Water conservation is an issue that has become important to people everywhere, even in places where there seems to be an abundance of it. This is because our water supplies are depleting every day, so to prevent the loss of even more of this precious resource, we must learn to practice water conservation
Water Conserving Benefits
While conserving water certainly has a positive effect on your utility bill, there are other reasons to conserve water as well.
- Prevent pollution buildup.
For one, practicing water conservation helps prevent the buildup of water pollution in waterways such as lakes, rivers, and local watersheds. Another good reason to conserve water is the prevention of the greenhouse gas emissions that are connected to testing and distributing safe drinking water.
- Increase the life of your septic system.
Your septic system will last longer if you conserve water because it allows a reduction in saturation of the soil and pollution that result from leaks. Failure to conserve water can overloaded municipal sewer systems resulting in untreated sewage flowing to local waterways such as lakes and rivers. When you reduce the amount of water that flows through these systems, you also reduce the potential for water pollution. Some communities have completely avoided the high cost of sewage system expansion by promoting household water conservation within the communities.
How To Conserve Water In Your Home
The best way to conserve water is upgrading your system to more efficient fixtures. However, this is not the only way to reduce the amount of water you use in your home.
- Avoid using your toilet as a trash can or ashtray.
Whenever you flush a cigarette butt, facial tissue, or other small item of trash, it costs several gallons of water. Instead of flushing it down the toilet and wasting water, put it in the trash can or recycle it.
- Use a float booster or plastic bottles in your toilet tank.
In order to reduce water waste, place an inch or two of sand or pebbles into each of two plastic bottles. What you need to do is fill each of the bottles with water, carefully screw the lids on, then place them in the toilet tank away from any operating mechanisms. Another option is to purchase an inexpensive float booster or tank bank. Pursuing one of these options could save at least teen gallons of water every day. Make certain there are at least three gallons of water remaining in the tank to allow the toilet to properly flush. If the water is not sufficient to allow the toilet to properly flush, users will either hold the lever down for an extended period or will perform multiple flushes to eliminate waste in the bowl. Multiple flushes use more water than one individual two-gallon flush.
- Invest in a toilet flapper that is adjustable.
After you install a toilet flapper that is adjustable, you will be able to make an adjustment for each flush. You would have the ability to adjust the speed of the flush rate in order to achieve the best flush every time.
- Install models that are low or dual flush.
According to Federal regulations, all new toilets must be capable of using a maximum of 1.6 gallons of water per flush. When you replace an old toilet that has an ultra-low volume, you will note a 70 percent savings in water. You will also see a reduction of approximately 30 percent on your indoor water use. You can also purchase either a dual flush toilet or a dual flush converter that will convert a standard toilet to a dual flush toilet. Either of these options will save the average family 15,000 gallons of water every single year. While you can use more water when it is necessary to do so, most of the time you will use 70 percent less thus saving a significant amount of water.
- Switch to a composting toilet.
The most efficient way to save water is by installing a composting toilet that does not need any water. Even better than that is the fact they prevent all the nutrients and pollutants from entering waterways thus making them available to use in landscapes that do not grow food. Some areas may have codes preventing the use of composting toilets, so you want to check the codes where you live to make sure they are legal before you install one.
- Always have a full load before running the washer.
You may want to avoid using the permanent-press cycle when running your washer—this requires an additional five gallons of water for the additional rinse. Adjust the water level to match your individual load.
- Invest in a high efficiency washer.
The best type of washer to have is a high efficiency machine that uses a mere seven gallons of water compared to 54 gallons for a traditional washing machine. Because of the amount of water a high efficiency washer saves, it should certainly pay for itself throughout its lifetime in both water and energy savings. New Energy Star rated washing machines use 35-50 percent fewer gallons of water and a 50 percent reduction in energy for each load. You want to consider the savings in water and energy when you are in the market for a new washer.
- Consider installing timers, low-flow faucet aerators, and showerheads for the shower that are designed to save water.
Low-flow showerheads or restrictors are inexpensive and easy to install. Taking a long shower adds five to ten gallons of water for each unnecessary minute. On the other hand, a low-flow aerator uses fewer than 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Additionally, ShowerStart or a ShowerStart converter pauses running water as soon as it gets warm. This is an excellent idea for those whose shower takes several minutes to warm up.
