Water Saver

By Lauren Baumbauer

October 2, 2009 5 min read

Are your water bills rising out of control? Are you interested in conserving water to help the environment but just aren't sure what to do?

The amount of water most people go through in their homes on a daily basis is substantial. According to the American Water Works Association, an international nonprofit dedicated to safe and sustainable water, a typical single-family home uses 350 gallons of water per day indoors and outdoors. At least 69.3 gallons are used indoors alone.

"Most people use more water than they need," says Greg Kail, the director of public affairs for AWWA, which is based in Denver. "A few simple changes in your lifestyle can result in some dramatic savings in terms of water use and in how much you pay for your water bills."

There are easy and inexpensive ways to save water that won't dry up your bank account or take up lots of time. It helps to start out small and to do lots of research on any products before buying them.

"Cherry-pick the savings," says Greg Seaman, the editor of Eartheasy. "Do the easiest and cheapest things first. You can save 30 to 35 percent of water in the home with little investment."

Eartheasy is a family-run business with a high profile in the sustainable-living niche. It has offices in British Columbia and Wisconsin. Its Web site offers tips and sells cost-effective products that help reduce water use in the home and garden.

Starting with the bathroom, the biggest water guzzler of them all, here are some ideas to try first:

*Check toilets, faucets and pipes for leaks. Even small drips can waste 20 or more gallons a day, while larger leaks may waste hundreds. Put a little food coloring in the toilet tank. If, without flushing, the color begins to appear in the bowl, there's a leak that should be repaired immediately. To get an idea of how much water you could be losing from leaks, check out the WaterWiser drip calculator from AWWA at http://www.awwa.org/awwa/waterwiser/dripcalc.cfm.

*Stop using the toilet as a wastebasket. Every time small bits of trash are flushed, five to seven gallons of water are wasted.

*Put plastic bottles in the toilet tank. Put an inch or two of sand or pebbles into two plastic soda bottles to weigh them down. Fill them with water, and put them in the toilet tank away from the operating mechanisms. The bottles displace water and may save 10 or more gallons of water a day in an average home.

*Take shorter showers. Long showers can waste five to 10 gallons every unneeded minute.

*Install water-saving shower heads or flow restrictors. They are very easy to install, but Seaman recommends reading all of the fine print on the packaging. "Some low-flow faucets aren't really low-flow. They should use 1.5 gallons per minute or less, and some use more." There isn't a difference in pressure in the low-flow shower heads, so the shower experience can be the same or better than otherwise.

*Take baths. A bath in a partially filled tub uses less water than all but the shortest showers.

*Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Keep a glass of water for mouth rinsing. Otherwise, there's no reason to keep the water going.

*Rinse shaving razors in the sink. Fill the sink with a few inches of warm water instead of rinsing with running water.

There are easy things to do to save water in other water-waster areas in the house, too, such as in the kitchen and laundry:

*Use the automatic dishwasher and washing machines only for full loads. This reduces the number of uses.

*Wash dishes by hand. Don't leave the water running for rinsing. Fill the sink with soapy water for cleaning. Fill the other basin with water for rinsing. If there's only one basin, fill a pan full of hot water for rinsing.

*Don't let the faucet run while cleaning vegetables. Rinse them in a pan of clean water instead.

*Check the faucet and pipes for leaks: As with the bathroom, leaks waste water all day, every day.

If you have a yard, make sure to do some research for the best ways to save water outside for the appropriate climate of the area. According to the AWWA, on average, 50 to 70 percent of home water is used for watering lawns and gardens.

Pay attention to the weather to avoid unnecessary watering or water loss caused by the wind. Don't water the pavement when a broom suffices. It's also best to water in the morning to prevent fungus and losing water from evaporation. Different types of grass and vegetation and using mulch are also things to consider for conservation landscaping.

Taking small steps in water conservation isn't hard. According to Kail, "Eventually, we don't notice we're using less. Make a conscious effort to do it, and over a period of time, it becomes a habit."

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