Water is a precious resource in our environment. Growing populations and ongoing droughts are squeezing our water resources dry, causing natural habitat degredation and impacting our everyday use of water. We have no choice but to pay more attention to how we are using water, and how we may be wasting it. We must bridge the gap between our understanding of how important water is to our survival and what we can do to ensure that we have an adequate supply of clean water for years to come. Below is a list of the many simple ways you can take action and conserve water, both inside and outside our homes.
YOU'RE IN CONTROL
Try to do one thing each day to save water. Don't worry if the savings are minimal. Every drop counts, and every person can make a difference. Be aware of and follow all water conservation and water shortage rules and restrictions that may be in effect in your area. Make sure your children are aware of the need to conserve water.
WATER WASTERS IN THE KITCHEN & BATH
Check for toilet leaks by adding food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes. Check the toilet for worn out, corroded, or bent parts. Consider purchasing LowFlow toilets that can reduce indoor water use by 20%. Install a toilet dam or displacement device such as a bag or bottle to cut down on the amount of water needed for each flushing. Be sure installation does not interfere with operating parts. Avoid unnecessary flushing. Dispose of tissues, insects, and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet. If the toilet flush handle frequently sticks in the flush position, letting water run constantly, replace or adjust it.
Replace your showerhead with an ultra low-flow version, saving up to 2.5 gallons per minute. Take shorter showers. Try a "Navy" shower; get wet, turn off the water, soap and scrub, then turn the water on to rinse. In the shower, instead of increasing the hot or cold water flow to adjust the water temperature, try decreasing the flow to achieve a comfortable water temperature. Use the minimum amount of water needed for a bath by closing the drain first and filling the tub only 1/3 full. The initial burst of cold water can be warmed by adding hot water later. Don't let the water run while shaving, washing your face, or brushing your teeth.
Minimize the use of kitchen sink disposals; they require a lot of water to operate properly. Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing of food waste. Store drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting the tap run to get a cool glass of water. Do not use running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost them overnight in the refrigerator, or by using the defrost setting on your microwave. Consider installing an instant water heater on your kitchen sink so you don't have to let the water run while it heats up. This will reduce heating costs for your household.
When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink or basin with soapy water. Quickly rinse under a slow stream of water from the faucet. Use the dirty water to run your sink disposal if necessary. Fully load automatic dishwashers; they use the same amount of water no matter how much is in them. Buy dishwashers with water and energy saving options.
OTHER WATER WASTERS IN YOUR HOME
Unlike your dishwasher, the amount of water your washing machine uses is adjustable; adjust according to load size. Look for water saving washing machines and buy them. Horizontal loading machines use less water than top-loading machines. Install a hot water recirculation device. By recirculating the water that would otherwise go down the drain, you can save 2-3 gallons of water for each shower taken or 16,500 gallons a year per household. This may mean an average annual savings of $50 on your water bill and $40 on your energy bill. Install an air-to-air heat pump or air-conditioning system. Air-to-air models are just as efficient as water-to-air models and do not waste water. Install water-softening systems only when necessary. Save water and salt by running the minimum amount of regeneration necessary to maintain water softness. Turn softeners off while on vacation.
Divert From the Drain
Never put water down the drain when there may be another use for it such as watering a plant or garden, or cleaning.
Verify that your home is leak free, because many homes have hidden water leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak. Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year. Retrofit all wasteful household faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors. Insulate your water pipes. You'll get hot water faster and avoid wasting water. Check your pump. If you have a well at your home, listen to see if the pump turns on and off while the water is not in use. If it does, you have a leak.
OUTDOOR WATER WASTERS
Watering the Lawn
Don't overwater your lawn. As a general rule, lawns only need watering every 5 to 7 days in the summer. A hearty rain eliminates the need for watering for as long as two weeks. Water lawns during the early morning hours when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces losses from evaporation. Don't water your street, driveway, or sidewalk. Position your sprinklers so that your water lands on the lawn and shrubs and not the paved areas. Install sprinklers that are the most water-efficient for each use such as micro and drip irrigation and soaker hoses. Regularly check sprinkler systems and timing devices to be sure they are operating properly. Teach your family how to shut off automatic systems so they can turn them off when storms are approaching. Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended. Your garden hose can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn the water off.
Raise your lawn mower blade to at least three inches. A lawn cut higher encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system, and holds soil moisture better than closely-clipped lawns. Avoid overfertilizing your lawn. The application of fertilizers increases the need for water and is a source of water pollution.
Mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulching also helps to control weeds that compete with plants for water. Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year. Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Check with your local nursery for advice. Group plants together based on similar water needs. Outfit your hose with a shut-off nozzle which can be adjusted down to a fine spray so that water flows only as needed. When finished, turn it off at the faucet instead of at the nozzle to avoid leaks. Minimize the grass areas in your yard because less grass means less water. Buy a rain gauge to determine how much rain or irrigation your yard has received.
Other Outdoor Water Wasters
Avoid hosing down your driveway or sidewalk; use a broom instead and save hundreds of gallons of drinkable water. Check all hoses, connectors, and spigots regularly. Replace or add washers if you find leaks. Avoid the installation of ornamental water features unless the water is recycled. If you have a pool, consider a new water-saving pool filter. A single backflushing with a traditional filter uses from 180 to 250 gallons of water. Consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water. If you wash your own car, park it on the grass, use a bucket with soapy water, turn off the water while soaping, and use a hose with a pressure nozzle to decrease rinsing time. Create an awareness of the need for water conservation among your children. Avoid purchasing recreational water toys that require a constant stream of water.
AT WORK & AROUND TOWN
Encourage your employer to promote water conservation at the workplace. Suggest that water conservation tips be put in the employee orientation manual and training program. Support projects that will lead to an increased use of reclaimed wastewater for irrigation and other uses. Promote water conservation in community newsletters, on bulletin boards, and by example. Patronize businesses that practice and promote water conservation. Report all significant water losses (broken pipes, open hydrants, misdirected sprinklers, abandoned or free-flowing wells, etc.) to the property owner, local authorities, or your water management district. Encourage your school system and local government to promote a water conservation ethic among school children and adults. Support efforts and programs to create a concern for water conservation among tourists and visitors to your state. Make sure your visitors understand the need for, and benefits of, water conservation. Conserve water because it is the right thing to do. Don't waste water just because someone else is footing the bill, such as when you are staying at a hotel.