15 Easy Ways to Conserve Water
Small changes can yield big savings for you and the planet
Using even a little less water can save you money while helping the planet. In a drought, “every drop counts,” said Jennifer Bowles, executive director of the Water Education Foundation, a nonprofit focused on raising awareness of water issues in California and the West.
But if you’re already using a water-efficient showerhead and a low-flow toilet, and you’re watering your lawn less often, what more can you do? Plenty.
Experts from the Water Education Foundation, environmental groups, utility companies and others offer these tips.
Let go of the lawn. In California, for example, watering lawns accounts for about 50 percent of a household’s average water use, according to Bowles. In desert areas, it can be as much as 80 percent. Small wonder some cities have restricted lawn watering or banned it watering entirely. If you’re in an area with little rainfall, consider replacing your lawn with bark or low-water use plants.
Plant your garden in the fall, when rainfall is more plentiful.
Water your garden early in the day. Avoid watering your garden or flowers between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., when lots of water is lost to evaporation. By watering in the early morning, the Water Education Foundation estimates homeowners can save on average 25 gallons of water during a single watering. Let some leaf litter accumulate and put mulch around your plants, trees and flowerbeds to retain moisture.
Put a bucket in your shower (and sink) to catch extra water. One rule of thumb is to never put water down the drain when it could be useful elsewhere. If you are running water to heat up a shower or rinsing vegetables in the kitchen sink, use a bucket or pan to catch the water. Thirsty plants will drink it up.
Trap water in a rain barrel. Rain barrels — barrels that catch and store rainwater from roofs — provide many gallons of water you can use it to irrigate your garden most of the season.
Shorten those showers. Sure,we all like to luxuriate in the shower, but keep them to five minutes or less and you could save up to 1,000 gallons of water a month. Need to leave the conditioner in for a couple of minutes? Turn off the water while you wait.
Combine washing and watering. Dirty dog? If you need to wash your pooch, do it outside in the yard so the plants can get a soak, too.
Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. It seems like a small thing, but a family of four could save up to 200 gallons of water a week.
Sweep, don’t scrub. Use a broom rather than a hose to clean sidewalks, driveways and streets. When you wash your car, use a bucket. Using a hose to wash your car is already illegal in some locales.
Take a load off. Make sure washing machines and dishwashers are full before doing a load. If you’re washing dishes by hand, soak pots and pans rather than running water while scraping them.
Pool your resources. If you have a swimming pool, cover it when it’s not in use to prevent water loss through evaporation.
Start a compost pile rather than using the garbage disposal, which consumes lots of water.
Plug leaky faucets. Check for dripping faucets and repair them by replacing the washers. A faucet that drips at the rate of one drop per second can waste 2,700 gallons of water per year, according to water agencies. An easy way to determine if your home is leak free is to check the water meter and then check it again after two hours without using water. If the meter changes during that time, you have a leak.
Check your toilet bowl. To determine whether you have a leak, put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. Wait 30 minutes and check to see if there’s color in the toilet bowl. If there is, replace the worn parts. (Be sure to flush the food coloring to avoid staining the toilet.)
“Go with the flow.” In a campaign in Great Britain called “Go With the Flow,” college activists and administrators at University of East Anglia in Norwich have encouraged students to urinate while they shower. If all 15,000 students did so once a day, the university would save $230,000 a year and save enough water to fill an Olympic-sized pool 26 times over, according to proponents. If this approach sounds less than appealing, you could follow the mantra of other water conservationists: “Don’t flush for number one.”