- Reduce the amount of time you are in the shower.
One of the best ways to reduce the amount of water you use is to turn off the shower while you are lathering and turn it on again when you are ready to rinse off. A four-minute shower uses about 20 to 40 gallons of water, so installing a shower timer can definitely save you a great deal of water.
Faucets and Sinks
- Install Aerators on household faucets.
Installing a low-flow aerator is the easiest and most effective way to conserve water at home. In fact, it is also the cheapest. Installing a low-flow aerator in the bathroom and a swiveling aerator in the kitchen can serve several purposes.
- Don’t leave the water running when brushing your teeth.
There is no reason to keep the water running when you brush your teeth. Wet your toothbrush and fill a glass to rinse your mouth. Once you have done that, you can turn the water off.
- Use the sink to rinse your razor.
Put a few inches of water in the sink—or even in a bowl—and rinse your razor. It will work just as well as running water and use very little water.
- Reduce the amount of times you use the garbage disposal.
Garbage disposals are nice to have, but in order to work properly, they require a lot of water. In addition, they add a substantial volume of solids to the septic tank, which can add to maintenance problems. Instead of using the garbage disposal, begin a compost pile for disposal of food waste.
- Use the dishwasher instead of hand washing your dishes.
While it doesn’t seem possible, it actually takes less water to wash dishes in the dishwasher than it does to hand wash them. This is even truer if your machine is a model that is designed to conserve water. According to the EPA, an efficient dishwasher uses approximately 5,000 gallons less each year than handwashing.
- Don’t keep the water running to rinse dishes.
When you wash dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running to rinse them. If you have a double sink, fill one with soapy water and the other with clear water for rinsing. If you only have a single sink, place the dishes you washed in a dish rack and use a spray device or pan of hot water to rinse them. You can install a dual-swivel aerator to make this easier. There is usually no need to pre-rinse dishes before loading them in the dishwasher.
- When washing vegetables or fruit, don’t leave the water running.
There is no need to leave the water running while you wash fruit or vegetables. Instead, rinse them in a plugged sink or pan that contains clean water. You can also use a dual-setting aerator.
- Keep a bottle of water in the refrigerator for drinking.
You are wasting water when you run the tap to cool the water for drinking. When you store water in the refrigerator, you don’t have to worry about cooling it first, and you will reduce the need for ice. If you enjoy hiking and need water bottles to bring along, you might want to consider investing in a personal water filter which allows you to safely drink from any available body of water.
- Turn off the water in bathrooms you don’t use.
Make sure to turn off the water in bathrooms you don’t use. This will reduce the potential for leaks that go undetected.
- Always check faucets and pipes to detect leaks.
Even a small drip from a worn washer on a faucet can waste as much as 20 gallons of water every day. The existence of larger leaks can cause water waste that amounts to hundreds of gallons. While some faucet leaks are noticed immediately, others take more time to locate. One method for detecting leaks is to dry sinks and tubs thoroughly and walk away for an hour. If you return and find wetness, you’ll know you’ve found a leak. To locate leaks from the handles of faucets, dry the area surrounding the faucet before turning the faucet on. If there is a leak, you will notice water collecting next to the faucet.
- Look for leaks in your toilets.
It’s easy to find leaks in the toilet if you place food coloring in the toilet tank. If you haven’t flushed the toilet, but you notice the appearance of the color in the bowl within half an hour, you know there’s a leak that needs repaired. Most replacement parts are easy to install and not very expensive.
- Keep your eye on the water meter to look for hidden leaks.
Choose a period when there is no water running. Read the meter before and after that time. The meter should read the same if there is no leak.
Other ways to conserve water
- Cover water pipes with insulation.
Insulating your water pipes is easy and inexpensive. Purchase some foam pipe insulation that is already slit to wrap the pipes. The insulation will allow the water to heat faster thus avoiding the waste of waiting for it to heat up. You also reduce the potential for the pipes bursting if the weather should turn extremely cold, and you happen to lose heat, especially if you are away for several days.
- Learn to recycle your water when possible.
Get into the habit of collecting the cold water you run before it has warmed up enough to shower and use it to water houseplants, the garden, or flush the toilet. The water you use to rinse the dishes and prepare food can also be collected and used for other things such as soaking dishes.
