We're all aware that we need to conserve water on a daily basis, and the need is even greater during times of drought. You likely take steps such as watering your lawn for a shorter period of time or taking a bath only a few times a week instead of every day, but what you might not know is just how much water you're wasting in your home or office. And that waste of water is not just bad for the environment (since water needs to be treated and transported for your use); it's bad for your wallet when the water bill comes due. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, homeowners can save roughly $170 a year by making simple changes to their water use.
Here are some of the biggest water wasters and ways to reduce the squandering of our important resource:
--Leaky toilets. A leaking toilet can waste 20 to 30 gallons of water per day, so if you hear your toilet running constantly, it's time to check the flapper valves and inner parts to be sure they're working correctly. You'll find videos on YouTube that can help you with this often easy repair. Alternatively, you might wish to call in a plumber to correct your toilet's problem and check for silent leaks in the system. It may be time for a new, low-flow toilet that reduces water waste.
--Dripping faucets. The sound is annoying, and according to eco-website Tree Hugger, a dripping faucet can waste 20 gallons of water per day. Changing the washers on your faucets is an easy DIY project. Or you can have a plumber check and fix your faucets.
--Running water while shaving or brushing your teeth. Gallons of water can go down the drain during these tasks, so turn off the faucet for most of your hygiene task time. To rinse your razor, fill your sink one-fourth of the way with water and use that water as you go.
--Taking baths. A bath can use 40 gallons or more of water. Showers usually use less water, provided you don't stay in the shower for a very long time. According to eco-website Earth Easy, every minute in the shower past five minutes wastes 5 to 10 gallons of water. So invest in a low-flow showerhead to save 750 gallons of water a year. Sophie Uliano, author of "Gorgeously Green," suggests a product called Eco Drop, which measures how much water you use when you shower. "The little man icon displays how much water is pouring out, and when you've used the recommended amount (which is pretty fair), a buzzer goes off for 5 seconds. Since I get carried away with all manner of scrubs and exfoliators in the shower, it makes sense to have, however annoying it is, that little man telling me when enough is enough," says Uliano.
--Unnecessary toilet flushing. The toilet is the biggest source of water use in your home, and improper use of the toilet adds to water waste. So if you often drop a tissue in the toilet and flush it down, that's a waste of water, as is flushing any sauces or leftovers from your fridge. This is a big no-no.
--Washing half-full loads. Running your washing machine or dishwasher on half-full loads or with just a few soiled pieces in each wastes a lot of water -- 1,000 gallons per year from half-full laundry loads alone -- so always be sure you have full loads when it's time to turn on those machines. Washing a few dishes by hand is best done with a double-sink, one side filled with soapy water and one side with fresh water, rather than washing dishes under running water.
--Not using WaterSense appliances. Many homeowners know to look for Energy Star appliances, but they're not as familiar with the WaterSense label, created in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency. WaterSense labels make it easier for you to choose water-efficient machines for your home or office, cutting down on water waste by 20 percent per machine. WaterSense bathroom sinks and faucets can save you roughly 500 gallons of water a year, and replacing less efficient shower heads with WaterSense ones can save your household a whopping 2,300 gallons of water each year.
--Washing your car yourself. According to EarthEasy, washing your car with a hose can waste 150 gallons of water. A professional car wash uses less water and often recycles their water as part of their green business practices.
--Watering your lawn on a windy or hot day. When winds blow, moisture can be carried away from where you intend it to fall on your lawn. On a hot day, water evaporates. Position your sprinklers so that water lands on the lawn, not on your driveway or the street. "When running your hose to water your lawn, you are using 5 to 10 gallons per minute," says Uliano.
--Choosing landscape plants that need a lot of water. According to the experts at Tree Hugger, hardy, locally appropriate plants may not need a lot of water to grow well. Talk to your local garden center experts to select the best plants to cut down on water needs.
--Not harvesting your rainwater. Rain barrels positioned beneath your waterspouts can capture rainwater for watering plants in your garden.