On Monday my area of Florida will be under new, stricter water restrictions. In recent years, water conservation has become a major priority in states facing severe water shortages, but experts agree it’s only a matter of time before the problem is felt across the country. Here in Florida we are reduced to watering our lawns once a week. In Georgia the situation is so dire they aren’t allowed to water their lawns at all. To view up-to-date drought conditions across the country, click here.
Never one to miss a golden marketing opportunity, Home Depot sent out a great newsletter about things you can do around your home to save water, and it got me thinking about things I already do and could start to do to save water. These tips will not only help me (and you) save money, they’re good for our environment. A few parts of this post are taken directly from the Home Depot newsletter, but I’m hoping they won’t mind since I’ve linked to their site several times…
In-Home Upgrades to Save Water and Money
Whether or not you live in an area that’s currently dealing with water shortages, there are a number of inexpensive and easy-to-install water-saving fixtures that will result in significant water conservation, and money conservation. It might not feel like you’re making a much of a difference, but you will be.
1. Fix your leaky faucets and toilets. Fixing a leaky toilet can save about 200 gallons of water each day. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year which will add to the cost of water and sewer utilities, or strain your septic system. Test your toilet for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If after 30 minutes the color has not seeped into the bowl you are leak-free. We fixed a running toilet and my water consumption the next month had gone down a nice big chunk!
2. Installing an aerator on a kitchen or bathroom faucet can help cut water consumption while maintaining a smooth, high-pressure flow. We are going to install these next month.
3. A low-flow showerhead costs a little more, but works on the same premise. I need a strong flow in order to be able to wash my very thick hair, and I’ve had no problem since installing these.
If you’re willing to invest more money you can conserve even more, and save more in the long run. Here are some ways to do that.
4. High efficiency toilets use 20% less water than 1.6 GPF (gallons per flush) toilets and 60% less than 3.5 GPF toilets. There are some nifty toilets available – my sister just bought one where the seat is on hydraulics, so no more loud seat slamdowns, thank you very much. There was also one that had separate flush levers for “solid or liquid” (my brother-in-law asked the saleswoman the question I would have asked – “What do you do with diarrhea?” The woman was not amused…)! But I digress.
5. A water recirculating pump saves water and money. Tired of running your faucet or shower waiting for hot water? With this type of system there’s no more waiting. I likely waste hundreds of gallons every month waiting for my shower and sink water to get hot!
6. A tankless water heater provides hot water only as needed, saving you on water and heating costs. While pricey, they will definitely save you money in the long run. And you’ll never have a hot water heater burst again. I’m dying for one of these, but we’re selling our house so don’t want to go to the expense as we won’t realize the long-term benefit. You can bet we’ll have one installed in the new house!
7. An Energy Star-qualified washing machine can save up to 7000 gallons of water a year. And wouldn’t it be nice to have a brand new washing machine? Who am I kidding? I have to use mine until it coughs up it’s last fabric sheet ball. But when it does, Energy Star here I come!
Also, you may want to check for 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.
Keep in mind that various municipalities offer rebates when you purchase water conservation products, so check into that, too.
No money to do any upgrades? No problem. There are plenty of small changes you and I can make in our regular routines that will save water and money.
1. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth or shaving. I’ve done this for years, and my son has learned to do it, too. When shaving fill the sink partway with water and rinse your razor with that. My husband is not so good with this, and I admit I don’t do it while shaving my legs – it gets cold in the shower! We need to work on that…old habits are hard to break!
2. Take shorter showers. When I was in college I lived in a house with four other people with one bathroom and a 10 gallon water heater. I got very good at taking short showers (about 3 minutes unless I’m shaving my legs) and shutting off the water while washing and shampooing, and while I don’t shut off the water while washing and shampooing any more, I still take the three minute shower. My husband, on the other hand, takes a 20 minute shower. We balance each other out, but I’m going to ask him to cut a few minutes off his time. I could also start shutting off the water while washing…I’m not making any promises.
3. Turn down the water pressure while you’re rinsing your dishes. It doesn’t have to be on full blast. I also turn it off completely while I’m soaping up a particularly dirty pot or pan, or if I have to rearrange things in the dishwasher.
4. Only run dishwashers and clothes washers when they are fully loaded. But not so loaded that things don’t get clean. I’ve been guilty of that. You could save 1000 gallons a month!
5. Start a compost heap. Kitchen sink disposals require lots of water to operate properly. Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing food waste instead of using a garbage disposal. Garbage disposals also can add 50% to the volume of solids in a septic tank which can lead to malfunctions and maintenance problems. And the compost is terrific for your garden soil.
6. Keep a container of water in the fridge. That way you won’t need to run the water down the sink until it’s cool enough to drink. We use Brita pitchers, as our tap water is legally potable but honestly, I’d rather lick tar.
7. Wash fruit and vegetables in a half-filled sink or large bowl instead of under running water. I have a really large sink, so I put them a large bowl of water to get off most of the gunk, then give them a quick rinse under a low flow tap. My veggies have never complained.
8. Use cold water when cold water will do. In the kitchen, in the laundry, whenever possible.
9. Turn any toilet into a low flush toilet. The idea is to displace the water in your tank, making the tank think it’s fuller so you use less water each time you flush. You only need three gallons per flush, after all. So take a plastic water bottle (up to a 1/2 gallon), drop a little sand or some pebbles into it, fill it with water, and put it in the tank ( making sure not to disturb the toilet’s working parts). Voila!
10. Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other such waste in the trash rather than the toilet. My husband is notorious for flushing tissues. I hope to convince him this year that it’s just not necessary.
Which brings us to my last and most controversial water-saving method.
10a. If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown, wash it down. When I was growing up there was a pretty severe water shortage in our area. I don’t remember all of the things we were told to do to save water, but this one thing has stayed with me throughout the years. In simpler terms, we were instructed to flush when going Number Two, but not flush when it was only Number One. I remember hearing this at school, I remember seeing it on posters, and I think I remember a commercial.
It’s controversial. Many people think it’s disgusting, including my husband. He grudgingly accepts me doing this at night (so the flushes don’t awaken him), but really, really hates daytime mellowing. Out of respect for him I only do it when he’s not at home. And I never do it away from home.
So, there you have it. According to the EPA, the average household spends as much as $500 per year on its water and sewer bill. By making some of the simple water-saving changes mentioned above, you could save at least a couple of hundred dollars per year. And, if all US households installed water-efficient appliances, the country would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion dollars per year.
That’s a lot of moolah.
If you have any other tips that work for you, please share! Whether you plan to tackle a few small drips, or overhaul your entire household plumbing system, remember that every little bit counts toward preserving water supplies for tomorrow.
Like what you see? Check out more money-saving posts on my Stretch Your Dollar page!