place the receptacles where they can collect rain runoff from a roof, under shortened gutter downspouts on a garage or shed, for example. A caution: If you place a rain barrel near a house with a basement, do not let overflow from the barrel back up and create possible drainage of water into a basement.

One way to avoid backing up of water is to tilt the barrel or can away from the house slightly, so that any overflow runs off harmlessly. When water is not being collected, a strategically placed concrete splash block can direct runoff water away from the building.

Mulching or covering the soil around plants is recommended as a means of conserving water, but mulch can do more harm than good if not properly applied. Garden plants that require warm soil -- such as tomatoes, squash, melons and peppers -- should not be muched until late spring when the soil has warmed up thoroughly. Also, don't mulch dry soil -- wait until after a rain, when the soil is still moist, to apply mulch. Mulches such as hay and dried lawn clipping will keep weeds out of a garden as well as conserve moisture and make healthy plants possible with fewer waterings.

One way to save water used by toilets is to put weights on the flushing mechanism. Some do-it-yourselfers who have tried this method swear by it, though it is a bit tricky to get used to. The basic idea is to add several ounces to weight to the ball stopper, which closed the flush valve after a flush. The weight causes the flush valve to close quickly unless the flush handle of the toilet is held down to keep the weighted ball from dropping. Thus, the user can allow only a gallon or two of water to drop into the tank bowl -- enough for some flushes. A scientifically designed weight called the Gold-Ring is available from some plumbing-supply dealers, but some do-it-yourselfers report good results with homemade weights such as several loops of thick wire solder placed on top of the ball or a couple of steel nuts slipped over the ball's guide rod.

When any water-saving device is added to a toilet, it's a good idea to check flushing action to make sure waste matter is being properly carried away. Simple ways to check flushing action are to drop into the toilet's bowl a small handful of cornflakes, a foot or so of toilet paper, or a little colored bowl cleaner, then flush. If the water in the bowl is clear after the flush, the flushing action is good.