Everyday tasks like washing dishes, taking showers, doing laundry and watering the garden can add up to hundreds of gallons of water used every month. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the average American family of four uses about 400 gallons of water per day. Efficient appliances and fixtures can help, but a little care and common sense go a long way toward minimizing water waste. Conserving water at home will not only keep your water bill lower; it is also better for the environment.
Here are several tips and tricks you can use to reduce your water consumption. Once you make these practices a habit, you’ll be surprised at just how much water you can save.
Conserve water through diet changes
Eat less meat
Our diets account for roughly half of all of the water we use. A lot of water is used to grow, process and transport your food. By eating whole foods which are lower on the food chain you can also save water. Meat production requires an enormous amount of water. Most factory farm animals are fed a diet of corn and soybeans which are water-intensive crops.
How much water is required for common food items?
|Item||Serving Size||Required Water|
|Salad||1 (Lettuce, Cucumber, & Tomato)||21 Gallons|
Try having a meatless Monday or eat vegetarian meals once a week. When you do eat meat, choose pasture-raised animals. Pasture-raised animals are typically grass-fed which requires less water to grow than corn and soybeans.
Reduce your food waste
40% of the food produced globally is wasted. Producing this wasted food accounts for 25% of the water we consume. Read my Food Waste Series for more information on how to reduce your food waste.
Buy in-season produce
Every gallon of gas that is produce uses 3/4 or a gallon of water. By buying in-season and shopping locally you reduce the distance your food has to travel. Here are two guides to help you buy local and in-season produce.
Conserve water indoors
Follow these tips to reduce the amount of water you use when cooking and cleaning up after meals.
- Install a Low-flow Faucet: Traditional faucets have a flow of five gallons per minute. Low-flow faucets have a flow of 1.5 gallons per minute.
- Washing Produce: Wash your produce in a bowl of water and use a scrub brush rather than washing produce under running water.
- Defrosting Frozen Items: Defrost items in the refrigerator rather than under running water.
- Steaming Vegetables: Steam vegetables on top of other ingredients that need to be boiled like rice, potatoes, or pasta.
- Collect Water: Collect the water you use to wash produce and boil ingredients and use it to water your plants.
- Use a Dishwasher: Use a dishwasher rather than handwash your dishes. Hand-washing dishes can use twenty gallons of water or more. Energy-efficient dishwashers can use as little as 4.5 gallons of water. Remember to only run your dishwasher when it is full.
- Pots and Pans: Soak pots and pans to loosen food instead of letting the water run while you scrub them clean.
- Garbage Disposal: Don’t use your garbage disposal. Compost your food scraps instead. Here is a guide on how to build your own compost bin.
Follow these tips to reduce the amount of water you use in the bathroom.
- Use a Bucket in the Shower: Collect water in the shower while you wait for it to warm up. Use this water for cleaning or watering plants.
- Showerhead: Install a low-flow showerhead. Traditional showerheads have a flow of five gallons per minute. Low-flow showerheads have a flow of 2.5 gallons per minute.
- Showers: Try to shorten your showers and turn off the water when you are sudsing up, shaving, or brushing your teeth.
- Fix leaks: Leaks can waste 20 gallons or more of water a day.
- Toilet: Get a low flow toilet or add a plastic bottle filled with water to your toilet tank. Traditional toilets use 5-7 gallons of water per flush. Low-flow toilets use as little as 1.6 gallons of water per flush. Don’t use the toilet as a garbage can. Not only does this increase the number of flushes a day but it could also cause expensive plumbing problems. Check your toilet for leaks by placing a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If any of the food coloring seeps into the bowl there is a leak.
Follow these tips to reduce the amount of water you use when washing your clothes.
- Washing Machine: Choose an energy-efficient washing machine and only use it for full loads. If you must wash a smaller load don’t forget to adjust the water level.
- Line-Dry Your Clothes: Water is needed to produce electricity. By line-drying your clothes, you are reducing your electricity use.
Conserve water outdoors
Lawn and garden
Follow these tips to reduce the amount of water you use outdoors.
- Watering Your Lawn: Water your lawn in the early morning or late evening to reduce evaporation. Avoid watering on windy days. When you do water your lawn, do it long enough for the moisture to soak down to the roots where it will do the most good.
- Watering Your Garden: Use drip irrigation rather than a hose or sprinkler to reduce evaporation.
- Mulch: Mulching around your plants will help to reduce evaporation.
- Plant Choice: Choose drought-resistant plants and grass to reduce the amount of water needed.
- Rain Barrel: Set up a rain barrel under a gutter downspout. Use this water for watering your lawn and garden. Be sure to cover your rain barrel to eliminate a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Remember that you don’t need to follow all of these suggestions. Every little bit of water saved helps and these small steps accumulate. What are some of your water saving tips?