Freshwater is one of the most precious resources on the planet. Only about 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh, and about 70% of that is frozen and inaccessible, so it’s important to take care of the water we have circulating our cities and homes. Further, conserving water at home is an effective way to lower your utility bill and help ensure water security for your area.
Each year, more and more people flock to urban areas, putting a strain on the local water supply and wastewater treatment infrastructure. In some cities, like Cape Town, the situation has become dire. As these regions continue to grow more densely populated, water conservation is becoming an increasingly urgent public health issue. To combat the water stress caused by a burgeoning population and their needs, local governments have encouraged and even enforced water restrictions with water-saving technologies and metering.
Conservation practices and water-saving devices like the ones described below help you not only save water at home, they also help protect your city’s access to water in the future.
How to Save Water
One of the most effective ways to conserve water on a global scale is by eating less meat and buying less stuff. The vast majority of your water footprint is hidden from view and has more to do with the things you consume, rather your home itself. For example, a pound of cotton requires upwards of 1200 gallons of water to produce.
Similarly, a single pound of beef requires 1800 gallons of water—that’s 600 gallons for the average hamburger. Compare that to a pound of wheat, which only needs 25 gallons of water to grow and harvest. Pound for pound, that’s a water savings of 98.6%. You can substantially reduce your consumption of water simply by choosing to buy fewer items overall and building your diet around plant-based foods.
Locally, however, your home has a much greater impact on your city’s water reserves. Lawns, landscaping, and the water fixtures in your home ultimately determine what your residential water consumption looks like.
How Much Water Do Most People Use at Home?
Everything from the use of common appliances to the type of toilet in your bathroom can affect the amount of water you use at home. According to the EPA, the average American family uses at least 300 gallons of water per day. Overall, the typical family spends over $1,000 every year on water consumption and associated usage expenses.
An effective way to monitor your usage is with your water bill. It includes information about water consumption for current and previous months. Take matters into your own hands by using a water calculator to figure out how much water you’re using.
Your water provider may offer one on their website, or you can use a generic one like this. These calculators aren’t 100% accurate, but they can give you a better idea of your overall water consumption habits.
The Importance of Saving Water
Although fresh, drinkable water is something we may take for granted most of the time, it’s not an infinite resource. Every gallon you use must be filtered, treated, cleaned, and pumped back into the system so it can be used again.
Tips to Save Water
If all U.S. households installed water-saving features throughout their homes, they could collectively lower their water usage by up to 30%. That’s an average savings of 5.4 billion gallons of water every day!
What are the best ways to save water at home? Turning off your faucets when not in use is one simple way to start, such as when you’re brushing your teeth or washing a sink full of soapy dishes. You can go a step further by installing water-efficient alternatives in your bathroom, kitchen, and even outdoors.
These alternatives use less water by adding air to it or increasing pressure. Try a few of these tips below to see a difference in your water bill next month.
Use a Low-Flow Showerhead
Specialty showerheads, often referred to as low-flow shower heads, are more efficient than their traditional counterparts. Although these aerating showerheads don’t necessarily encourage you to take shorter showers, they can lower water heating costs by using less water for the same length of time. For the average home, the cost of water heating accounts for roughly 15% of the bill. It may not seem like much, but heating water is typically the second highest energy cost on your energy bill!
The best low-flow showerheads come in two varieties: laminar-flow and aerating. Laminar-flow showerheads offer better temperature control. They also provide higher water pressure than aerating showerheads.
Aerating showerheads infuse the stream with air to bulk it up and add pressure to a smaller amount of water. They also produce a lot more steam, so if you don’t have a bathroom fan or window, your bathroom may temporarily trap all that that moist air. Shower steam sharply increases your bathroom’s humidity, so a laminar-flow showerhead may be a better choice to help prevent mold growth in warm, moist climates.
Both water-saving showerheads can reduce your gallon per minute (gpm) rate. When shopping for a new showerhead, try to find one that uses 2.5 gpm or less.
Whatever your choice, try to find one with a flow restrictor. The restrictor gives you control over the amount of water coming through the showerhead. It’s a great feature if you want to use less water but your partner insists on the same flow.
