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Thu Jun 27 2024

Practical Ways to Save Water at Home

Water conservation is not just an act of environmental stewardship; it's a necessity for sustainable living and reducing household expenses. 

This comprehensive guide offers actionable strategies to significantly decrease water usage in the home—from the garden to the kitchen, and beyond. By integrating water-efficient devices, embracing mindful usage practices, and leveraging innovative technologies, individuals and families can play a pivotal role in preserving this vital resource for future generations while enjoying reduced utility bills in the present.

Saving Water in Different Areas of the Home

In the Garden

Reducing water usage in the garden can be achieved through a variety of methods, each contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly gardening practice.

Water Efficiently

One of the most effective ways to conserve water in the garden is by implementing water-efficient gardening techniques. These include:

  • Mulching: Mulch helps to retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation, thus requiring less frequent watering. Organic mulches such as straw, compost, or wood chips are ideal choices.
  • Drip Irrigation: This method delivers water directly to the plant’s roots, minimizing evaporation and runoff. Unlike other forms of irrigation, such as sprinklers that are only 65-75% efficient, drip irrigation is 90% efficient at allowing plants to use the water applied.
  • Scheduled Watering: Watering early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler can reduce water loss due to evaporation.

Choose Native Plants

Choosing the right plants can significantly reduce water usage in the garden. Native plants or those adapted to the local climate typically require less water and are more resistant to pests and diseases. Succulents and other drought-tolerant plants are also excellent choices for water-efficient gardens.

Soil Management

Healthy soil retains water better and provides a good environment for plant roots. Adding organic matter to the soil can improve its water-holding capacity. Regularly testing the soil for nutrient content and pH level can also help in managing its health and water efficiency.

Rainwater Harvesting

Collecting and using rainwater for the garden is another effective way to reduce water usage. Rain barrels or large cisterns can be used to capture runoff from the roof. This not only conserves water but also reduces the demand on municipal water supplies.

By implementing these strategies, gardeners can significantly reduce their water usage, contributing to water conservation efforts and creating a more sustainable garden environment.

In the Kitchen

In the kitchen, there are several strategies that can be employed to conserve water. These strategies range from changes in behavior to the use of water-efficient appliances.

Conscious Use

One of the simplest ways to save water in the kitchen is by being mindful of the amount of water used when washing dishes. Instead of leaving the tap running, fill one sink with soapy water for washing and another with clean water for rinsing. If it’s a single-basin sink, consider using a large bowl for the same purpose.

When it comes to cooking, try to use as little water as possible. For instance, steam vegetables instead of boiling them, as this not only saves water but also preserves the nutrients in the vegetables. Additionally, use the leftover water from boiling or steaming to water plants or for other cleaning purposes.

Water-Efficient Appliances

Investing in water-efficient appliances can also lead to significant water savings. Washing dishes by hand may seem like it saves on water, but modern dishwashers often use less water, especially when used effectively with a full load of dishes. When purchasing a new dishwasher, look for models that are ENERGY STAR certified, as these are energy-efficient and reduce water consumption.

The kitchen feeds the family. The daily preparation of food and cleaning up afterward can use a lot of water. Even small changes in your kitchen habits can lead to significant water savings over time.

In the Bathroom

The bathroom is one of the primary areas in a home where water consumption is high. Implementing water-saving techniques in this area can significantly reduce overall household water usage. Here are some practical methods:

Install Water-Efficient Fixtures

Water-efficient fixtures such as low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and dual-flush toilets can drastically reduce water usage. For instance, traditional showerheads use about 2.5 gallons of water per minute, while low-flow models use no more than 2 gallons per minute. Similarly, dual-flush toilets offer a lower water volume option for liquid waste, commonly referred to as a “half flush,” saving water with each flush.

Limit Shower Time

Reducing shower time is a straightforward way to save water. Aiming for a shower time of 5 minutes instead of 10 can save up to 12.5 gallons of water if using a standard showerhead, and even more with a low-flow model. Using a shower timer can help keep track of time spent in the shower.

Turn Off the Tap

Turning off the tap while brushing teeth can save 8 gallons of water per day. Doing the same while shaving can save 10 gallons of water per shave. Don’t leave the water running in the sink. It’s a simple habit that can make a significant difference over time.

Fix Leaks Promptly

A dripping faucet or a running toilet can waste a surprising amount of water. Fixing these leaks promptly can prevent unnecessary water waste. It’s recommended to check for leaks regularly and fix them as soon as they’re detected.

Reuse Greywater

Greywater refers to water that has already been used. This includes the leftover, untreated water generated from washing machines, bathtubs and bathroom sinks.

Greywater from the bathroom, such as water from the shower or bathtub, can be reused for flushing toilets or watering non-edible plants. However, it’s important to check local regulations regarding greywater use, as some states may have restrictions around how greywater can be collected or used.

By implementing these techniques, homeowners can significantly reduce their water usage in the bathroom, contributing to water conservation efforts and potentially lowering their water bills.

