Smarter Living: Water & Air
Nine Ways to Save Water at Home
Photo: Byron Wigfall
The American Southwest has been long used to drought, but in recent years the Southeast has suffered from water shortages as well. Worse still, as underground water reserves are depleted, salt water from the Atlantic has seeped into aquifers rendering the remainder brackish. Furthermore, the water we use is flushed back into waterways with a new tide of chemicals ranging from pharmaceutical drugs to phosphates in dishwasher detergent. On average, we each use an astounding 170 gallons every day—that’s about three full bathtubs—but all that wasted water (not to mention the energy to heat it) provides plenty of opportunity for conservation without inconvenience. And every gallon we save means money saved on water and energy bills. Here are some simple, but meaningful ways to conserve water without building up a thirst.
1. Fix leaks. This is the single most important thing you can do to save water home: If your indoor or outdoor taps are dripping you could waste 90 gallons or more of water every day. Take a tour of your home and note any taps that need maintenance. For tips on DIY repair and more, see EPA’s WaterSense site.
2. Take two minutes off your shower—you’ll save about five gallons every time you shower. Or think of those WWI nurses and trim your showers to five minutes, which will keep about 12.5 gallons for a better use.
3. Install a low-flow showerhead. New aerating showerheads can reduce the flow from 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) to as low as 1 gpm, while maintaining water pressure by mixing in air.
4. Shower with a bucket. This may sound a little strange but you can capture a gallon or two while you shower. It’s actually a perfect way to wash exercise clothes without having start a new load in the clothes washer.
5. Don’t rinse plates; scrape food off instead. Most dishwashers are built now the remove food residues and pre-rinsing can waste as much as 20 gallons per load.
6. Use the dishwasher rather than wash by hand. Although some people are very efficient at washing by hand, most of us aren’t and that means up to 27 gallons of water per load. A new Energy Star-rated diswasher can consume as little as 3 gallons per load.
7. Use a carwash or, better yet, go waterless. Washing you car by hand not only can use from 80 to140 gallons of water in one go, but will also result in contaminated water containing brake fluid, oil and other automotive fluids entering waterways through storm drains. Carwash services are required to channel water to treatment plants and only use approximately 50 gallons per wash. Waterless car washes, such as those produced by Eco Touch and Lucky Earth, can tackle dusty surfaces with no need for the garden hose.
8. Water your garden with a hose with automatic shutoff nozzle. Garden hoses spray water at a rate of about 8 gpm. That can add up to 80 gallons in 10 minutes but if you add a nozzle with an automatic shut off you can cut that down to 3.2 gpm.
9. Plant a native garden. Flowers, grasses and bushes native to your area have adapted to regional rainfall rates and they have better defenses against predators. As a result, you can water less or not at all without harm and take a pass on pesticides. As an added plus, they foster healthy soil and insect life, which attracts birds and enhances overall biodiversity. To find plants from your area, see the Native Plant Database at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
If you implemented all of these tips, you could save over 4,000 gallons of freshwater per month.
last revised 1/10/2012