How much water does your family use in a typical year? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average four-person U.S. household uses about 146,000 gallons of water each year — enough to fill seven underground swimming pools. Thankfully, there are ways to conserve water at home while saving money and reducing your environmental footprint in the process.
11 Ways to Conserve Water at Home
These are all simple steps to take so you can conserve water, including some that are completely free to implement since all you have to do is adjust your habits.
1. Find and Fix Leaky Faucets
A leaky faucet is more than just annoying; it’s a significant waste of water. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a single faucet leaking 30 drops of water per minute wastes 1,388 gallons of water per year. Most compression faucet leaks are attributable to a worn O-ring gasket, which you can replace for about $2, making this is an inexpensive and easy way to conserve water.
2. Wait for Full Dishwasher and Washing Machine Loads
Wait until you have a full load to start your dishwasher and washing machine. Depending on the specific model and year of manufacture, a washing machine uses about 20 to 40 gallons of water per load, while a dishwasher uses 4 to 6 gallons. By waiting until you have full loads, you’ll save time, energy and water.
3. Install an ENERGY STAR Dishwasher and Washing Machine
Replacing your current dishwasher and washing machine with ENERGY STAR certified models will also save water. Created by the EPA in the mid-1990s, the ENERGY STAR program contains strict requirements that manufacturers must follow to receive certification. An ENERGY STAR washing machine, for example, uses about 14 gallons of water for each load, whereas a standard washing machine uses about 20 gallons. And an ENERGY STAR dishwasher uses about 4 gallons of water per cycle, compared to 6 gallons with a standard dishwasher.
4. Don’t Leave Faucet When Brushing Your Teeth or Shaving
Brushing your teeth is the most important thing you can do for a healthy smile, but it can use a lot of water. If you leave the faucet running, it will waste 4 to 6 gallons of water. Assuming you brush twice daily, that’s 240 to 360 gallons of water lost each month. To conserve water, don’t leave the faucet running when brushing your teeth or shaving. After wetting your toothbrush or razor, turn the faucet off and wait to turn it back on when you need to rinse your brush or razor.
5. Take Shorter Showers
Taking shorter showers will help you conserve water. Studies show that most U.S. adults spend just over 10 minutes in the shower. Of course, some people spend 20 minutes or longer in the shower. But longer showers don’t translate into a cleaner body. Most people can bathe themselves in just five minutes, thus cutting their water usage in half. So, try setting a timer to see how long you spend in the shower, and if possible, aim for five minutes or less.
6. Install a Low-Flow Shower Head
A typical shower head has a flow rate of 2.5 gallons of water per minute (GPM), meaning a five-minute shower uses 15 gallons. Low-flow shower heads, however, live up to their namesake by featuring a slower flow rate of 2 GPM or less, saving you at least 5 gallons of water each time you shower. Here is a very inexpensive one rated at 1.0 or 1.5 GPM depending on the setting you choose.
Some people are hesitant to install a low-flow shower head, fearing it won’t provide adequate water pressure. The difference in water pressure is negligible, though, and you probably won’t notice any real difference other than a lower monthly water bill.
7. Replace Old Toilets
If the toilets in your home are older than 10 years, consider replacing them with newer models. Under federal law, all new toilets manufactured in the United States must use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. In comparison, older toilets use up to 7 gallons of water per flush.
There are even high-efficiency and ultra-high-efficiency toilets that use velocity to remove wastewater rather than water volume. The former use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, while the latter use just 0.8 to 1.2 gallons per flush. According to the EPA, replacing all toilets in a home with efficient models touting the WaterSense label will save homeowners $90 in water costs per year or $2,000 in water costs over the toilets’ lifespan.
8. Install Faucet Aerators
A faucet aerator is a simple device that can save you money on your water bills. Also known as a tap aerator, it sucks air into a faucet’s water stream, thereby reducing the amount it uses. A standard kitchen faucet has a flow rate of about 2.2 GPM. Installing a faucet aerator, however, can lower its flow rate to just 0.5 to 1.5 GPM.
In addition to saving water, faucet aerators also prevent splashing and create the perception of increased water pressure. You can purchase faucet aerators at most home improvement stores for $5 to $10 a piece.
9. Drive to a Car Wash
The next time your car needs washing, drive to a local car wash business rather than doing it in your driveway. Depending on the diameter and length, garden hoses have an average flow rate of 10 to 20 GPM. If you wash your car for 20 minutes, that’s 200 to 400 gallons of water wasted. Car wash businesses also use water, but they collect and reuse water rather than flushing it into the sewer system.
10. Water Lawn in Late Evening
Avoid watering your lawn during the day; instead, do it in the late evening. Most common varieties of lawn grasses need 1 to 1.5 inches of water each week. While mother nature should provide your lawn with sufficient water most of the time, you’ll need to use a sprinkler or hose during dry spells. To conserve water, though, you should water your lawn in the late evening when the sun is going down. That reduces the amount evaporated, allowing the soil and grass to absorb more water.
11. Install a Rainwater Harvesting System
While this won’t necessarily lower the amount of water that you and your family use, a rainwater harvesting system can reduce your dependence on municipal water. It consists of one or more large tanks in which rainwater gets collected and filtered. Keep in mind, however, that different states have laws regarding the collection and use of rainwater. If you’re thinking about installing such a system, review your state’s laws beforehand.
As the world’s population continues to increase, water conservation is something that all homeowners should practice. Thankfully, this is something easily accomplished by making just a few lifestyle changes.