- Eat foods that are less water intensive.
Most diets are responsible for half of the water we use. While all food contains a water footprint, some are larger than other ones. Beef, for instance, is one of the most water-intensive foods thus reducing the amount of beef you consume Is a good place to start. You can significantly reduce your water footprint by changing your diet from animal products to plant products.
- Buy fewer products to decrease your water footprint.
Many people don’t think of consumer products as a source of water use, but statistics show they account for as much as a third of each individual water footprint. When you make a concentrated effort to buy fewer goods, you improve the potential for decreasing your water footprint.
- Use an effective irrigation system.
If you use an irrigation system, make sure it is working properly as you begin and end each season. You want to clear any clogs that are visible and adjust the settings to meet the needs of your plants and the season. Plants don’t need as much water when the weather is cooler; likewise, they need more in hotter weather. Set your timer to do the watering in the morning to reduce the amount of evaporation that occurs. This also prevents moisture from remaining overnight.
- Water early in the day.
The best time to water your plants is early in the day instead of dusk. Doing it this way prevents fungus from growing. Both early and late watering schedules prevent water loss because of evaporation but doing it early in the day creates a defense against slugs and other garden dwellers.
- When to avoid watering and how to assess need.
Try not to do any watering when it’s windy as the wind can blow the sprinklers away from their target and lead to early evaporation. You might also consider an automated watering system that has a built-in sensor to detect moisture. This will ensure you are only watering when necessary and during the best time of the day. If you use a timer, you may want to add a rain or moisture sensor to prevent unnecessary watering.
- Provide your garden beds with organic matter.
The addition of organic material to the soil will work to increase its water retention and absorption. If you have areas where you have already planted, you can add compost or organic matter annually. This allows you to turn a healthy compost pile into new beds for your garden as you prepare the soil for planting.
- Use rainwater to water the vegetable beds.
Invest in rain barrels or a catchment system to collect rainwater from your roof. Since plants have a preference for untreated water, they will be healthier if you water them with rainwater.
- Use a moisture meter to determine when you should water your plants.
You can avoid giving your plants too much or too little water by using a soil moisture meter. A moisture meter lets you know when the soil is dry, so it’s only necessary to water your plants when the meter shows dry soil.
- Reduce competition for water by controlling weeds.
Weeds also use water, so if you don’t weed, they will take the water that you intended for your plants. Adding mulch to your soil adds moisture and helps control the weeds.
Lawns and Shrubs
- Plant lawns, shrubs, and plants that are resistant to drought.
When planting a new lawn or adding seed to an existing one, choose grasses that are resistant to drought. There are many shrubs and plants that thrive well with less water than other species. Replace perennial borders with plants that are native to your region. Native plants will not need as much water and will be more immune to the local diseases that affect plants, Apply the principles of xeriscape to achieve a low-maintenance yard that is resistant to drought. You also want to group plants together according to how much water they need.
- Add mulch around trees and plants.
When you add mulch to your soil, you slow moisture evaporation and the growth of weeds. You increase the soil’s ability to retain moisture when you add two to four inches of compost or bark mulch to the soil. Press the mulch into the soil around the drip line of every plant so you create a slight depression. This depression will prevent or reduce the water runoff.
- Position all sprinklers carefully.
You need to position the sprinklers in a way that ensures water lands on the lawn or garden and not on sidewalks or other paved areas. It’s also important to avoid watering when the wind is blowing too hard.
- Only water your lawn when necessary.
A good test to determine whether your lawn needs watering is to walk on the grass. If it doesn’t need watering, it will spring back. Likewise, if it remains flat, it needs some water. If you allow your grass to grow to about 3” before mowing, the soil will retain moisture longer. In most cases, your lawn only needs about 1” of water weekly. During a season that is drier than usual, you can stop watering your lawn and allow it to turn brown and dormant. When cooler weather arrives, both the dew and rainfall will revive it. While this may result in a brown summer lawn, it saves a lot of water. If your lawn is Kentucky bluegrass, you can treat it with Eco-Lawn, a grass seed mixture that results in lowering your lawn’s watering needs over 85 percent.
- Provide your lawn with a deep soak.
