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A deepening drought in the West, aging infrastructure issues across the country, and ongoing problems with safe drinking water caused by weather-related disasters are all part of our nation’s looming water crisis.
The average American household uses about 400 gallons of water every day. If that number surprises you, consider this one: we waste at least 30 gallons of that supply on a daily basis.
Simple leaks are the biggest part of the problem. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a dripping faucet can waste 10 gallons a day. A leaky toilet can waste 60 gallons each day. And a shower head that drips 10 drops per minute can result in 500 gallons of water wasted each year. When you consider leaky hose spigots or overwatering the lawn and garden, a household’s water waste easily can run into thousands of gallons each year.
Taking steps to conserve water not only helps your own supply or your community’s supply, it can also save you money that is literally going down the drain. Plus, many of these steps are surprisingly easy. This article will highlight 45 ways to save household water that you might not have considered.
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9 Ways to Save Water in the Bathroom
Not surprisingly, about 75 percent of the indoor water that the average American household uses is in the bathroom. About one-fourth of that amount is for the toilet.
Since the average toilet uses about four gallons per flush, you can conserve at least half of that amount by installing a high-efficiency toilet. Also, make sure the tank water level is not too high, the fill valve is working correctly, and the flapper is not leaking.
Another way to save is by flushing the toilet less often, using the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule, and by not using the toilet to flush down small bits of trash.
You can save up to 15 gallons of water during a 10-minute shower by installing low-flow aerators on your showerheads. Other simple ways to save water in the bathroom include:
- Taking shorter showers. You don’t really need a 10-minute shower when five minutes can do the job, do you?
- Filling the bathtub only halfway or less.
- Turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth.
- Filling the basin partway for rinsing rather than letting the water run while shaving.
- Turning the water off while you are shampooing or conditioning your hair and turning it back on for rinsing
- Placing a bucket under the showerhead to catch water while it warms up and then using that water for other needs, such as filling the water tank after a flush.
- Turning off the faucet while soaping your hands and turning it back on only for rinsing.
- Installing a composting toilet. These toilets require no water and also keep pollutants out of the local waterways. Check municipal codes that may involve the use of composting toilets in your area first.
7 Ways to Save Water in the Laundry Room
We use more than 20 percent of our household water washing our clothes. A significant way to conserve water in the laundry room is by adjusting the water level on your washing machine to the right load size.
Washing a full load of laundry is the best choice for water and energy efficiency. However, if you must do a small load, be sure to lower the water level accordingly. It will save water and improve the cleaning as well.
Another step is to replace your top-loading machine with an energy-efficient front-loading machine, which can reduce the use of around 35 to 40 gallons of water per load to about half that amount. Here are some other steps for saving water in the laundry room:
- Turn off the extra rinse cycle unless you really need it.
- Pre-treat clothing stains to avoid unnecessary rewashing.
- Check your washer routinely for drips and leaks.
- Wear clothes more than once if they are not dirty.
- Use concentrated laundry detergents that require less water to work or make your own laundry soap.
13 Ways to Save Water in the Kitchen
About 10 percent of our home water use takes place in the kitchen. And the two main water waste culprits are running a dishwasher that’s full and letting the water run continuously when we wash things by hand.
Contrary to what you might expect, running a full load in the dishwasher uses less water than washing the same amount by hand. However, you can save even more water with an energy-efficient dishwasher. A standard machine uses about six gallons per load, while an efficient one uses about four gallons. Most dishwashers do not require pre-rinsing, so you can save even more water by scraping off food but skipping the rinse step.
Here are some other tips for the kitchen:
- If you wash dishes by hand, fill one basin with soapy water and the other with rinse water. Letting the water run can waste around 20 gallons of water!
- Allow pots and pans to soak rather than scraping and scouring them under running water.
- Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator, not under running water.
- Only use the amount of water necessary for cooking or boiling foods.
- Reuse water used for rinsing fresh fruits and vegetables to water plants.
- Set a pot under your colander and use that water later for watering your plants.
- Save the water used for steaming or boiling vegetables to use in soup stock.
- Keep a jug of drinking water in the fridge rather than allowing the faucet to run until it gets cold.
- Compost your fruit and vegetable waste rather than putting peels and such down the garbage disposal (along with water).
- Don’t reach for a new cup every time you want a drink of water. Provide each person in the family with their own water glass, cup, or bottle to use and reuse throughout the day.
10 Ways to Save Water in the Garden
Depending on the size of your property, as much as half of the water an American household uses each day goes to the lawn and garden. Many communities enforce watering restrictions during drought conditions, but here are steps anyone can take to save this precious resource.
One relatively easy way is by collecting rainwater. By simply setting a barrel under a gutter downspout, you can collect “free” water for all kinds of purposes around the garden. An average roof can shed up to 600 gallons of water per hour during a moderate rainfall. (add link to our recent article here?)
Another option is to collect grey water – water that has been used once but is still clean enough to be used again for some purposes, such as watering your plants or washing your car.
Check with the regulations in grey water use in your area first, but gray water can include used sink, shower, bath, and washing machine water. Keep in mind that you’ll need to be sure to use all-natural cleaning products that won’t harm plants.
Here are some other ideas for saving water outside the home:
- Water the garden in the early morning or early evening hours for less evaporation.
- Limit overwatering with the use of a water gauge.
- Adjust sprinklers to make sure water is not wasted on sidewalks or driveways.
- Use rain sensors or turn off automatic sprinklers during rain.
- Install a water-efficient drip system.
- Use mulch to retain moisture around plants, shrubs, and trees.
- Consider replacing green grass with drought-resistant plants.
- Group together plants with similar water needs.
6 Other Ways to Save Water
Here are some other suggestions for conserving water and saving on your monthly water bill:
- Wash your car and other vehicles with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge. Use the hose only for rinsing. Make sure your water hose has a shutoff valve.
- Consider going to a commercial car wash that uses recycled water.
- Insulate water pipes outside or in the attic and basement. Water in uninsulated takes longer to heat up in your water heater, meaning you let it run for a longer time.
- If you have a swimming pool, use a pool cover to reduce evaporation.
- Seep outdoor surfaces with a broom to clean them off rather than using a hose.
Finally, carefully go over your water bill each month so that you can be aware of any spikes in usage. Many water companies offer a detailed look at their customers’ water consumption and how it varies during the year. Paying attention to your charges can help you spot a leak before it becomes a costly and wasteful problem.
Most experts agree the average person needs a minimum of a gallon of water a day for drinking and basic hygiene. Also, although we can survive for weeks without food, we can only live for a few days without water.
However, many Americans have grown up wasting large amounts of water each day without even thinking about it. Whether you live in an area affected by drought or another level of water insecurity or not, it is high time we all become more mindful of this vital natural resource.
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