With more and more areas grappling with droughts, conserving water is more essential than ever. Even if you’re not living in a drought-stricken region, knowing how to save water also means a lower utility bill and, more importantly, helps conserve a valuable resource.
There are also added benefits. As an example, conserving water could extend the life of a septic system by reducing soil saturation and lowering pollution due to leaks.
Overloading municipal sewer systems can also cause untreated sewage to flow to lakes and rivers. The smaller the amount of water flowing through these systems, the lower the likelihood of pollution. In some communities, costly sewage system expansion has been avoided by community-wide household water conservation.
Whether you’re ready to cut back on your time in the shower, use your garbage disposal less, install a water-efficient showerhead or a new energy-efficient dishwasher, there is an abundance of both big and small ways that you can conserve water around the home.
Don’t be concerned if you can’t do everything we’re about to describe in this blog. Just pick a few things to start with and do more as you are able.
Even a couple of small changes can add up to hundreds of gallons in water savings each year.
By the way, just how much of our planet’s water are we really talking about? At first glance, that may seem a rather lame question. Seventy-two percent of the planet is water. But you can’t quench your thirst with salty water. Ninety-seven percent of the planet’s water is just that – salty. Good for fish but not for us.
That leaves 3 percent of which 2.5 percent is frozen in the Antarctic, the Arctic, and glaciers. (Of course, if global warming has its way, that may change, but that’s whole other problem.) That leaves us with 0.5 percent and only about one-hundredth of that is available on the Earth’s surface in lakes, rivers and reservoirs. The rest is stored in underground aquifers which are expensive to get to.
Save water indoors
Maybe you’ve purchased some Energy Star labeled appliances and started down the road to water savings, but don’t stop there. There are plenty of other things you can do in your own home to reduce water usage and get more from less.
In fact, saving water at home does not always mean a substantial cost outlay. Although there are water-saving appliances and water conservation systems such as an on-demand water heater, which are obviously expensive, the bulk of water saving methods can be achieved at little or no cost.
Fix a leak. Check faucets and pipes for leaks. A small drip from a worn faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water each day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons. Some faucet leaks are clearly spotted, but others take a bit more effort to detect.
Dry your sinks and tubs thoroughly and allow to sit for approximately an hour. If you notice wetness, you’ve probably discovered a leak. To come across leaks from faucet handles, dry the area around them before running water. You’ll see water collecting next to the handles if there’s a leak. Keep in mind, most faucet drips can be fixed simply by replacing a worn-out washer.
Tip: To see if there’s a leak somewhere in your house, read your water meter when no water is being used, then look at it again after a few hours to see if the gauge has changed. If it has, you more than likely have a leak somewhere.
Save water in the bathroom
Toilets Toilets are the largest user of water in the home. If you have an older model, those made prior to 1993, they are apt to use two to three times the water of newer ones. If so you have an older model, consider replacing it with a new low flush or dual flush toilet that can use as little as one gallon per flush.
Federal regulations state that new toilets must use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush. Replacing an old toilet with an ultra-low volume 1.6-gallon flush model represents a 70 percent savings in water and will cut indoor water use overall by about 30 percent.
Alternatively, you might want to consider a dual flush toilet or a dual flush converter that turns a standard toilet into a dual flush model, saving an average family 15,000 gallons of water each year. More water can be used when and if it’s needed, but for most flushes, you’ll be using 70 percent less, adding up to some significant water savings.
If replacing a toilet isn’t in your budget right now, add a few inches of gravel or sand to a plastic soft-drink bottle, fill it with water, screw on the cap and put it in the tank away from the float and flapper to reduce the amount of water used per flush.
How do I know if my toilet has a leak? To check your toilet to see if water is leaking from the tank, drop a dye tablet or food coloring in the tank once a year to see if the water in the bowl changes color. If it does, your toilet needs a replacement rubber flapper or fill mechanism.
Showers Get in the habit of taking showers rather than baths. They use a heck of a lot less water. Take shorter showers, staying in just long enough to get wet, lather and rinse, rather than standing in there soaking. A shorter shower time not only saves water but also saves energy costs. To help assure that your (and your teenager’s) showers are much shorter, you may find it beneficial to install a shower timer.
