How To Save Water

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Water (H2O) is a finite natural resource that must be conserved; it is limited and scarce in many places. Even if you live in an area with ample rainfall, using water uses energy to process it, pump it, heat it, pump it, and process it again. Here are some ways to save water.

Steps

Indoors

  1. Install a water meter. You might be very surprised to find out how much water you are actually using. By installing a water meter you can raise your awareness and consequently reduce your water intake.
    • If you already have a water meter, learn how to read it. Among other things, it can be very helpful in detecting leaks. Read the meter once, wait an hour or two without running any water, and read it again. If it has moved, something is leaking.
    • Many water meters have a small wheel or gear that turns fairly rapidly if any water at all is flowing. In the photo, it’s the little blue wheel. If you are sure all your water is turned off and you see this wheel moving at all, you have a leak.
    • If your water meter is underground, you may need to remove debris from the face to read it. Squirt it with a bit of water from a spray bottle.
  2. Check your plumbing for leaks, especially leaking toilets and faucets. Fix anything you find leaking. A silent toilet leak could waste from 30 to 500 gallons every day![1]
  3. Take shorter showers.
    • Take showers rather than baths. By taking a bath you are using up to 100 liters of water! Showering will generally use less than a third of this amount. See the water use table below.
    • Shave outside the shower, or turn off the shower while you shave.
    • Take a timer, clock, or stopwatch into the bathroom with you and challenge yourself to cut down your showering time.
    • Install a valve that fits just behind the showerhead. These valves are inexpensive and simply screw into place. Turn the water on for long enough to get wet. Then, use the valve to turn the water off while preserving the temperature of the water while you soap up. Turn the water on again to rinse.
  4. Catch the cold water that comes out of the faucet, tap, or shower while you are waiting for the hot water. Use it to water plants or pour into your toilet reservoir after flushing.
    • Water from a hot water tank may have more sediment or rust than water from the cold water tank, but is otherwise suitable for drinking. If you use a water filter, you can filter the saved water, and put it in bottles in the refrigerator for drinking water.
  5. Install low-flow shower heads and faucets or faucet aerators. Low-flow devices are inexpensive ($10-$20 for a shower head and less than $5 for a faucet aerator). Most simply screw into place (you may need an adjustable wrench), and good, current units maintain the pressure and feel of the flow while using as little as half as much water as conventional units.
  6. Turn the faucet/tap off while you are brushing your teeth, shaving, washing your hands, doing dishes, and so on. Turn the tap off when you shower, too. Get wet, then turn off the water while you soap up. Turn it back on for long enough to rinse. Look for a twist valve that installs behind your shower head to keep the water temperature where you set it while the water is off.
  7. Wash full loads. Wait until you have a full load of clothes before you wash a load. Don’t wash a load of clothes just because you want to wear the same pair of pants the next day! When washing your clothes be sure to use the economy mode and this will save you both water and electricity! This goes for dishwashers, too. Load the dishwasher full but not overly full.
    • Don’t wash your dishes before you wash your dishes. Do scrape larger pieces of food waste into the trash or compost. If your dishes don’t get clean without pre-rinsing, make sure you’re loading properly, that your dishwasher is in good repair, and that you’re using an effective dishwasher detergent.
