When you waste water in the home, you’re letting more than just H2O disappear down the drain; for every drop that goes unused, expensive reclamation, treatment, and transportation has been invested to make that drop fit for human use. The costs associated with these processes find their way onto your utility bill, and boy, do they add up quickly. At the same time, the energy used in water treatment and transportation generally comes from coal-burning power plants, which are the single biggest offenders when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Add these points together, and you have a very valid reason for wanting to see as little water as possible flowing unused down your drain. But how can you be sure that you’re making the most out of what comes out of your faucet? Well, have no fear, because we have quite a few helpful tips on how to conserve water in and around your home.
Let’s take a look at the area of the house that accounts for 64% of average total home water usage – the bathroom:
1. Reduce the length of your showers
2. Collect unused shower water in a bucket
If you’re the kind of person who prefers to let the water warm up before you step into it, you should know that there are better uses for that water than keeping you bathmat hydrated. By placing a large bucket underneath the flow of water, you can save it for watering plants or rinsing dishes.
3. Repair leaks
A dripping bathroom faucet or constantly running toilet may not seem like that big of a deal, but over time, little leaks can really add up. For example, a single faucet that drips once per second, will end up wasting 2,082 gallons per year. The good news is that often times a leaky faucet can be easily repaired, just by replacing a washer (here’s a helpful how-to video). As for toilets, there are several easy repairs (as demonstrated here) that can be done without having to contact a plumber, as long as you familiarize yourself with the basics of how the toilet works. You can also see for yourself whether you have a slow leak in the toilet by placing a few drops of food coloring into the tank, and then checking to see if any discolored water ends up in the bowl.
4. Reduce the amount of water used in each flush
Toilets are the biggest water wasters in the home, accounting for approximately 30% of total water consumption. Older model toilets (those made before 1993) may use anywhere from 3.5–8 gallons of water per flush, which sits in stark contrast to the 1.28 gallons of water or less used per flush by more modern fixtures. You can reduce the amount of water used in each flush by filling a half-gallon plastic bottle with sand, making sure its lid is tightly secured, and placing it standing up in the toilet tank. If the container isn’t heavy enough, it could move around inside the tank and get in the way of the flushing mechanism, so be sure to use enough sand to keep it stationary. The bottle will displace a portion of the water in your tank, reducing the amount that you use with each flush!
5. Reduce the temperature
It takes energy to heat water, and if you’re draining your hot water tank every morning when you step into the bathroom to get cleaned up, that will add up. However, if you can get used to the idea of showering with cold, or even lukewarm water, then not only will you save energy, but you’ll also probably spend less time under the stream. And, as an added bonus, you’ll find that the colder water is great for eliminating any residual drowsiness.
6. Turn off the faucet
We tend to spend a bit of time in front of the bathroom sink throughout the day. Washing our hands, brushing our teeth, shaving—these all use water. And if we allow the faucet to run while we take care of these various tasks, then think of how much water we end up wasting. Thankfully, this is a simple problem to solve; all you have to do is turn off the water when you’re not using directly using it. When brushing your teeth, use the water to wet your toothbrush, and then turn it off while you brush, only turning it on again to rinse. When shaving, stop up the drain and fill the basin as opposed to using a running stream. Anytime you can turn off your faucet, you’ll be conserving water.
7. Recycle bathwater
If you prefer baths over showers, you can still make a difference by recycling your bath water for use in your garden once you’re finished. Just get a few buckets or empty bottles, and fill them up from the bath once you’ve gotten out. This recycled “grey” water won’t hurt the plants in your yard, as long as you don’t use bath salts or an excessive amount of soap.
8. Let it mellow. . .
It may seem disgusting, but there’s really no harm in not flushing every time you use the toilet. A little bit of urine won’t harm the toilet bowl if you let it sit for a while, although you might not like the idea of your liquid waste stagnating in the toilet. Still, if you’re really serious about saving water, this could reduce your daily number of household flushes significantly. Just make sure that you’re always flushing any solid waste.
9. Install a faucet aerator
A faucet aerator is a small attachment that can be screwed onto the tip of most modern faucets. The aerator works by separating the single water stream into several smaller streams, effectively mixing the water with air, thus reducing overall water use. Just remember: An aerator should be removed and cleaned periodically, so that mineral deposits and other particulate matter doesn’t build up inside of it.
10. Invest in low-flow fixtures
If you’re really serious about water conservation, then replacing your existing faucets, showerheads, and toilets with low-flow models may be the way to go. Low-flow fixtures reduce the amount of water used with each flush, shower, or turn of the faucet handle, and in most cases, the resultant energy saving more than pay for the cost of the new fixtures within a year or two. Perhaps best of all, the newest low-flow fixtures are designed to operate just as well as conventional models, which means that you won’t have to give up performance in order to help save the environment.