Filtering Down Water Consumption At Home

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – July 18, 2012 – 1 Comment

In my last blog post, I calculated the number of gallons of water that I use in my daily routine. I’m sure you were just as shocked as I was that something like eating a hamburger can take up to 21.2 gallons of water in its creation. After reading that post (and possibly doing your personal calculations), you may have been left searching for ways to decrease your personal water usage, especially during these hot summer months when water usage is usually higher. While you may not want to give up eating a juicy burger every so often, there are ways you can reduce water use throughout your home, and save some money on your water bill too.

First, it is important to understand where most water use within the home is coming from. An average person uses up to 50 gallons of water indoors each day, and even more for outdoor uses (depending on the season). Out of those internal 50 gallons, toilets generally account for 45 percent, bathing or showering accounts for about 30 percent, laundry and dishes account for another 20 percent, and, finally, drinking and cooking accounts for 5 percent. By making a few adjustments in your house, you will be on the right track towards conserving water. Along with additional Water Wise Tips on our site, here are ten of my favorite ways to conserve water at home:

  1. Replace conventional toilets with low-flow models: If you don’t have low-flow toilets installed in your home, they can be a major source of wasted water. Replacing older toilets with WaterSense labeled toilets could save nearly 11 gallons per toilet in your home every day. The EPA estimates that a family of four that makes this replacement will, on average, save more than $90 per year in reduced water utility bills, and $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilets.
  2. Water-efficient shower heads: This plumbing device can reduce the amount of water flowing through your shower by 50 percent at the same time as increasing the velocity of the water coming out so you can have the same robust-feeling shower, while using less water.
  3. Faucet aerators: These devices can save up to 50 percent water flow and can be easily installed on any faucet in your house—bathroom, kitchen, etc.
  4. Use your dishwasher and clothes washer only when you have a full load (three t-shirts do not need a washer all to themselves) or adjust the water level to match the load size (if you really want to wear one of those shirts today).
  5. Attach a pistol-type sprayer to the end of your garden hose: By investing in a pistol-type sprayer, you will have control over the rate of flow, as well as prevent water from running when you put the hose down without turning it off.
  6. Water your lawn only when necessary: It takes 660 gallons of water to supply 1,000 square feet of lawn—the same amount of water you use inside the house in an entire week! Be conscious of rainwater feeding your lawns and let Mother Nature do her job.
  7. Take short showers instead of baths: A four minute shower can use eight gallons of water versus a bath that can use up to 60 gallons. Making this swap can save 52 gallons of water.
  8. Use mulch around trees and shrubs and in garden beds: Mulch can reduce the need for watering by limiting the amount of water lost through evaporation.
  9. Turn off the faucet while you shave, brush your teeth, or wash the dishes by hand
  10. Repair leaks in your faucets and toilets: Together, a leaky faucet and a leaky toilet can waste up to 120 extra gallons of water a day. Here is a tip to check for a leaky toilet—put food coloring in the tank of toilet and, if without flushing, color appears in the bowl, you have a leaky toilet that should be repaired.

We don’t always think about water shortages as being near and serious, especially in America. Nor do we often think about the strain that increased summer usage causes on water providers. Besides providing water for residential use, water utilities must ensure that water supplies are plentiful for fire protection in our communities. We have to start considering simple practices that we can adopt to help with the effort, like we do with recycling waste, to ensure a water-filled today and tomorrow. These water-conserving tips are easy, doable, and unnoticeable additions to your home that can help both the environment and your family’s bottom line.

1 Comment

  • Ann Alfano says:

    Dear Dr. Water, thanks so much for your water-saving tips! I just returned from a trip to Athens, Greece. In the restrooms at the airport there are signs that say “Water is too precious to waste.” What a great way to raise awareness!

    Here are a few things I do at home to help reduce my water footprint:
    • After that trip to the beach, I take the ice water from the cooler and replenish my birdbaths and water the flowers.
    • When I change the fish tank water, I take the nutrient-rich waste water and pour it on the flowers and bushes.
    • I use a basin to rinse fruits and vegetables and pour the used water the compost pile. Of course, I save the fruit and vegetable peelings from going down the garbage disposal and throw them in the compost as well!
    • We keep a pitcher of cold water in the refrigerator so there is no need to run the water to get it cold. Also, use the same glass throughout the day. There is no need to get a clean cup every time you need a drink.
    • We wash the clothes in our new, WaterSense, energy-efficient clothes washer. The newer detergents work just as well with the cold water cycles.
    • This is a pet peeve of mine – so many people wash the dishes before they put them in the dishwasher! That’s a big waste of water. The newer dishwashers are capable of cleaning without all the rinsing and are more efficient. It’s worth the investment!
    • I have a couple of dehumidifiers in the basement. When they are full, I pour the water on my compost pile or garden.
    I always enjoy hearing what you have to say. Thanks for the opportunity to share my tips!