In the Laundry

Saving water while doing laundry is a significant aspect of water conservation at home. Doing laundry can consume a considerable amount of water, especially with older washing machines. Doing the laundry weekly instead of daily can cut down on water consumption.

Only Run Full Loads

Running a washing machine uses about the same amount of water regardless of the size of the load, so it’s more water-efficient to wash a full load rather than several smaller ones. If it is really necessary to wash a smaller load, a quick wash cycle uses less water and energy than a standard cycle.

Invest in a High-Efficiency Washer

High-efficiency washers, or HE washers, use significantly less water than traditional models. They work by tumbling clothes in a rotating tub through a small amount of water instead of filling the entire drum. HE washers only use from 20% to 66% of the water used by traditional washing machines.

Running the washing machine daily can run up the water bill. Scheduling laundry days to once or twice a week not only saves on water but also makes daily chores more manageable. 

Doing only full loads in an HE washer can significantly reduce the amount of water used during laundry, contributing to overall water conservation efforts at home.

Adopting these water-saving strategies across different areas of the home not only conserves a vital environmental resource but also diminishes household expenses significantly. 

From the meticulous use of mulching and drip irrigation in the garden to mindful habits in the kitchen, each measure contributes profoundly to a sustainable lifestyle.

Installing Water-Saving Devices

Water-saving devices are an effective way to reduce water consumption at home. These devices are designed to limit the amount of water used in various household activities, from washing dishes to flushing toilets. Here are some examples of water-saving devices that can be installed at home:

  • Low-Flow Showerheads: These showerheads use less water than standard models without compromising on pressure. An aerating showerhead works by mixing the water stream with air to increase density, creating a misty spray that covers a wide area. A laminar-flow showerhead separates the water into individual streams.
  • Dual Flush Toilets: These toilets have two flush options: a half flush for liquid waste and a full flush for solid waste. This allows the use of less water when a full flush is not necessary.
  • Faucet Aerators: These little devices attach to the end of the faucet and mix air with the water coming out, reducing the amount of water that is used while maintaining the pressure.
  • Water-Efficient Dishwashers and Washing Machines: These appliances are designed to clean effectively while using less water. Look for models with the ENERGY STAR label, which meet strict criteria for water and energy efficiency.
  • Rainwater Harvesting Systems: These systems collect rainwater for use in the garden or for flushing toilets, reducing the need for tap water.
  • Greywater Systems: These systems reuse water from showers, baths, and washing machines for other purposes, such as flushing toilets or watering plants.
  • Smart Irrigation Controllers: These devices adjust the watering schedule of the garden based on plant water need, preventing overwatering.

Water-saving fixtures have the potential to save households thousands of gallons of water a year. This table shows the potential water savings in replacing old inefficient models with water-saving devices:

*Estimated figures sourced from EPA WaterSense Statistics

How much water these devices end up saving can vary greatly based on specific household usage and circumstances, but it is clear that using water saving devices can make a difference in overall household water consumption.

Don’t Lose Water to Leaks

Detecting and fixing water leaks at home is a crucial part of water conservation. Leaks can significantly increase water usage and lead to unnecessary waste. Here are some methods to identify and address water leaks in the home:

Conduct an Inspection

The easiest way to detect leaks is to conduct a thorough visual inspection of the home. 

  • Look for signs of water damage such as discoloration, peeling paint, or mold on walls and ceilings. 
  • Check for signs of moisture or pooling water under sinks, around toilets, and near appliances like washing machines and dishwashers.
  • Don’t forget to check outside the home as well. Inspect garden hoses, outdoor faucets, and sprinkler systems for leaks. Look for unusually wet areas in the garden or lawn, which could indicate an underground leak.

Check the Meter

If there is a suspected leak that can’t be found through visual inspection, use the water meter to confirm. 

  1. Find the water meter. This is typically located outside, near the curb or the sidewalk.
  2. Turn off all the water-using fixtures. Make sure that no one is using water inside or outside the house.
  3. Read the meter and take note of the numbers.
  4. Don’t use any water for the next couple of hours.
  5. Check the meter again after a couple of hours.

If the meter reading changes during this period, it’s likely that there is a leak in the home.

Test the Waters

Toilet leaks are a common culprit for high water usage. To check for leaks in the commode, use the food coloring test

  1. Add a few drops of food coloring to the toilet tank.
  2. Wait for about 15 minutes without flushing.
  3. Check for any changes in the color of the water in the bowl. 

If the color appears in the bowl, it indicates a leak in the toilet flapper.

Fix the Leak

Once the leak has been identified, fix it immediately. Some leaks, like a dripping faucet or a running toilet, can often be fixed with a few simple tools and a few parts from the hardware store. 

For more complex leaks, such as those in the home’s water line, a professional plumber may need to be called. 

Addressing leaks promptly can save a significant amount of water and reduce utility bills.

Effectively detecting and repairing water leaks is a fundamental aspect of home water conservation, capable of preventing significant water wastage and reducing utility costs. The methods outlined equip homeowners with practical strategies to identify leaks.

