How to Save Water at Home and at Work
Easy Ways to Cut Your Water Bill and Save
You don't have to take sponge baths or let your grass die off to reduce your household water consumption. These easy steps can help you conserve water and also save money.
Check Your Monthly Usage:
To get started, check your monthly water bills for the past year or so. This should be available through your the utility company providing your service; many companies even offer online records going back 12 to 24 months.
If you use well water or another resources that isn't metered, you may have to do some personal research on your family's habits. Here are a few questions that will help you assess your daily and weekly habits in using water.
- Does your family take showers or baths?
- Do you water your lawn or garden? If so, how often, and through what method (sprinkler system, hand-held hose, etc.)?
- If you use sprinklers, how long do you let them run?
- What time of day do you water your lawn?
- Do you fill your washer to its fullest water level for each load?
- Do you use an electric dishwasher? How often?
- Do you use an electric razor or a straight-edge razor (for men in the household)?
- What climate do you live in?
How to Use Less Water in the Bathroom
Don't despair; newer technology has created shower heads and faucets that use less water but provide a stronger flow or spray, so you won't be left standing under a lackluster sprinkle of water or trying to get enough force from the faucet to rinse your razor. There may even be rebates from your local water utility to help offset the expense.
The next thing to check is your toilet. If your house was built in recent years, you probably already have a low-flow toilet. And you probably hate it, right?
If you're having to flush repeatedly to get solid waste down the drain, you'll save water and frustration by installing a newer model. Look for the dual-flush feature, which uses a very small amount of water for 'clean' flushes and a more powerful flush to eliminate solid waste.
These do work, and they work well. And as with other energy-saving steps, you may be eligible for a rebate if you install one or more in your home. The difference in water use can be significant.
More Tips on How to Save Money
- Turn off the faucet when you shave or brush your teeth. For shaving, fill the sink with warm water and dip the razor rather than letting water run endlessly while you trim your whiskers.
- Fill a glass full of water and use that to rinse your mouth and toothbrush rather than leaving the faucet run while you brush your teeth.
- Take showers rather than baths whenever possible - it uses less water. This surprises people, but that's what the records show.
- Check for leaks and drips! What looks like a tiny amount of water coming from your tap, or a low-volume trickling noise in your toilet, can add up to many gallons of wasted water and a higher bill each month.
- Put a brick in your toilet. Yes, really. If you're not ready to pony up for a newer toilet with low-flow and dual flushing features, put a brick or other large, weighty object in the toilet tank. This will cut down on the amount of water your toilet uses for each flush.
How Important is Water? Watch This Video...
How to Save Water in the Kitchen
We waste many gallons of water in the kitchen, much of which goes down the drain while we rinse dishes before loading the dishwasher.
You can rinse your dishes just as well if you fill up a pan (or even a bowl) with a bit of water and use that to rinse things off before loading the dishwasher. You may have to turn on the faucet here and there, but overall, you'll use a very small amount of water to get the same job done.
A good way to do this is to use a pan you've cooked in (this is especially easy if you make pasta and the pan is already sort of clean). I've also used salad bowls, large cereal bowls, or any other item that already needs to be washed. Rinse it out briefly, then fill it with sudsy water (it doesn't have to be warm water) and use that for the rest of the dishes.
If you plan to run the dishwasher right after the meal, go ahead and turn the faucet to hot or warm water while you're rinsing. This will warm up the water before the dishwasher starts and clean the dishes better.
What setting do you use for most loads? If you're using anything other than the water-saving setting (there may be more than one), you're probably wasting water. Try a few loads on the cycle that uses the least water and energy and see if the results are satisfactory.
Do you run water into a clean pan to rinse it before filling it to boil food? Many of us do this out of some sort of perverse habit. You're using a clean pan, remember? It doesn't need to be rinsed!
The same goes for water glasses; another habit many of us have is to take a perfectly clean glass out of our cupboard and then rinse it before filling it for drinking!
If your refrigerator has a water dispenser, chances are you don't rinse the glass before filling it from that source? You don't need to rinse at the sink, either. if you do have a cold water dispenser, this will save water just due to eliminating the useless-rinse habit.
And, as mentioned before, check for leaky faucets and other water-wasters. Repairing these in a timely way will save on water use, your water bill, and quite possibly on damage to your flooring or counter tops.
