The average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water daily. Unfortunately, water use takes its toll on the environment, because it needs to be cleaned, delivered, and then treated, using energy and resources every step of the way. Water conservation helps protect natural ecosystems and aquifers, saving both energy and money.
Follow these tips to reduce water use in your home.
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Step 1: Identify Water Leaks
The average U.S. household wastes about 10,000 gallons of water every year because of leaks. Play detective and look for leaks (which can also cause mold issues in your home). If possible, use your water meter to determine if you have a leak by following these tips. Toilets are a common culprit, so listen for it filling between use and follow these instructions for identifying toilet leaks.
When you shower, look to see if water is dripping where the shower arm connects to the shower head. This can usually be fixed by ensuring a tight connection. Outdoor spigots and faucets are other common culprits. When leaks arise, fix them immediately instead of letting them linger; even slow leaks add up over time.
Step 2: Get Creative in the Kitchen
Opportunities abound to reduce water use in the kitchen. Instead of washing a drinking water glass after each use, reuse it throughout the day. If steaming veggies, save this vitamin-rich water for soups. You can also use that water — as well as water from cooking pasta, eggs, and potatoes — to feed your house plants.
When rinsing dishes or veggies, use a pot or basin to reuse water. If possible, scrape food from dishes and don’t rinse them before loading the dishwasher. If necessary, rinse in cold water instead of warm or hot water to save energy and run the dishwasher only when it is full.
Step 3: Install Water-Saving Fixtures
Roughly 24% of home water use is consumed by flushing the toilet. Although it is a wonderful invention, toilets consume a lot of water over time. Some older toilets use up to 7 gallons per flush! Replace older toilets with a WaterSense-labeled model — check our efficient toilet buyer’s guide for recommendations. If you’re not ready for a new toilet, consider installing a conversion kit to convert standard toilets into a dual flush toilet, using less for liquid waste.
Water-efficient shower heads save both energy and water. Most shower heads state the flow rate on them in gallons per minute (GPM). If you want to find out how much your current shower head uses, take a 1-gallon bucket and place it under the shower head and time how long it takes to fill up. If it is full in 20 seconds, the flow rate is 3 GPM. When replacing, choose a model that uses 2.5 GPM or less. Some models also have a convenient pause feature, helpful in quickly turning on and off the water if you jump out of the shower to get something or to turn the water down while lathering up or shaving. Also, ensure your faucets have aerators, which can save a gallon of water per minute by using air to maintain water pressure.
Step 4: Select An Energy-Star Washing Machine
Older washing machines can use more than 40 gallons of water per load. Since the average household does 300 loads per year, this number really adds up. Next time you replace your washer, choose an Energy Star washer, as Energy Star models use 35% less water and 20% less energy than comparable models (check out our clothes washers buyer’s guide). A full-size Energy Star washer still uses 15 gallons of water for a load of laundry, so try to run only full loads and use cold water to save energy.
Feature image courtesy of Peter Dutton. Originally published on July 27, 2015, this article was updated in August 2021.