Promptly fixing these leaks, whether through DIY methods or professional assistance, not only secures the integrity of home water systems but also contributes to environmental conservation by minimizing unnecessary water usage.

Tracking Water Usage with Apps

Understanding and managing household water consumption is pivotal in establishing a more sustainable lifestyle. Fortunately, today's technology offers a variety of apps and tools that make it easier than ever to monitor water use.

Using apps and tools are the easiest way to track water consumption in households. This selection of tools and applications can provide valuable insights into water consumption patterns and help families identify where they can save water.

WaterSense Program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) WaterSense program encourages water efficiency and the conservation of water resources. It provides several tools and resources aimed at helping consumers reduce their water use.

The WaterSense label is awarded to products and services that comply with EPA standards for water efficiency and performance.

The WaterSense calculator can estimate how much water you can save by switching to WaterSense labeled products.

Tracking Applications

For app-based solutions across various platforms, consider the following:

  • Dropcountr: Available for both iOS and Android, Dropcountr connects with your water utility to provide real-time water usage data. It allows you to compare your water usage with similar households, offers water-saving tips and can even alert you to leaks.
  • Flo by Moen: This app works with a smart home device that monitors water usage and detects leaks. Users receive real-time alerts via the app when the device detects a leak, low temperatures or a running fixture.
  • Water Footprint Calculator: This web-based tool from GRACE Communications Foundation is available in both English and Spanish. It illustrates how everyday actions, from washing dishes to buying groceries, impact water use.
  • Water Use Calculator: This web-based tool by the Alliance for Water Efficiency estimates household water use, and compares the user’s home to both a typical household and an efficient household in the user’s zip/postal code. The calculator also estimates user carbon footprint from hot water consumption, and helps identify specific strategies for improving overall household water efficiency.

These resources and apps can be helpful in understanding and managing water usage, leading to significant water conservation at home.

Benefits of Saving Water at Home

Saving water at home not only reduces utility bills but also has significant environmental benefits. The environmental impacts of water conservation are multifaceted, affecting everything from local ecosystems to global climate patterns.

Here are some of the key benefits:

Financial Savings

Reducing water usage can significantly lower utility bills. This is particularly true for households that use water-intensive appliances or have high water rates. By implementing water-saving techniques and devices, households can cut down on their water bills and save money in the long run.

Environmental Conservation

Freshwater is a finite resource, and conserving it is crucial for the health of our planet. By using less water, we can help preserve this precious resource, reduce the energy required for water treatment and distribution, and lessen the impact on local water resources.

Reduced Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Treating and heating water requires energy, which often comes from burning fossil fuels. By using less water, especially hot water, households can reduce their energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Improved Resilience to Drought

In areas prone to drought, saving water can help ensure a more reliable water supply. By using water more efficiently, households can help their communities become more resilient to periods of water scarcity.

Preservation of Habitats

Overuse of water can lead to the depletion of natural water bodies, which can harm local ecosystems and wildlife. By saving water at home, we can contribute to the preservation of rivers, lakes, wetlands, and other habitats.

Simple water-saving measures in the home can have far-reaching impacts. Saving water at home not only supports financial and environmental well-being but also promotes ecological balance and community resilience. 

Through mindful water usage, households play a crucial role in sustaining natural resources and reducing their ecological footprint.

Summary

Saving water at home through simple habits, efficient usage, and water-saving devices offers not just financial savings but also community and environmental benefits.

Consumers can employ the detailed methods here for reducing water usage in various home areas like the garden, kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. Techniques include using water-efficient devices, adopting water-saving habits, and employing systems like rainwater harvesting and greywater reuse.

Collectively, these efforts not only support global environmental goals but also foster a culture of sustainability and responsibility within the home, empowering homeowners to make impactful, eco-friendly choices daily.

Ready to take the next step? Begin today by implementing these measures at home.

Join the effort to conserve water and contribute to a healthier planet. Start making a difference now!

References

American Cleaning Institute. (n.d.). High Efficiency Washers and Detergents. Cleaning Institute. https://www.cleaninginstitute.org/sites/default/files/assets/1/Page/HE.pdf

Drip irrigation. (2014, August 5). The University of Rhode Island. https://web.uri.edu/safewater/protecting-water-quality-at-home/sustainable-landscaping/drip-irrigation/

Grey Water - Water Education Foundation. (2020, June 22). Water Education Foundation. https://www.watereducation.org/aquapedia/gray-water

Greywater Action. (2017, July 7). Greywater Codes and Policy - Greywater Action. https://greywateraction.org/greywater-codes-and-policy/

Mulches and mulching / RHS Gardening. (n.d.). Royal Horticultural Society. https://www.rhs.org.uk/soil-composts-mulches/mulch

Showerheads | US EPA. (2023, May 5). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/watersense/showerheads

UC Marin Master Gardeners. (n.d.). Succulents and Other Extra Low-Water Plants. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. https://marinmg.ucanr.edu/PLANTS/SUCCULENTS_LOW_WATER/

Why native plants matter. (n.d.). Audubon. https://www.audubon.org/content/why-native-plants-matter