We all need water to survive, but unfortunately, water can be hard to come by. With as many as two-thirds of the world’s population potentially facing water shortages by 2025, water efficiency is quickly becoming an important topic.
While water efficiency is important for survival, it also can help Americans’ wallets.
“Conserving water can help manage monthly costs,” says Liesel Hans, Director of Programs for the Alliance for Water Efficiency. “If you’re reducing water use, especially hot water use, you’re also reducing your energy use. These two things can help to reduce your utility bills.”
What simple steps can you take to lower your water usage and reduce your utility bills? Liesel shared (more than) five insanely simple ways to help you save water at home and in your daily life!
1. Review your water bill
While you might know your water charges, do you know what you use your water for?
“We encourage folks to take time to review their water bills or their water usage,” says Liesel, who has been working in the water conservation field for more than seven years. “A lot of times, people don’t even know how much they’re using or what time of year they’re using more water.”
If usage doesn’t show on your bill or you use auto-bill pay, you can request a copy of your water usage history from your water provider.
“Just start to connect some dots about the choices you make and the resulting water use,” says Liesel.
2. Check for rebates for sustainability programs
Water providers or local sustainability programs sometimes offer rebates, services, programs or information that can help residents champion water efficiency.
“Sometimes they also have plumbers or landscapers they might recommend, or rebates, like for swapping out an old toilet or switching to waterwise landscaping, that can help residents save money when they are making changes,” says Liesel.
3. Focus on your bathroom fixtures
Residents who focus efforts in the bathroom can make tremendous strides to save water at home and save money on their water bill.
Update your toilet
“Pay attention to your toilets or swap them out,” says Liesel. “They’re the biggest cause of leaks inside the home, and high efficiency toilets today are just fantastic.”
Today’s toilets use a lot less water than toilets did in the past and don’t compromise performance. Most modern toilets use approximately 1.28 gallons of water per flush, compared to old toilets with gallons per flush up to six. Ultra-high-efficiency toilets use as little as 0.8 gallons per flush! Many toilets manufactured after 2007 will meet the WaterSense standards and use less water.
Typically, toilets are date stamped in the tank, either on the underside of the lid or on the side of the tank, just above the waterline. If you can’t find your toilet’s manufacture date, the age of your home can serve as an indication.
Consider replacing your toilet if it’s even 10 years old to save water at home.
“If you are swapping out a three gallon per flush toilet, that’s going to save you a lot of water pretty quickly.” says Liesel. “For most people, payback for replacing a toilet is less than a year.”
You should also routinely complete a dye test by dropping a few drops of food coloring into your toilet tank. Wait 15-20 minutes, then if the dye makes it into the bowl, you have a leak.
“It’s a pretty easy test and one you definitely should do because a leak can cost you a lot of money over time,” says Liesel.
Use a water efficient showerhead
Similar to your toilet, you should consider upgrading your showerhead to save water at home.
“The Energy Policy Act in the early ’90s triggered the first round of federal water efficiency standards,” says Liesel. “Since then, we’ve gotten better, and the products have also gotten better.”
Showers are typically the largest use of hot water in a home, so replacing the showerhead with a high-efficiency model is a simple way to save both water and energy.
“WaterSense, for example, is two gallons per minute for a shower head,” says Liesel, “but they also have 1.8 gallons per minute or 1.5 gallons per minute options.”
Another way to save water in your daily life is to limit your time in the shower. Research shows the average length of a shower is eight minutes.
“Educational materials often suggest five minutes for a shower,” says Liesel. “Five minutes is an easy number to remember. You can get through two Top 40 songs in that time.”
Clean your showerheads, aerators, etc., for mineral deposits
Just like anything else in your home, it is important to regularly clean your aerators and showerheads. “Use some vinegar and baking soda in a baggy, put it on using a rubber band, and let it soak for a little while,” says Liesel.
This will help water flow through your pipes and keep your plumbing system working properly.
4. Run full loads of washing machines and dishwashers
“Make sure you’re doing full loads,” says Liesel. “This way, you’re not wasting water.”
You should still scrape off any big food residue, but you don’t need to pre-wash dishes.
“You don’t need to wash it before the dishwasher washes it again.”
You should also use your dishwasher rather than washing dishes by hand.
“The ENERGY STAR dishwasher models use somewhere between three and five gallons per load,” says Liesel. “Say you instead let the water run while you’re washing dishes by hand, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, you’re using potentially 25 gallons right there.”
Regarding clothes washers, “We suggest ENERGY STAR models for sure, and front loaders are more water efficient than a top loader.”
5. Don’t neglect your outside efforts
You may be surprised by how much water you use or even waste outside, but Liesel shared a few simple ways to save money and water while also elevating your curb appeal!
Pay attention to your sprinkler system
Many people don’t realize that small leaks or issues with an irrigation or sprinkler system can lead to high water bills and losses.
“If you have an irrigation system, take some time to turn it on, observe the equipment as it runs, and watch for any issues like breaks or if things are misaligned and watering the sidewalk instead of your plants,” says Liesel. “A lot of times, they run at night or while you’re at work during the day. You don’t see breaks or leaks unless you’re actually watching it while it’s running.”
Also, avoid overwatering your lawn.
“Don’t water more than your landscape needs and make use of the rain” says Liesel. You can skip an irrigation session if it has rained recently or is expected to rain soon.
Set your mower height higher
While every grass type is different, the rule of thumb is three inches for a good height.
“If you cut your grass too short every time you’re cutting, it stresses out the plant, and it needs more water,” says Liesel.
Replenish your mulch
“Your house always looks nicer with new mulch,” says Liesel, “and it keeps the moisture in the soil. You avoid losing the water to evaporation.”
This also keeps the weeds from growing in your yard, which would drink more water and ultimately, increase your usage.
Save your pool from evaporation
If you have a pool or hot tub, make sure you’re completing routine maintenance and using the right cover.
“The main way that you’re going to waste water with a pool is losing it to evaporation and having to refill it,” says Liesel. “Using a properly fitting cover and covering it up every time that you’re not using it is the best way to be efficient.”
Make water efficiency a #squadgoal in your home
While an individual effort is commendable, optimal water efficiency may only be achieved when everyone in the household is on board.
“Make sure that you talk about this as a household,” suggests Liesel. “If one person believes that hand washing is better and the other person knows that the dishwasher is more efficient, you might not necessarily be working toward a common goal.”
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