The average U.S. household uses almost 100 gallons of water daily, indoors alone. Multiply that by 365, and you could fill a swimming pool. That doesn't count outdoor tasks such as lawn care and car washing.
For residents of 16 states experiencing some drought conditions and more than a dozen others contending with an unusually dry summer, conserving water is increasingly essential for the environment. It also can provide significant savings on water bills. Here are several simple steps to cut your household's water use by a third or more.
Lowering your flow: Toilets typically guzzle the most water in a home, especially toilets made before 1992, when new codes mandated more efficient models.
Start by putting a brick or large rock in the tank so it takes less water to fill. Stop flushing down bugs, tissues and other random items. Use a trash basket instead. Then consider switching out the old commode to cut the water you use per flush by half or more. Models using 1.6 gallons per flush cost about $100 and up, plus installation.
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Shutting the spigot: A gallon of water can flow through a bathroom faucet every 30 seconds. Start by shutting it off while you brush your teeth for the two minutes twice daily that dentists recommend. That can save just under eight gallons of water a day – per person. Similarly, when washing dishes or pots by hand, fill one with warm soapy water and turn off the faucet while you scrub. Then consider a dishwasher (from about $260, plus installation), which can cut water use by three-quarters for a typical meal's dishes.
Watching the washer: Clothes washers consume about 15 gallons of water per day per capita.
Start by waiting until the machine is full before running a load. It takes the same amount of energy to run a small load as a jumbo. And, when you must wash a small load, make sure to adjust your water level. Then consider swapping your top loader for a front-loading U.S. rated Energy Star model (about $550 and up). You could cut the water you use cleaning clothes by half and the energy you spend on laundry by one-third.
Sneaking up on leaks: Small leaks can cost big bucks. At the rate of a drip per second, your sink or bathtub faucet could send 2,700 gallons of water down the drain unused in a year. The solution can be as simple as replacing a worn-out washer inside.