Here’s another tip: Install a water-efficient showerhead. If you take a trip to your local hardware store, you’ll discover a full range of options for water-efficient showerheads. Some of them will leave you feeling deprived of your full shower experience, while others use aeration technology to make it feel like you still got your shower and saved water, too. Check the reviews, see how much water they actually do save and enjoy your shower with a bit less guilt.
Here are a few more tips for saving water in the bathroom:
Turn of the water after you wet your toothbrush. There is no need to keep water running while brushing your teeth, just wet your brush and fill a glass for mouth rinsing.
Rinse your razor in the sink. Fill the sink with a few inches of warm water. This will rinse your razor just as well as running water, with far less waste of water.
Water fact: Approximately half of all indoor water is used in the bathroom.
Save water in the kitchen
Install a water- and energy-efficient dishwasher Today’s dishwashers almost always use less water than washing dishes by hand, especially with water- and energy-efficient models. Hand washing one load of dishes can use 20 gallons of water, whereas water- and energy-efficient dishwashers use as little as 4.5 gallons. Over time, that’s a huge difference!
Oh, by the way, when you do use your dishwasher, only run it when you have reached a full load. Running the dishwasher numerous time for smaller loads will cause you to use twice as much water. Also, don’t pre-rinse your dishes. A high-quality dishwasher should remove food particles without the need for pre-rinsing, saving excess water use.
When you do wash dishes by hand, try using a little water to get your sponge soapy and wet, then turn off the faucet until you’re ready to rinse a bunch of dishes at one time.
While installing a new highly efficient dishwasher is certainly something you would need to budget, again, there are plenty of things you can do to save water that involves little or no investment.
Wash vegetables and fruit in a large bowl or tub of water and scrub them with a vegetable brush instead of using your faucet as a power-washer.
Don’t use water to defrost frozen foods. Instead, leave them in your fridge overnight.
Put your vegetable steamer on top of the rice, potatoes or pasta you’re boiling to steam the veggies. You’ll save water and have fewer dishes to wash.
Use the garbage disposal less and the garbage can more. Or even better, compost those scraps.
Keep a large pitcher of water in the refrigerator for use whenever you need cold water. This will remove the need to run to the sink, turn on the tap and wait for the water to get cold.
Let’s move to the laundry room
Washing Machine Just as with the dishwasher, only run your washing machine with a full load. Some high-efficiency washing machines even have controls that allow you to alter the water level to reflect the size of the load, so use this provision if you can’t wait to fill the machine.
Speaking of high-efficiency washing machines, the most efficient on the market today use as little as seven gallons per load, compared to a whopping 54 gallons for a traditional washer. That means it could easily pay for itself over its lifetime in water and energy savings alone.
While this might not help conserve water, you should also use detergents that are organic and have a low concentration of salts. This reduces the chemical load that is sent into the municipal wastewater system.
Let’s not forget washing your car
This winter is no different than past winters. You wait till the first day that it’s above freezing, and you dash to your local commercial car wash to rid of the layers of grit and road salt that’s accumulated on your car’s surface.
When doing so, look for a commercial car wash that recycles their water. By reclaiming and filtering the water used, they significantly reduce the amount of water required to clean each vehicle.
A plumbing emergency can strike without warning. This is especially true in the winter months when temperatures and weather patterns fluctuate. Frozen pipes, can prove to be detrimental to your home. A burst pipe can result in thousands of dollars in damage and, of course, an abundance of water waste! In the event of a plumbing emergency, it’s essential to take the proper steps in order to minimize damages.
Knowing what to do in a plumbing emergency requires you to be prepared. Read our article on, What To Do in a Plumbing Emergency, to arm yourself with knowledge. But above all, the best rule of thumb is always to call a plumber when you find water damage with an unidentified source. Or, when you come across a plumbing problem that you aren’t 100% sure of how to handle.
Don’t take running water for granted
Americans have been blessed with a steady supply of clean water, and it’s a privilege we often take for granted. But with much of the western United States in a lengthy drought (even with intermittent storms that often cause as much damage as good), attention needs to be paid to water use – and abuse.
Although agriculture and business account for a large portion of U.S. water consumption, residential use is still quite substantial. The EPA reports the average American family of four uses about 400 gallons of water a day. Efficient appliances and fixtures can help quite a lot, but a bit of care and common sense can also go a long way toward minimizing waste.
We hope that you’ve found this blog helpful in determining various ways that you and your family can help conserve this precious resource.