Video: Water Savings Tips for Yards and Gardens
Save Water With Proper Lawn and Garden Maintenance
Watering lawns and gardens can be the single biggest water expense during growing seasons. Especially if you water more than once a week and if you turn on the sprinklers and leave them for a while.
An easy way to tell if you're wasting water and money is whether you see a stream of water going down your driveway and into the street. If you water enough for there to be run-off, you have overwatered. Run-off happens when the ground is already saturated and can't take another drink. The run-off is watering the street, not your lawn, and it's sending good water into the storm drains.
Even in very hot, dry climates, once-a-week watering is usually sufficient. Once you realize you're over-watering, you can still have a great lawn without wasting the water you were using before. Experts recommend watering no more than an inch a week. As the video here shows, you can get small cup-like devices to stick in your lawn while you're watering to measure the amount the ground has received during watering.
Try to water during the coolest time of the day (early morning is optimum; if that's not possible, wait until very late evening after winds die down and the sun is gone). This creates less evaporation - and as with the street, your goal is not to make the air more humid; you want the water to go into the ground.
Consider planting low-maintenance shrubs and grasses rather than choosing cosmetically attractive but extremely thirsty plants and trees that are more ornamental than practical. There are many beautiful landscape designs that require less water and don't have the Sahara Desert look many people want to avoid.
Choose indigenous plants that are known to thrive in your climate. Just take a drive in the country and see what's out in rural areas thriving on its own. Ask your local nursery for ideas; they can point you to plants, shrubs, trees, flowers and grasses that grow naturally in your area and are more resistant to diseases than some choices that were imported from elsewhere.
Water-Saving Tips in the Laundry Room
Never run a 'full' load of water for a small load of clothes! You'll waste many gallons of water if you do this. Washing machines (even older models) are designed to clean small loads just as well as large loads and to use less water for those loads. Set the water level to match the load of clothes you're running at any given time.
If your clothes are not noticeably dirty or odor-laden, don't bother with the pre-rinse cycle or extra rinses. If your concern is getting the soap out, you'll probably find you are using too much soap. We use far more detergent than needed, especially when doing loads of clothes that are basically not 'dirty,' but they've been worn a time or two.
Use a fraction of the soap you usually use, and use white vinegar rather than fabric softener to rinse your clothes. White vinegar truly cuts the soap (which is really all you want softener to do), and it is far less harmful to our planet after it goes down the drain.
What About You?
Do you conserve water at home?
Buy Water-Saving Appliances
As you replace appliances and other fixtures in your home, look for those that are Energy Star rated and have water-saving features. These appliances also usually save gas and electricity, so you'll save in more ways than one.
- Front-Loading Washing Machine: At first, these look odd and unfamiliar, but they indeed save a tremendous amount of water. These appliances not only conserve water, but help you save on your hot-water bill; if you use less hot water, you're paying less to heat it. Since many of us grew up in the era when we thought we needed to see a huge tub of water with a lot of visible suds, you'll need to adjust to the fact that front-loaders do clean clothes very well, and they leave them softer due to less battering by the paddles in top-loading washers.
- Energy-Star Dishwasher: All dishwashers will eventually break. When yours goes off to Appliance Heaven, check for an energy-saving model that conserves water as well as electricity. Newer dishwashers use far less water than older models, because they pressurize the sprays better and they have more spray outlets. The cycles are often shorter, so between the savings on hot water bills and electricity, you'll notice a difference in your monthly bills.
- Instant-On Hot Water Heater: This purchase alone can save many gallons of water each year and also save on fuel bills. These ingenious water heaters (long popular in other countries) ignite only when you turn on the water tap, and heat the water as you need it. They're known for delivering hot water to the tap faster and more efficiently, so you will likely cut down on the amount of time you run the shower waiting for a warm spray. You'll also save on fuel by avoiding the cost of heating water 24/7 just so you'll have it waiting for you when you need it.
Check with your local utility companies to see if rebates are available for installing either of these water-wise appliances in your home.
Water Is Precious
There has always been the same amount of water on Earth that we have today.
Much of the water on our planet is frozen or otherwise can't regularly be consumed for drinking or agriculture (sea water has to be processed, for example, to yield drinkable water). We have polluted considerable amounts of water, and we aren't getting any sort of magical new supply to replenish those resources.
You can do your share by saving a few gallons at a time at home. These gallons add up, more than you realize. If only 100 million people in the world (out of the billions living on the planet) each conserved just 100 gallons every year, we would save 10 billion gallons a year in wasted water.