Water Conservation | Tips on How to Save Water Inside and Outside the Home

Brian Oram, Licensed Professional Geologist

Did you know that the average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day and 40 percent (about 32 gallons) of that water goes straight down the drain? (Source)

A government accountability report indicated that 80% of water system managers anticipate water shortages under average conditions. (Source) Because of changes in rainfall patterns, we realize the need for larger storage reservoirs, i.e., dams and impoundments.

We all must do our part to ensure that there’s clean, fresh water in our future for each of us and generations to come. There are many ways to conserve, and here are some tips you can apply to help reduce water usage inside and outside your home.

Inside The Home

Appliances

• Top-load washers use 40 to 50 gallons per load to wash and rinse. Purchasing more efficient appliances that can reduce water usage by 20%.

• More efficient appliances also reduce the need for detergents and other cleaning agents

• Use proper water level settings for the washing machine and only run when full. 

• Adjust all water-using appliances to use the minimum amount of water needed to operate.

Plumbing

• On average, showers and faucets run at 4 to 6 gallons per minute, and toilets range from 1.5 to 3 gallons per use.

• Install low-flow shower heads and aerators on household faucets. Please remember that these devices act like small filters, and they need to be cleaned, especially if you see evidence of scale formation or colored coatings which may indicate Corrosion and Lead.

• Install a toilet dam or water displacement device to reduce the amount of water used when flushing. Leaky toilets can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day. To find out if your toilet is leaking, add a few drops of food coloring to the tank. If the coloring finds its way into the toilet bowl, you need to make repairs.

• Check plumbing for leaks and get your drinking water tested. Leaks may indicate you have a Corrosion problem.

Habits

Little changes in lifestyle habits can go a long way to conserving water.

• On average, daily personal hygiene uses about 15 gallons of water per person. 

• Take shorter showers and fewer baths. Five to seven gallons can be saved for every minute. Turn off the faucet while you lather and shampoo. Turn on again to rinse.

• Don’t let water run when brushing teeth, shaving, and washing hands and face. 

• For hand sanitizing, often a moist towelette or hand sanitizer is all you need. When you need to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (especially during the Covid-19 pandemic), turn off the faucet while scrubbing and turn it back on for a thorough rinse. (CDC Handwashing Tips)

• Don’t let water run when doing dishes. Pre-rinsing dishes for the dishwasher is usually unnecessary. Only run the dishwasher when it is full.

• Just because the “flushable wipes” say they can go down the drain and be flushed does not mean you should. They should be treated as solid waste and put into the trash can and not flushed down the drain and do not flush into septic systems.

• Refrigerate a bottle of water instead of letting water run to get cold.

• Instead of drinking bottled water, consider using a Point-of-use Water Filtration System to purify or polish your tap water.

Did You Know drinking more water can actually save water? Beverages with caffeine can dehydrate you, causing you to drink even more. So when you’re thirsty, reach for water instead. Also, it takes 35 liters of water to produce about 0.5 liters of Soda! (Source).

Outside The Home

Yard and Landscaping

• Wash your car at a public car wash facility where the water is recycled, or let nature do the work for you!

• Water plants only when necessary. Refrain from unnecessary lawn watering. Watering lawns and gardens can double the water usage in your household during the summer months. Avoid watering between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Most lawns need only one inch of water every five to seven days in the summer. When mowing, raise the blade on your lawnmower to at least three inches high or the highest level. Even better, convert land to native landscapes with water features.

• Landscaping with less grass and more native and drought-resistant plants can help reduce your need for extra water and time spent mowing, weeding, and fertilizing. Our native plant species require less water than ornamentals. (Books on native vegetation and landscaping).

• Install rain barrels or redirect downspouts towards lawns or flowerbeds.

• Sweep paved surfaces such as driveways, streets, sidewalks, garages, and patios. Do not hose down.

• Mulching shrubs and plants will reduce evaporation.

Public and Private Water Infrastructure

There are global and community reasons to conserve water, but as a parent and customer, my favorite is saving money on a personal level. Wasting water is like “burning money,” so water conservation is like paying yourself first and saving or investing your money or resources. 

For example, if you get your water from a public water supply, water authority, or water company, water conservation may lower your monthly bill. You will save money by using less water yourself, and at the community level, less energy is needed to treat or manage that water. It will reduce the need to find, develop and install pretreatment systems for new water sources.  

If you have a private well, you’ll extend the life of your pump and septic system by conserving your water usage. Remember, your water isn’t free. There was an initial cost for installing the well and septic system, and there’s a cost to maintaining your well and the electricity to pump the water. Every time your pump starts, it wears a little and is one step closer to failing. Less water entering your septic system or local sewage pretreatment plant will go a long way to preventing its failure. All the water that goes into the holding tank comes out on the opposite side. Water moving quickly through does not allow time for solids to settle and will be carried into your drain field, which shortens its life.

Future Outlook

These simple, common-sense actions and small lifestyle changes can reduce the impact on community water networks and our shared watershed. 

I strive to be a good steward so that we have clean water today and our grandchildren have clean water tomorrow. I hope you’ll join me in this effort – The Path to Clean Water begins with YOU! Remember, we all live downstream.

More Resources

Water Conservation
Home Water Audit

Rainwater Diverter

Landscape / Water Management
Gardening with Less Water

Rain Barrel Store and Compost Tumbler

Energy Conservation
Home Energy Monitor

Links
EPA Water Sense Program

Make Your Own Rain Barrel

Note: This is a rewrite of an article that first appeared on Carbonwaters.org. This portal was part of the Carbon County Groundwater Guardian Program, which is now a part of the Keystone Clean Water Team a partner in the KnowYourH20 Program.