    • Dishwashers, especially modern, efficient ones, can actually save water compared to washing by hand, since they pump the same water around inside the tub. If you’re ready for a new dishwasher, check both energy and water usage before you buy. [2]
    • Choose your next washing machine wisely, too. Front loaders use far less water than top loaders.
    • Choose laundry detergents that rinse cleanly and don’t require an extra rinse.
  8. Do less laundry. For this, you and your family will have to produce less laundry, but you will save time and wear and tear on your fabrics, as well.
    • Hang towels on a rack to air dry after you shower. Use them multiple times between washings. It will help if each family member has his or her own towel. Get several coordinating colors, if need be.
    • Shower before bed. Your sheets will not get dirty as quickly and you will be able to launder them less frequently. If you like, in between, wash just the pillow cases with other similar fabrics, or have a spare set you can swap in.
    • Wear clothing more than once. You can also wear the same pajamas for a few nights in a row, especially if you shower before bed. Do change socks and underwear daily, but wear slacks, jeans, and skirts more than once between washings. Wear sweatshirts and sweaters over a t-shirt or tank top and just change only the innermost layer.
    • Don’t change clothes midday. If you have something especially messy to do, such as painting, gardening, or working out, set aside one set of old clothes for that purpose and wear it multiple times between washing, too. If possible, time such activities so they happen just before your regular shower so you don’t use additional clothing or take additional showers.
  9. Use waste water or gray water from the bath, washing machines or dish washing on the garden. If possible, hook up a hose to the outlet on your machine to send the water outside onto your garden. To re-use bath water use a hand-operated Syphon Pump. When hand-washing dishes, rinse the dishes into a container, and empty the container into your garden.
    • Collect water for re-use anytime you are running the water waiting for a particular temperature. Simply run it into a bucket, watering can, or pitcher.
    • If you collect clean water (such as while adjusting water temperature), you also can use it to hand wash delicate clothing.
    • Also collect water that you use for rinsing produce and for boiling pasta or eggs.
    • Use garden-compatible soaps and cleaning products if you collect gray water for gardening.
    • If you’re not sure whether gray water is suitable for plants, you can use it to flush your toilet. Either pour it directly into the bowl, or (provided there is no sediment) use it to refill the toilet tank when you flush.
  10. Use your garbage disposal sparingly. Collect solids in the trash can, rather than putting them down the sink.
  11. Convert your toilet to low flush. Place a plastic bottle of water in the tank to displace some of the water used for each flush. Weigh the bottle down with pebbles or sand, if necessary. Or, try ordering a ‘save-a-flush’ or ‘hippo’ from your local water board.
    • Not all toilets will be able to flush effectively with a reduced amount of water.
    • Make sure there’s a lid on the bottle, especially if there are pebbles or sand weighing it down. You don’t want any pebbles or sand loose in your toilet tank.
  12. Upgrade to a low-flush toilet. Low flush toilets exist that can flush reliably with 1.6 gallons (6 liters) of water and less. Read product reviews to find a good one.
  13. Get or create a dual-flush toilet. Use the half flush button with a dual-flush toilet.
    • You can also buy a dual flush conversion kit to turn your water guzzling toilet into a water saver you can be proud of. Search the web for devices like Selectaflush and twoflush. They both work well and save money.
  14. Don’t flush every time. Remember; “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”
  15. Don’t use your toilet as a trash can. Each time you flush the toilet you use up to 9 liters of clean water.