When you water your lawn, make sure you do it long enough to allow the moisture to soak all the way to the roots where it will be the most effective. If you only provide a light sprinkling to your lawn, the water will evaporate quickly and allow the possibility of shallow root systems. You can put an empty tuna can on your lawn to assess when you have watered your lawn sufficiently. When it’s full, you have provided your lawn with enough moisture. The average for a healthy lawn is about an inch of water per week, so you want to monitor rainfall in order to know how much water is necessary to maintain a green and healthy lawn.
- Avoid inefficient watering systems.
There are ways to reduce the amount of water you provide shrubs, beds, and lawns by strategic placement of soaker hoses, installation of a catchment system, or installation of a drip irrigation system. The best treatment for trees and woody shrubs is deep watering by using slow delivery irrigation. You want to avoid over-watering plants and shrubs; this can cause a reduction in plant health and cause the leaves to turn yellow. If you are watering the plants manually, make sure you are using a variable spray nozzle to ensure effective targeted watering.
- Maximize water use by planting in “hydro-zones.”
You can save water by making sure you group plants together that have similar watering needs. This ensures you won’t be watering plants that are not in need of water. Keep your plants together that require less watering and do the same for the plants that require more water. With this set up, you only need to water certain zones regularly while watering the plants that are resistant to drought less often.
- Add shade to your yard by planting trees.
Having trees in your yard for shade can also make your house cooler by blocking the hot sun. Shade trees also store carbon which tends to lessen the need for watering. Shade trees help conserve water by protecting both the plants and soil from the sun.
Summary of Water Conservation
Statistics do not favor the overall use of water conservation efforts. In 1990, 30 states reported reductions in water supply (water-stress) conditions. By 2000, the number had risen to 40, and in 2009 a total of 45 states reported water-stress conditions. Unfortunately, there is a worsening trend toward the supply of water through the country. It is essential for everyone to practice water conversation methods at home in order to ensure the future of an adequate water supply. The need to conserve water goes beyond just saving money for an individual; it benefits everyone in the overall community.
- There is no significant cost outlay.
While there are appliances that can save water and systems an individual can implement such as the use of rain barrels, drip irrigation, and on-demand water heaters, all these systems and products are expensive. Fortunately, most methods geared toward saving water are inexpensive. Those that do require the use of some assistance usually require items you already have in the house. Those methods will help achieve an overall savings in the cost of the water usage.
- Practicing water conservation can reduce water usage by 35 percent.
Using products that include water-saving features can help the average person reduce water usage by 35 percent. For the average household using 130,000 gallons every year, this could be a savings of 44,000 gallons annually.
- Define where your water usage is.
The average person uses 75 percent of the indoor water in the bathroom with 25 percent of this used in the toilet. The average toilet uses four gallons of water every time it is flushed. By investing in an ultra-low flush toilet that uses only two gallons of water per flush, you can greatly decrease your water usage.
- Another method to save water in the toilet.
Besides the ultra-low flush toilet, you can also install a tank bank and save about .8 gallons per flush. This is 40 percent of what you would save with the ultra-low flush toilet, but methods such as tank banks, low-flow showerheads, and faucet aerators are less expensive, usually costing less than $50.
- Reduce your water use with water-saving features.
You can reduce your water usage by 35 percent by taking advantage of water saving features. This means the average household using 130,000 gallons per year can save up to 44,000 gallons of water per year. A household using 350 gallons per day could save 125 gallons of water every day. Even an individual using an average of 70 gallons per day could save 25 gallons per day.
- Read the label on low-flow aerators.
Before you buy a low-flow aerator, be sure to check the label for the gallons per minute rating. Sometimes retailers advertise low-flow that are at the top of the low-flow spectrum at 2.5 gallons per minute. You may need the higher rating for the kitchen, but a rating of 1.5 gallons per minute is fine for the bathroom sink and most other sources of water and deliver the same spray in a soft and comfortable stream.
- Installing water-saving devices is a simple process.
Installing devices that will save water is a simple process. This includes the installation of low-flow aerators, showerheads, tank banks, and other devices that help promote water conservation. Many of these devices do not even require tools to install.
- Water conservation methods at home
Water conservation at home is easy to implement and should become part of everyone’s daily life.