Saving Water at Home
The easiest way that you can help conserve our precious water resources is to decrease your household’s water consumption. This can be done in several ways:
- Change basic everyday behaviors to use less water;
- Install high efficiency fixtures and use other affordable and simple devices to save water;
- Trade in your old appliances for new high-efficiency dishwashers, washing machines, and toilets;
- Collect and reuse water through rainwater catchment systems and grey water systems.
- In addition, you can contact your federal and state government representatives and encourage them to pass new legislation to help conserve existing freshwater sources, and create incentives for corporate and community water conservation.(Click here for more information)
There are many simple things you can do that cost little or nothing: Turn off the water while shaving or brushing your teeth ; only water your lawn at night; trade in your old showerhead for a high-efficiency one, etc. We’ll walk you step-by-step through your home to show you many ways that you can save water, and even give you some estimates on how much water you’ll save with each action.
In most families, more water is used in the bathroom than anywhere else inside the home. According to a 1999 study (Mayer et al) the average family used:
- 26.7% of their water flushing the toilet;
- 16.8% in the shower;
- 15.7% through bathroom faucets;
- 1.7% in the bathtub
This means that more than 60% of our total water consumption (excluding landscaping) happens in the bathroom. So what can we do to decrease it?
The best thing you can do to save water in your bathroom is to replace an old or inefficient toilet with a new one. Toilets made before 1993 use anywhere between 3.5 gallons per flush (GPF) and 8 GPF, while post-1993 toilets are mandated to use 1.6 GPF or less. Some water utility companies offer rebates for replacing old inefficient toilets, so take a look at the manufacturing date (on the underside of the tank lid) and replace if necessary. The EPA Watersense program certifies toilets that use 1.28 GPF. Many states offer rebates that sometimes account for up to 30% of the cost. Replacing a 3.5 GPF toilet with a 1.28 GPF model can save a family of four more than 14,000 gallons of water per year.
If you aren’t ready to replace your toilet however, there are a few other ways that you can save water:
- Reduce the amount of water per flush through a Toilet Tank Bank which can save up to 0.8 gallons per flush
The easiest way to save water when showering is to install a High-efficiency showerhead. Federal regulations mandate that new showerhead flow rates can't exceed more than 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM) at a water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch (PSI). Before 1992, many showerheads had flow rates of 5.5 GPM. Therefore if any of your fixtures pre-date 1992, you’ll definitely want to replace them. Even if your current showerhead uses 2.5 GPM, you can still save up to 40% more by installing a high efficiency 1.5 GPM showerhead. The low-flow showerheads generally compensate for less water with more pressure, so you don’t even feel the difference. In most cases you won’t need a plumber or even tools to make the switch.
The national average duration of a shower is 8.2 minutes, with an average of 0.67 showers per day. So while a 5.5 gpm showerhead means you’ll use over 11,000 gallons of water each year showering, you can reduce that to only 3,000 gallons with a 1.5 gpm showerhead. Now multiply those differences by the number of people in your household, and we’re talking about tremendous differences!
If you’re not sure how much water your fixtures are currently using, you can do a “quick test” as follows:
- Place a bucket marked in gallon increments under your shower head;
- Turn on the shower at the normal water pressure you use;
- Time how many seconds it takes to fill the bucket to the 1-gallon (3.8 liter) mark.
If it takes less than 20 seconds to reach the 1-gallon mark, your shower consumes more than 2.5 gallons per minute and you should definitely change your showerhead.
In the case that you would like more accuracy a Flow Meter Bag is a better tool to measure your consumption.
Other ways you can save water while showering:
- Turn off the water while you’re soaping up or shampooing
- Install a greywater system to reuse water from showers and sinks for your garden or lawn. This can potentially save a family of four 30,000 to 40,000 gallons of water per year.
High-efficiency water fixtures are easy to install, affordable, and most will pay for themselves within just a few months. The faucet aerator (the screw-on tip of the faucet) ultimately determines the maximum flow rate of a faucet. Aerators are easy and inexpensive to replace, and they can be one of the most cost-effective water conservation measures. Some high-efficiency aerators even come with a shut-off valves that allow you to stop the flow of water while shaving or brushing your teeth without affecting the temperature.
New bathroom faucet aerators in some states restrict flow rates to 1.5 gpm or more, while in other states 2.2gpm aerators may be more common. Changing your 2.2 gpm aerator to a 0.5 GPM aerator can save you up to 77% of the water you use in your bathroom sinks.
