Reducing household water usage has big-time benefits for both homeowners and for the environment: reducing strain on local water resources, cutting demand on wastewater treatment facilities, and lowering both water and sewage utility bills, to name a few. Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, we’ve put together a collection of water-saving tips and products that can help you save money and reduce your environmental footprint.
Best of all, these don’t require major sacrifices or lifestyle changes, they’re just adjustments that make a big difference – sort of the water conservation equivalent of “working smart instead of working hard”.
Check your fixtures and pipes. Give your household plumbing a good look. Do you see any leaks, even just tiny drips when a faucet is turned on? All those drops add up. A leaky faucet washer can waste tens of gallons of water per day, so why pay for all that water you aren’t using? Plus, by sealing the leak, you’ll avoid the maintenance nightmare of repairing water damage if the little drip turns into a raging flow.
Check your meter. Take a look at your water meter before you leave home to run your errands, then check it a couple hours later when you return (and you know there has been no water use.) If you see any change on the meter, there’s a leak somewhere. Find it and fix it.
Next Stop: The Kitchen
Reuse kitchen water. Instead of wasting it down the drain, use a pail to collect the water you use for rinsing vegetables or cooking foods like pasta or potatoes. The added nutrients make it great for watering a garden.
Don’t let the water run… and run… Of course, this is good advice in the bathroom too, but it’s especially easy to waste water in the kitchen. Make the effort to turn off the faucet when you don’t need it, even for a couple seconds – the water savings will add up quickly. A faucet pedal makes it even easier to regulate water use when your hands are full. One of our favorites is the Pedal Works Hands-Free Faucet Controller ($349 at Amazon)
Use the dishwasher. This is an indulgence you can feel good about. A modern, energy-star rated dishwasher loaded to capacity will use less water and energy than hand washing in the sink. And you can generally skip the pre-rinse, further reducing water use.
Bosch is an industry leader when it comes to efficient dishwashers. The Bosch SHX68E Evolution 800 Plus is extraordinarily energy efficient, and uses just 1.56 gallons of water per cycle. Fair enough, this is the Rolls Royce of dishwashers ($1,732.56 at Amazon) but all major manufacturers now offer their own energy star models.
If you must wash by hand, don’t let the water run constantly. Fill the sink with soapy water, wash the dishes, then refill with rinse water.
Sorry, baths. Despite the very name of the room, baths are a killer when it comes to household water conservation. Showers use a fraction of the water compared to baths, so avoid the full-on tub soaking whenever possible.
Go low-flow. New low-flow showerheads match the performance of older, wasteful designs, while drastically cutting water consumption. One of the best is the Delta Water Amplifying Low-Flow Showerhead ($29.98 at Amazon), which uses just 1.85 gallons per minute in its low-flow mode, yet maintains impressive water pressure for rinsing.
Shower smart. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get distracted in the shower, what with all the singing and pondering the mysteries of the universe. But try to keep it short – reducing a shower by just two minutes can easily save 100 gallons of water each month.
A nifty little gadget to help you avoid wasting water by being aware of how much you’re using is the Water Pebble, designed by Paul Priestman. The Water Pebble is placed in a sink or shower, and uses green, yellow, and red indicator lights to give a quick visual reference of how much water is being used. Learn more at the Priestman Goode Design website.
And While We’re Talking Bathrooms… Low-flow toilets are good, but toilets with a dual-flush option are even better. One of the best is the Caroma Caravelle ($369 at Amazon) which performs just as well as many older high-flow designs but uses only 0.8 gallons per flush for liquids, or 1.6 gallons for solids – which can translate into annual utility savings of $100 in water-restricted areas.
Finally, don’t use the toilet as a trash can. Even with a low-flow design, flushing a tissue or a cigarette butt is an unnecessary waste of water.
