Turn Off The Tap

By Kristen Castillo

May 6, 2014 5 min read

Showering, washing your car, making coffee, cooking pasta and doing laundry all require water. Water is a critical resource we use every day, but now it's time to conserve.

"Most people are unaware of how much water they waste and how big their potential savings would be if they just adopted small changes," says Jeff Wilson, HGTV host and author of "The Greened House Effect: Renovating Your Home with a Deep Energy Retrofit."

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates we each use 100 gallons of water daily in our homes. At a time when so many communities are facing droughts, it makes sense to be water-wise.

"We've been lucky that we have great quantities of it, but we have squandered or polluted a lot of it, and it won't last forever," says Shel Horowitz, a green business profitability expert and author of the e-book "Painless Green: 111 Tips to Help the Environment, Lower Your Carbon Footprint, Cut Your Budget, and Improve Your Quality of Life -- With No Negative Impact on Your Lifestyle." "Water is essential for human, animal and plant health, for weather patterns, for industry."

*Green Savings

Conserving water is good for the environment and your wallet. By installing water-efficient appliances and fixtures, you'll use about 30 percent less water, which can add up to an annual savings of about $170.

Wilson suggests green appliances like front-loading washing machines, which "use a fraction of the water of a top-loader" and are energy-efficient, and low-water-use dishwashers, which often "use less water than is typically used during hand-washing."

*Change Your Habits

Little things have a big impact. For example, don't leave the faucet on while brushing your teeth.

"Turn it back on to rinse the toothpaste off the brush at the end," says Horowitz, noting this change of habit can help a family of four can save "hundreds of gallons every month."

You can also conserve by turning off the shower while you're soaping up. "Get wet, turn off the shower, soap up, then rinse," says Wilson. "Huge savings!"

Just limiting your shower time will save water and cash from going down the drain.

*Ban Bottled Water

Avoid bottled water, suggests Horowitz, adding, "About three times as much water that goes in the bottle is wasted in the bottling process."

Keep reusable containers of water in your fridge, chilled and ready to drink. By filling up one pitcher, you won't waste lots of water filling the individual containers.

*Reuse Water

Don't let your excess water go to waste. Green designer and artist Pablo Solomon recommends putting rectangular washing pans in your sinks, shower and tub to collect water around your house so it can be reused.

"Catch all the water that you can from hand-washing, face splashing, running the water to heat it up," he says, explaining the water can be used to flush toilets and water plants.

*Install a Rain Barrel

Buy a rain barrel to collect rainwater runoff, which can be used for irrigation in your yard. The water is not for drinking. Most rain barrels have built-in filter protections to repel mosquitos, but it's up to you to clean and maintain the barrel, looking out for leaks that need to be fixed.

*Get Rid of Grass

Watering your lawn uses a lot of water, which is why Wilson suggests fake turf, a product that was installed at the HGTV Green Home.

"It looked great, was extremely durable, and required no watering, chemicals," he says.

If you don't install turf, consider a rain sensor for landscaping irrigation control. The sensors detect when it's raining and turn your sprinklers off so you don't water an already wet lawn.

*Fix Leaks

The EPA says a leak in your house can waste over 10,000 gallons of water every year, which is enough water to wash 270 loads of laundry.

Where's the leak? It could be from a dripping faucet, a broken toilet flapper or a leaky shower head. Often you can fix the leaks yourself, or you can hire a plumber. Repairing a leak can also help you save about 10 percent on your water bill.

Here's how the EPA says you can look for a leak: Check your water meter before and after a two-hour span when you're not using any water. The meter shouldn't change. If it does, you likely have a leak.

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