Other ways you can decrease water use in your bathroom sinks:
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth
- Fill the sink then turn off the water to shave
- Check for leaks, which can consume hundreds of gallons per day
- Make sure you always turn the faucet completely off when finished
For many Americans, the bathtub is now used much less frequently than the shower. If you still enjoy a hot bath (which uses 24 gallons per bath on average) every once in a while, there are several ways to conserve water:
- Begin filling the tub as soon as you turn on the water rather than waiting for it to get hot. Chances are you would end up running cold water toward the end anyway to get the right temperature.
- Only fill the tub as much as you really need to, never fill it to top (consider the volume displacement of your body).
- If after a while in the tub you need to put more water in because the water level is lower than at the beginning then you might have a leak and need to replace the drain’s plug.
Almost half the water that most families use in a year goes to the landscape or garden. While more water is used for gardening and landscaping in dry climates, even in a wet climate the lawn can be the single most important source of water use in a home.
In the long run, the best way to minimize water use in the lawn and garden is to landscape using native plants and have underground drip irrigation systems installed. If you’re not able to make that investment, then you can at least review your irrigation and watering habits. Most people tend to overwater their lawns and gardens, which ultimately leads to less healthy plants that don’t develop deep and thriving root systems.
There are a series of tips that together can significantly decrease your water consumption:
- Use hose timers for manual irrigation
- Use Sub irrigation system containers for potted plants
- Replace your hose nozzle with a high efficiency one
- Apply a safe and biodegradable Root Zone Moisture Manager for 50% water use reduction without polluting your garden
- Reschedule your sprinkler timer whenever the weather changes
- Install a rain shutoff device on your automatic sprinkler system
- Water only late at night to reduce evaporation
- Use mulch around your plants to minimize evaporation
- Harvest your rainwater for irrigation
- Install a greywater system to reuse your shower and sink water on your lawn or garden
- Remember that outdoor watering uses 5 to 10 gallons per minute. So in 10 or 20 minutes, you may use 100 gallons – the amount used by an average person each day for all personal water needs.
Most of the water in the kitchen is used for washing dishes. The easiest ways to reduce water use are therefore to replace the kitchen sink faucet aerator for a high efficiency one and to use your dishwasher efficiently or switch to a new high-efficiency model.
Most new kitchen faucets are equipped with aerators that restrict flow rates to 2.2 gpm, however even more efficient aerators of 1.5 GPM are available. Making the switch from an older model to a 1.5 gpm model can save over 7000 gallons of water per year and can ease the cost of granite countertops and other high price tag upgrades.
When used properly, dishwashers can be more efficient than hand washing your dishes. A typical dishwasher uses between 8 and 15 gallons per load of dishes, while a high-efficiency dishwasher can use only 5 to 7 gallons per load. A high-efficiency model can save 2,500 gallons of water per year to a family who uses their dishwasher on a daily basis. Regardless of what kind of dishwasher you may have, you should only run the dishwasher when it's completely full and use the appropriate water-level settings for the most efficient run. And if you don’t have a dishwasher, then be sure to fill your sink or a bowl with water for washing and rinsing dishes, and turn off the faucet as soon as the water is not being used.
If you are used to washing your car with a hose, there are excellent waterless car wash alternatives that leave your car just as clean. Washing the car at home typically uses between 50-100 gallons per wash. If you are used to washing your car once a week, you could save up to 5200 gallons of water in a year by switching to waterless car wash products.
Other Conservation Measures
There are several other measures that you can take to save water at home, in addition to those already mentioned:
- Purchase a front-loading washing machine that uses 28 gallons of water per load or less, and better yet a “smart” version that only uses as much water as needed for the load size. Regular washing machines usually use around 41 gallons per load.
- Only use the washing machine when you have a full load.
- Verify whether you have any leaks at your house. The easiest way to do this is to turn off all of the water fixtures in the house, and then take a reading of your water meter. Wait an hour without using any water, and return to see if your water meter has advanced. It should not have changed at all. If it has, you have a leak somewhere in your house.
- If you do have leaks, you can measure how much water is being wasted with a drip gauge, you can also fix some small leaks by reinstalling the fixture after putting teflon tape on it.
- Remember that your toilet is the most common culprit for water leaks, and you can detect any leak by using biodegradable leak detection tablets. The most common solution is to change the flapper.