Use a Water-Efficient Toilet
Optimize you bathroom for water efficiency with a dual flush toilet. Rather than a handle, these toilets have two buttons on top. Dual flush toilets use a maximum of 1.6 gpf (gallons per flush), which is the average for traditional toilets. You can buy a new toilet with these components, or try a conversion kit designed to decrease the amount of water used for flushing.
Another alternative is a tank bag. It takes up space in the toilet tank that would otherwise be filled with water. This bag will shrink the size of your tank by displacing water, reducing how much water flows into the bowl when you flush.
It’s also a good idea to check your toilet tank for leaks. If you can’t see or hear a leak, check with temporary dye tablets. Pop one in the tank and check to see if the dye seeps into the bowl. If you don’t have a leak, you shouldn’t see any dye in the bowl until you flush.
Use an Aerated Faucet
A low-flow aerator faucet reduces the amount of water used per minute. It only uses 1.5 gpm (or less), while the average faucet uses 2.2 gpm. It may seem like a minimal change, but you could save up to 700 gallons of water per year by switching. You won’t lose water pressure, and it might actually increase, helping you wash your hands or dishes more effectively.
If you’re unsure of what kind to pick up, search for a faucet that has a WaterSense label. These faucets are approved by the EPA and meet strict standards for water flow.
Use a Water-Saving Sprinkler
Do you have an automatic or smart sprinkler? These sprinklers make saving water simple. You can set automatic timers for your sprinklers to water your lawn. Most importantly, you can set them to turn off at a certain time, reducing the chance of overwatering your lawn.
These sprinklers also may come with a rain sensor, meaning they won’t activate when it’s already raining (which would be a waste of water and money). If possible, use low-volume sprinkler heads. The water will soak into the grass more slowly to reduce runoff.
Grow Water-Wise Plants
It’s not just sprinklers that reduce water usage outside your home. The type of plants in your garden can also improve efficiency if grow best in your climate. Some plants require less water to thrive than others. Plants with needle-like leaves like rosemary and thyme reduce water evaporation. Plants with grey-tinged or silvery foliage keep cooler because they reflect the sun better. Try growing cast-iron plants and the following common herbs and flowers:
- Blue hibiscus
- Copper canyon daisy
With the right choices for your climate, you can easily grow a beautiful garden while conserving water.
Add Mulch and Compost in Your Yard
Compost and mulch not only improve soil quality—they can also improve moisture retention. Add your home compost to your mulch, and you may only have to water your garden once every few days. Your water usage decreases, but the garden still prospers.
Wash Full Loads
It’s more efficient to wash the laundry and dishes with full loads. For increased water efficiency with your washing machine, use high-efficiency (HE) appliances. These appliances use less energy, detergent, and water than traditional appliances.
You can also search for certified Energy Star appliances, including dishwashers. Energy Star products were designed to conserve water and be energy-efficient.
Take Navy Showers
You don’t need to go to basic training to take navy showers. It’s a significant water conservation showering method. Just turn off the water while lathering up. Once you’re ready to rinse off, turn the water back on. Then step out and continue on with your day.
A standard shower head using 2.5 gpm would use 20 gallons of water during an average shower. Using a low-flow showerhead, plus turning the water off when it’s not needed (while lathering), can further reduce water usage.
Collect Your Rainwater
Rainwater is free to collect and use. Watering your lawn with rainwater doesn’t raise alkalinity and limescale deposits in the soil. Collecting rainwater is a resourceful way to care for your yard.
We recommend using a water butt. It’s a large tank or barrel-like container you connect to your gutters’ drain pipes that collects runoff after it rains. Once the system is installed, you can collect, store, and use your rainwater after each rain.
Recycle Your Grey Water
“Grey water” refers to the water drained from household appliances like bathtubs, showers, sinks, and washing machines. The surge tank keeps this water briefly after it’s been flushed. You can use a pump to divert the water before it’s automatically moved to a standard irrigation system.
Grey water can be used to flush your toilet and water your yard. Some opt to drink it, but you should never ingest grey water without a filter system. Remember — this is the water going down your drains. It could contain grease, dirt, traces of dust, food, or anything else that ends up in your sinks. Adding a double-piped drainage system in the home will purify and filter the water for safe reuse.
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