Water is one natural resource that many people take for granted. After all, we watch it fall out of the sky. Any time you turn on your tap, you get clear, clean, potable water, with no effort and very little cost. But water is a limited resource. Here in Atlanta, much of the Metro Area is experiencing extreme drought conditions, and surrounding areas are experiencing severe or moderate drought. In fact, large portions of the United States are experiencing at least some level of water shortage. In addition to the limited nature of water resources, using water has other adverse environmental effects. Runoff carries pollution, and water delivery, treatment, and wastewater treatment all have negative impacts on the environment. One way to combat water waste is to make sure that your home is water-efficient. Here are some simple steps you can take to make your home more water-efficient.
Install Low-Flow Fixtures
Most of the water we use is not for drinking or even for preparing food. Most of the water we use at home is flushed down the drain. Toilets are some of the most water-consuming features in any home. Beginning in 1994, U.S. law mandated that all toilets in new homes use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF). However, in millions of homes built before 1994, homeowners are flushing three or more gallons of water with each flush of the toilet. That’s clean, drinkable water being sent straight to the sewers.
Today, many low-flow toilets use much less water than even the mandated 1.6 GPF models. Some modern toilets use pressure instead of a huge amount of water to wash away waste. If you have an old-fashioned toilet and aren’t ready to replace it, put a brick in the water tank. It will work just as well, and the brick will help the water level reach the necessary height with fewer gallons.
Showers are one area where you can save lots of water. Of course, limiting the time you spend in the shower is the best way to reduce waste. But reducing the flow of water is another great way to have your shower without wasting more water than you have to. Modern showerheads can limit the total gallons-per-minute flow of your shower. They can also spread out the water so that you won’t even notice the reduced flow.
Like showers, sinks are also a hotspot for water waste. Making sure you don’t run the sink unnecessarily is the best way to save water. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth or wash your face. To save more water, install low-flow water faucets that limit the total gallons-per-minute flow and spread around the water so you won’t miss the extra gallons.
Don’t Overwater Your Plants
Americans love their green, grassy lawns. It’s part of the American dream. But grass lawns use a lot of water. Instead of a green lawn, consider planting native species that are optimized to survive on the natural amount of rainfall in your area. If you still want a grass lawn, don’t overwater it. Overwatering poses two problems. First, it wastes water. Second, it creates runoff that carries all sorts of pollution into your storm drains. Since storm drains often drain right into local creeks, rivers, and waterways, runoff is a major environmental concern.
An established grass lawn only needs about 1-1.5 inches of water a week. That water can come from a single watering, or it can be divided between two waterings. If it rains during the week, you can skip watering for that week. Don’t give your lawn more water than it needs.
The best time to water your lawn is in the morning before 10 a.m. when cooler weather and low winds minimize evaporation.
If you have a garden, install drip irrigation. It will put the water exactly where it needs to be, and nowhere it doesn’t. Drip irrigation can also water your plants with the minimum amount of water necessary.
Install and Use a Dishwasher
If you have a dishwasher, use it. If you don’t, install one. Besides saving you time and energy, it will save water. Washing dishes by hand in a sink used a lot of water. If your kitchen sink faucet flows at 2.2 gallons per minute (a common standard), you could use over 30 gallons of water in just 15 minutes of dishwashing. An average dishwasher uses only 20% of that, about 6 gallons per cycle. Energy Star rated dishwashers use even less, about 4 gallons per cycle or less. So there is no question that washing dishes by hand is a huge waste of water. Save your pruney fingers and let technology be your friend in saving water.
Go to a Car Wash
Just like washing dishes by hand, washing your car by hand uses lots of water. An average garden hose releases between nine and seventeen gallons of water per minute. That means that even if your hose is on the more efficient end, a 10-minute car wash could use nearly 100 gallons of water.
To make matters worse, washing your car in your driveway sends dozens of gallons of soapy, dirty water right down the storm drains and into local waterways. Water from washing your vehicle contains detergents, motor oil, and other pollutants you wouldn’t want to be released without treatment.
Self-serve car washes use high-pressure hoses that can do a lot more cleaning with a lot less water. A typical self-service car wash uses about 10-15 gallons.
Time Your Showers
For some, a shower is a sacred moment in time. It is a moment away from every distraction, spent in the warm embrace of just the right temperature water. But before you start that 20-minute shower, stop and think about how much water it uses. An average shower uses about 2.1 gallons per minute. That makes an 8-minute shower about a 17-gallon affair, whereas a 20-minute shower can guzzle 42 gallons. So keep those showers brief. If you have a hard time monitoring your shower use, invest in a simple egg timer. Set the timer to about 8 minutes to start, and see how brief you can make your showers.
To save even more water, turn the faucet off while you soap up. You really only need water at three points in your shower: getting wet, washing off the shampoo, and the final rinse to wash off any conditioner and body wash. If you turn off the water when you’re not using it, you could shower with less than 10 gallons of water. And if you install a low-flow showerhead, you could reduce that number even more.
You might want to check local regulations before you do this, but in most places, it’s perfectly legal to collect rainwater. If you have a functional gutter system on your home (I really hope you do), collecting rainwater is easy. All you need is a large drum to collect the water. Place the drum under your gutter and redirect the downspout into the drain. Make sure the water is either treated or sealed to avoid mosquitoes and other bugs. You can buy large water collection drums at most home improvement stores. They come with everything you need to make sure that the water is sealed and to prevent overflowing.
Use your rainwater to water plants, wash your car, or for other non-potable uses. You could even pour some of the collected rainwater into your toilet’s water tank to reduce the amount of potable water it uses.
Let a TrustDALE Plumber Help
If you want to make your home more water-efficient, you can start by talking to a TrustDALE certified plumber in your area. These trained professionals can help you identify areas of water waste and how to shrink your water footprint. You’ll be doing a favor to the environment and your pocketbook.