Bring The Rain Indoors
Rainwater is great for watering indoor plants. It’s free, and it’s actually better for your plants than using municipal water from the faucet. Rainwater contains no chlorine, and its ambient temperature is easier for plants to tolerate than cold tap water. The OXO Good Grips Pour & Store watering can ($15.50 at Amazon) is great for indoor use, thanks to its ergonomic design and compact folding spout.
Do you have other suggestions for simple ways to cut household water consumption? Leave a comment below and let us know!
12 thoughts on “Reduce Your Household Water Use Efficiently”
wish you couldhave taled about rainwater harvesting
Which low-flow showerhead is best for saving water and good pressure?
1) Delta Water Amplifying Low-Flow Showerhead
2) Air Jet showerhead
3) Bricor showerhead Eco-fit (there are several modes ranging from $25-79)
If water conversation is your highest priority, go for the Bricor showerheads. The Air Jet is a good low-flow showerhead for increasing pressure. I don’t know much about the Delta, but it looks like it probably equivalent to the Air Jet.
Another less expensive option is the Earth Massage Shower Head. I think it works great and is an excellent value. http://www.conservationwarehouse.com/earth-massage-showerhead-white.html. There is a video review on the site.
Another great way to gather water for your plants is using the water collected from dehumidifiers. My wife and I live in a really humid climate, and we run a dehumidifier daily to keep our sanity. Granted, it is a give and take kind of thing, what with using electricity to power a dehumidifier. That said, if you are in a situation in which you run a dehumidifier anyway (most of us have basements, for example), why not put that water to use?
Anyone know how does the Caroma Caravelle compare to the best of the Totos?
I’d be interested in hearing more about compost toilets. Are these a realistic option (yet) for most people? Ditto for waterless urinals. I was somewhere in downtown Seattle and used a public waterless urinal and was impressed that it did not stink.
Replacing faucet aerators can show some significant savings. I’ve replaced the standard 2.2gpm pieces with 1.5gpm and .5gpm units. 1.5gpm works fine for the kitchen sink, and a bathroom sink does well with a <1.0gpm unit. The install is very easy, and extremely cheap at less than $5 per aerator. Almost any home store has these in stock. Keep in mind they make two basic sizes. The regular and the "micro" size. Most brand faucets use one of these two standard sizes. I'd consider this to be low-hanging fruit in the world of water conservation.
I don't understand all the hype around the .8/1.6gpf dual flush units. Most big names (Kohler, etc) sell 1.0gpf units for different markets such as California. Find the part number of these units and just order online. Yes, they have to ship further, but if you buy the right toilet the first time, it will last a lot longer than that $90 special you find at that big-box store.
A company called Bricor makes a very well made, and pleasent to use, 1.0gpm fixture. The price is higher, but the quality is high, with very few rough-edges of the sub-$20 market. Buy it once…buy it right. 🙂
What about waterless urinals?
The footpedal thing still is much more expensive and less simple and practical with no more real efficiency than the little flip things you already talk about here:
Washing dishes by hand doesn’t have to be wasteful: by carefully (but simply) optimizing the steps (which I’ve found also saves a lot of time). First arrange items in the sink so that the dirtiest are at the bottom (and don’t place your glasses together with the dishes and pots! keep them on the side). If there’s grease or if you’re planning on leaving the dishes for tomorrow, add some water (so that the surfaces are wet, no need to fill the sink!). Now add a few drops of dishwasher to a thick sponge and add water to it so that it is well soaked. Now, work by batches. Start by soaping the glasses and not so dirty dishes and rinse them (if you wipe them with your hands you don’t need so much water) directly above the dirtier pile. Continue with the next “batch” until finished. You’ll be surprised how little water you need! I’ve used this method while working in the field where we had no electricity and, for several months, very little water. In a 5-heads household we needed as little as 0.5 litres for a full hot dinner. It also works great for small households where filling a dishwasher so that it starts being efficient may take several days. I have the impression that having a dishwasher usually increases the use of more items… we’re so generally lazy!