Outdoors

  1. Catch the rain. Use it for watering your plants, lawn or garden.
  2. Water the garden and lawn at night. Watering at night gives water more time to soak in without added evaporation from the day’s heat.
  3. Water only the areas that need it. Use a trigger nozzle on your hose or a watering can.
  4. Water deeply but less often. This will encourage plants to grow deeper roots, so that they need water less frequently.
    • One way to water deeply with a minimum of water is to water slowly using drip irrigation or micro sprinklers. The simplest form is a soaker hose; other options include drip tape or hoses with emitters. These systems do not lose water to evaporation like overhead irrigation and keep plant foliage dry to help lessen disease. Buried tape applies the water to the root zone for even greater efficency. These systems may need to have acid added to the water to keep calcium or iron from plugging the tiny emiters.
    • Watering deeply but less often goes for lawns, too. The roots of grass don’t grow as deep as those of other plants, but they can still be encouraged by deeper, less-frequent watering.
  5. Use furrows and basins. Dig low areas to water only the root zones of your plants, not unplanted areas around them. [3]
  6. Use mulch on your garden to retain moisture. Ideal mulch candidates include hay, manure, leaves, wood chips, bark, and newspaper. Many mulches are available for free or very low cost. The right organic mulch can also help improve your soil as it breaks down and keep weeds in check.
  7. Grow the grass longer. Don’t mow your lawn too short. Raise the height of your mower blade, or simply let it grow a bit longer between mowing.
  8. Grow no grass or less grass. Plant something besides a lawn or reduce the size of your lawn. Lawns require much more water (and maintenance) to keep growing than many other plants and ground covers.
  9. Plant small trees under big trees. This will help prevent evaporation and provides some shade for your plants. You can also plant a shade garden under trees.
  10. Cover your swimming pool. This helps to prevent evaporation. In some places, emptying and refilling a pool is under severe restrictions, or even banned, so preserving this precious resource is crucial.
  11. Time water usage. Put a timer on your sprinkler and outdoor faucets/taps. Look for inexpensive, automatic timers that screw between the hose and the hose bibb, or install a programmable timer on your sprinkler or drip system. An automatic timer can also help you water at times of day when the water can best be absorbed.
    • If you water something manually, set a kitchen timer before you turn the water on, or stay with the hose the whole time.
    • Know how to adjust your sprinkler and irrigation timer settings for the seasons. Water less or not at all during wetter, cooler weather.
  12. Maintain your sprinklers and irrigation. If you have irrigation on timers, watch it run. Fix broken sprinkler heads and pipes and make sure that spray patterns are directed where they are intended.
  13. Don’t over-water, and don’t water any faster than the soil can absorb the water. If water is running off the lawn onto the sidewalk, cut the watering time or divide it into two smaller segments to allow time for the water to absorb.
  14. Use environmentally friendly cleansers. This will enable you to reuse waste water from washing to water the lawn or garden.
  15. Wash the car on the lawn. Use a trigger nozzle hose and/or bucket. There are even waterless spray-and-wipe car wash products, but they tend to be costly.
    • Wash the car less often. Everyday dust and dirt won’t harm anything if it collects for a little while.
    • Wash the car at a car wash. Car washes may use less water than you can use at home. Car washes also collect and filter the wastewater appropriately.
  16. Don’t wash the driveway or sidewalk with a hose. Use a broom or rake to remove dry matter and let the rain do the rest.
  17. Plant drought-resistant landscaping. If you have a garden, devote an area to hardy plants that need relatively little water. Also, learn about native plants that naturally thrive in your area.
  18. Know how much water plants need to thrive, and don’t apply more water than that.
  19. Grow plants with like water needs together. Sometimes called “hydrozoning,” this method simply means that plants are grouped together by water use, so that they can all be watered appropriately.

Water Use Table
BathingShoweringTotal Use After ___ Days0 liters0 liters0 Days100 liters30 liters1 Day200 liters60 liters2 Days300 liters90 liters3 Days400 liters120 liters4 Days500 liters150 liters5 Days600 liters180 liters6 Days700 liters210 liters7 Days

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Tips

  • Find out if there are any rebates for water-saving devices, depending on where you live. Some municipalities encourage water saving by offering rebates for things like low flow toilets. Others provide free or reduced cost low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators.
  • If there is a water shortage in your area, make sure you understand any restrictions or water rationing.
  • Educate your family members and housemates and enlist their assistance saving water, too.
  • Dispose properly of hazardous materials, including cleaning supplies, motor oil, fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, pesticides, and fertilizers. While proper waste disposal does not directly conserve water, it is critical to preserving the safety and quality of the water supply that is available.

Warnings

  • If you choose to reclaim gray water for garden use, make sure that any soaps or detergents you use are safe for that purpose. Don’t use gray water for food plants.
  • If you’re collecting rainwater, be sure to mosquito-proof your collection system.
  • Due to water rights laws, collecting rain water may be illegal in your area, so check with your community or county first.

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

Try to save water whenever you can… and encourage others to save it too!

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