According to the United States Bureau of Reclamation, water covers nearly 71% of the earth, but only 3% is fresh and usable. And, of that, only 1% is accessible!
The heat waves, droughts and forest fires of the past year have shown us all that our water is indeed precious. But did you know that the average family of four uses 300 gallons of water a day? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that can cost a household about $1,000 a year. And when the heat is on, we use — and spend — a lot more.
To help you lower costs (and save the planet’s water resources for future generations), we came up with a list of tips. Integrating just two or three of them into your routine make them easy New Year’s resolutions you can keep all year long! Enjoy!
INDOOR WATER-SAVING TIPS
On average, approximately 70% of the water we use is used indoors in just two rooms, the kitchen and bath. Let’s take a look!
In The Bathroom
- Turn off the tap. Do you run the water while shaving or brushing your teeth? Turning it off can save nearly 6 quarts of water a minute
- Toe-tap the tap. You’re less likely to use as much water when you can’t turn on the tap and walk away. Consider controlling water flow with a foot pedal that’s installed under the sink. A plumber can help or contact this green supplier.
- Cut showers in half! According to Water Scrooge, the average shower is 8-minutes, using 17 gallons of water (much less than filling a 40-gallon bathtub.) Cutting back to just 5 minutes drops, water consumption to less than 10 gallons per shower! Save more by changing your showerhead: Bob Vila has great low-flow aerator options that won’t break the bank.
- Save the cold water. Waiting for the water to get hot? Put a bucket under the showerhead to catch the cold water first. Save it for hand washing delicates, rinsing off vegetables or watering houseplants.
- Catch your toilet. A running toilet can waste 200 gallons of water daily. It’s usually an easy fix you can do yourself in no time. Otherwise, call a plumber.
- Get tanked! Place a brick or a toilet optimizer bag in the corner of the tank. It’ll take up space and save over a half gallon of water per flush!
- Do your business the European way. Not everything needs a full flush — let’s reserve a “half flush” for number one and a “full flush” for number two. A low-capacity dual flush toilet makes it easy.
In The Kitchen
- Stop the drop. Besides being sheer torture, a dripping faucet can lead to serious water waste: up to 40 gallons of water a week! Repairing a leaky tap can save over 2,000 gallons a year!
- Don’t be lazy about washing veggies. My mother-in-law washes carrots by putting them in a pot in the sink, turning on the tap and walking away. Lesson learned: be mindful of how much water is needed to perform a task and use no more.
- Reserve pasta water. Save the water you cook pasta or boil eggs in. Let it cool in a big bowl and use it later to water house plants. If salt or olive oil was added, put the water in Tupperware and save it for another recipe.
- Always keep water in the fridge. Thirsty? Having a pitcher of refrigerated water on hand means you won’t be running the tap for ages waiting for it to get cold enough to drink.
OUTDOOR WATER-SAVING TIPS
If 70% of household water consumption takes place indoors, then 30% happens outside. The EPA estimates that half of that goes to watering lawns and gardens. Here’s how to reduce outdoor water usage.
In The Yard
- Garden smarter. Consider gardening with plants native to your climate and soil. Group them by moisture needs and, once established, they’ll require little more than average rainfall.
- Ditch the lawn. There’s a movement to reconsider America’s love affair with lawns — especially given recent drought conditions. Here’s a great video explaining how we came to love lawns and how they impact our health.
- Harvest the rain. Somedays, it rains. Somedays, it doesn’t. In that case, use rainwater already collected in a rainwater barrel that connects to a drainpipe. Most have a handy spigot to help you fill a watering can without spilling a drop.
- Water judiciously. Rather than soaking anything and everything, try to be more precise by using a watering jug instead of a hose. That can slash water usage by half. Also, watering gardens at dusk rather than in the morning helps avoid daytime evaporation.
- Mulch, mulch, baby! A mix of compost manure and wood chips retains moisture around trees and plants. Planting smaller plants under bigger shade-producing trees also helps prevent evaporation.
- Cover up. Have a swimming pool? Cover it when not in use — even in summer. With windy days and scorching heat, your pool can lose almost two inches of water a week.
- Sweep up: Using a garden hose to remove dirt and debris from sidewalks and driveways might be easier than sweeping, but pushing a broom is good exercise and uses much less water!
ADDITIONAL WATER-SAVING TIPS
- Wash better. According to ENERGY STAR, front-load washing machines use about 12 gallons of water per load, while top-loaders use 20 gallons. If your washing machine is 20 years or older, it might be using up to 40 gallons per wash.
- Go economy. Use the “economy” setting on your washing machine or dishwasher. It cleans just as well as the heavy-duty setting and uses less water. Also, never run a partial load. Save money and water by waiting til you have enough dirty stuff for a full load.
- Scrape first. Washing dishes? Avoid rinsing bits of food down the sink. You’ll waste tons of water trying to unclog the pipes later. And don’t put food-covered dishes in the dishwasher. Instead, scrape the excess into the trash before washing them.
- Upgrade the soap! Why use liquid laundry detergents that contain 60-90% tap water when concentrated detergents use as little as 15%? There are powdered, pod and soap sheet options as well. Why not give them a try?
There you have it, homeowners. Conserving water by consuming less, wasting less and reusing more reduces your costs and postpones or eliminates the need for expensive water supply projects in your area. Hopefully, one or two of these tips will stick with you and your household for a lifetime!