Water isn’t an unlimited resource. It’s finite and, according to an Environmental Protection Agency survey of water managers in 50 states, 80% of water managers expect water shortages in the next decade. It’s time for us to change the way we think about water — and change our habits so we use less and conserve more.
Read through this list and see how many ways your household can reduce its water consumption.
Facts About Household Water Usage
The typical family wastes 180 gallons of water per week (which is about 9,400 gallons every year), according to the EPA. Where does the waste come from? Typical household water leaks come from:
- Leaky plumbing
- Running dishwashers when they’re partially full
- Running water while brushing teeth
- Letting faucets run while washing dishes by hand
- Irrigation systems and watering lawn
More facts from the EPA survey:
- Americans use 88 gallons of water at home every day, on average.
- Water-efficient fixtures would reduce water usage by 20%.
- WaterSense-labeled toilets can reduce household water usage by 13,000 gallons per year.
- WaterSense-labeled faucets can save households approximately $250 in water and electricity (from water heaters) every year.
32 Ways to Conserve Water
Throughout your home
- Install water-efficient fixtures and appliances. Look for fixtures with WaterSense labels and appliances with ENERGY STAR labels.
- Find and fix leaks. Household leaks contribute to 900 billion gallons of wasted water in the U.S., according to the EPA.
- Change the way you wash your hands. Wet them, turn off the water, lather up, then turn the water on and rinse.
- Opt for a commercial car wash that recirculates water, rather than doing it yourself at home and wasting gallons and gallons of water.
- If you’ve got a fish tank, when you clean it out, give the old water to your plants. They’ll love it.
- Don’t throw ice cubes away! Use them to water plants.
- Install aerators and/or water-flow reducers on taps.
In the kitchen
- Run the dishwasher and do laundry only when you have full loads. This could save nearly 320 gallons of water per household per year, according to the EPA.
- Do you really need to rinse dishes before they go into the dishwasher? No! Today’s models are designed to get stuck-on food off, and, as this video from Southern Living explains, it’s actually better NOT to rinse dishes before they go in the dishwasher.
- Don’t let the water run while you hand wash dishes. Fill one sink with dirty water and another with clean. Each time you do this, you’ll save about 10 gallons of water.
- Speaking of hand-washing dishes. Did you know dishwashers tend to use less water, especially those with ENERGY STAR ratings? It’s time for a kitchen update — find energy efficient dishwashers.
- As gross as it can be, soaking dishes to get stuck-on foods is better than letting water, especially hot water, run while you scrape the dishes.
- Garbage disposals use a lot of water. Consider composting to reduce the number of times you run your disposal.
- Thaw food in the refrigerator, rather than by setting them in the sink and letting water run over them. This wastes dozens of gallons of water.
- Get a counter-top water heater, which is a small appliance that plugs into an outlet and keeps water hot so you don’t have to let water run until it gets hot from the tap. Another option is a water recirculator.
- If you do let water run until it gets hot, fill a pitcher and use it for watering plants, washing dishes and other household chores.
- Cook food in as little water as possible. Match pan size to food (in other words, don’t use humongous pots for single-serve cooking) and consider saving water for broths.
In the bathroom
- Never let the water run while you brush teeth or shave. According to the EPA, this could save households 5,700 gallons of water yearly.
- An 8 to 10 minute shower uses nearly 20 gallons of water. Use timers to shorten showers. Your family might object, but once they understand how much water they’re saving, they’ll get on board. Make a game of it by tracking who uses the least amount of water. And, yes, showers use less water than baths.
- Still prefer baths to showers? Got pets? After you bathe and before draining the tub, reuse the water to give the dog a bath.
- Annually test toilets for water leaks. You can do it yourself by putting food coloring in the tank. If the bowl’s water turns color, you have a leak.
- Get a dual-flush toilet, which uses half flushes for liquids and full flushes for solids. Look for the WaterSense label.
- Hire a professional to audit your landscaping and irrigation system to make sure it is running efficiently. Poorly maintained irrigation systems can waste tens of thousands of water for one house every year.
- Set irrigation systems to run at night or when the sun is not its strongest. Lawns and gardens need only about 5 mm of water a day during summers and only two or three times per week in off seasons, according to The Water Project.
- Porous patio and driveway materials prevent water runoff during rains and keep the water in your yard to water your lawn and plants.
- Landscape your yard with low-water use plants, especially those that are native to your area.
- Let your lawn grow, and when you mow, leave the trimmings to decompose on their own. Longer grass shades roots and require less water, and lawn clippings cool the ground and hold in moisture.
- Get in touch with your local government offices and ask about rebates. In Arizona, for example, some cities reimburse property owners who install low-water-usage irrigation systems.
- If you own a pool, minimize water loss from splashing by not over filling your pool and encouraging your family and guests not to splash water.
- Equip your pool and water features with recirculating pumps, and regularly check equipment and plumbing for leaks.
- Check out rain barrels for collecting rainwater and using it to water plants. This video shows how you can make one yourself for $40.
- Mulch plants to help them store water. A study by Texas A&M found that mulched plants used 25% less water than non-mulched plants.
For more tips on conserving water, visit Water Use It Wisely, a nonprofit based in Arizona.