Ways to reduce your water consumption

21 Ways to Save Water and Money

by Lynn Bulmahn


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During the Great Depression, my grandmother said that folks saved water (and money) by bailing out bathtubs with buckets and sloshing their dirty bathwater on outdoor plants.

When I lived in Florida in the early 2000s, our county restricted outdoor watering to twice a week. During droughts, this threatened my rose bushes. Like Grandma, I also bailed bathwater, reusing maybe one to two dozen gallons each time. It took a while, but my roses survived.

Saving water is important because droughts and population growth have strained water supplies all over. It's been said that at least 40 states in the U.S. predict water shortages by 2023. In 2009, 45 states reported "water stress." This was up from 30 states in 1990.

Water stress occurs when the "demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period," according to the European Environmental Agency. It also occurs when poor water quality restricts its use, as in Flint, Michigan.

Many utilities are raising water rates. We all need to conserve both water and money. Here are ways to avoid being left high and dry:

  1. Do not run water unnecessarily while brushing your teeth or washing the car.
  2. Turn off faucets while you shampoo or shave. This will save between 150 and 300 gallons, respectively, per month.
  3. Only run dishwashers and washing machines with full loads, using the shortest cycle necessary.
  4. If a chore can be done sans water (think scraping dishes or sweeping driveways), don't turn on the faucet.
  5. Showers, especially quick ones, use less water than baths. A low-flow shower head slashes usage. Also, be sure to turn off the water while lathering.
  6. Do you have an ultra-low flow shower head? You should. Time how long it takes to fill a gallon bucket in your shower. Under 20 seconds indicates a water-waster. When I replaced my old water-guzzling shower head, the hot water lasted a lot longer.
  7. New homes have low-flow toilets using a little over a gallon a flush. Really old toilets may use seven gallons per flush! Therefore, some utilities offer rebates for replacing them. If your toilet was manufactured before 1992, you can also put a brick or a sealed plastic bottle filled with pebbles and water in the tank to displace excess water.
  8. Dripping faucets? One drop per second adds up to 2,700 gallons a year. Call a plumber or handyman if you can't DIY.
  9. Even though bathrooms use a large amount of all water flowing into your home, lawns and gardens gulp hundreds more gallons.
  10. How to Save Water and Money

  11. Hate mowing? Install drought-resistant ground cover, a deck, or a patio over a wide swath of yard. (Your kids might vote for a swimming pool!)
  12. In extreme droughts, some folks let their grass go dormant and only water it once every two to weeks, which is just enough to keep it alive.
  13. Xeriscaping (water-saving landscaping) is a trend gaining ground. Your county agriculture extension agent can recommend drought-resistant plants for your area. Group plants according to watering needs. Don't drown one species as you water its thirsty neighbor.
  14. Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation, not sprinklers that spray a fine mist. Water the roots; don't just wet the top. Irrigate only if necessary. More gardeners kill from over-watering than from neglect.
  15. Be sure to water in cooler morning or evening hours, so the blazing sun doesn't cause evaporation.
  16. One town's laws mandated automatic sprinkler systems have rain sensors. If it rained, they won't automatically turn on. It's a great idea!
  17. Be sure your sprinkler water is going where it needs to go. Hand water if you can't adjust the sprinkler.
  18. If it's 85 degrees or cooler, your yard only needs about an inch of water per week, including rainfall. Hotter weather ups this to an inch and a half. Before watering, ensure the ground is bone dry below the surface. Mulch, such as fallen leaves, slows evaporation and so does cutting the grass a little bit higher.
  19. Are you heading for debt trouble? This simple checklist can help you.

  20. Coming home from a fast-food run or eating outdoors? Toss your remaining ice onto a plant. Leftover dish water or aquarium water can be reused on plants instead of dumped down the drain. The same is true with cooking water left in a pot or old coffee (after cooling down).
  21. Rain barrels let you reuse rainwater. It's full of nitrogen and good for all plants.
  22. Compost any produce waste, tea, and coffee grounds. Don't use the garbage disposer.
  23. On hot days, let the kids run through the sprinkler on a dry lawn; the grass and your children will be refreshed. Or bathe the dog outdoors.

Various sources estimate Americans, on average, use anywhere from 100 to 176 gallons of water per person per day. Water use is one area where it pays to be below average!


Take the Next Step:

  • Discover smart ways to save on all of your utility costs by visiting the Dollar Stretcher Library.
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