We don’t mean to be a wet blanket here, but we could probably all stand to get a little more wise about our water consumption. Homes and lawns use thousands of gallons of water every month—and that’s only expected to get worse as the population grows. In fact, the Columbia Earth Institute says that somewhere between 30 to 60 percent of urban freshwater goes straight to watering the lawn, where leaking and inefficient sprinkler systems waste millions of gallons each year.
There are other wanton water wasters inside the home, too. Even a very slow leak from a kitchen faucet adds up to tens of gallons wasted every year (to really get a sense of the problem, check out the U.S. Geological Survey’s drip calculator). Inefficient showerheads tack on thousands of gallons of extra water to annual household water consumption numbers. Long showers pour gallons of useful water into our drains; in fact, the EPA estimates that about 20 percent of the average 40 gallons of water used everyday for household hygiene goes to waste. It gets lost while we wait for the tap to heat up or when we take those extra five minutes in the shower.
But what are you going to do, stop bathing? Let your lawn turn to a brittle husk in summer while your neighbors watch on, horrified? If you’re smart, you won’t have to. There are plenty of common-sense solutions to address water inefficiencies in the home. In fact, once you get good at it, saving water can be almost like a sport—it’s almost fun to see how much less you can use. To get you started, here are a couple of tips you can use around the home to reach virtual camel levels in water conservation.
Turn Rainwater into Gardening Gold
Humans have been known to resort to some creative measures to make it rain: in Thailand, for instance, farmers in the central and eastern parts of the country will host a “cat parade” when they are in need of a good shower. Locals carry cats through nearby homes and the residents splash water on them, which is thought to drive away droughts. You could try this custom in your home—or you could just make your rainwater last longer by collecting it for later use. Rainwater harvesting with a barrel stowed under a downspout allows you to get the most out of those summer thunderstorms. Many barrels even have a hose hookup, making watering lots easier. But hey, if you decide to try the cat parade instead, we won’t be offended!
Shore Up Those Leaks
According to the EPA’s estimates, household leaks waste about 10,000 gallons every year—that’s enough water for 100 baths! On the other hand, fixing these leaks not only improves your home’s water efficiency, it may also lower your monthly utility bills too. Some leaks are more obvious than others; it’s pretty easy to suss out the telltale drip, drip, drip from a faulty faucet. A broken sprinkler system or leaking hose is little bit sneakier. In these cases, your best bet is to review your water bill: the average household of four shouldn’t use more than about 12,000 gallons of water per month. You can also use this video from Thornton Water Conservation to learn how to uncover other sources of hidden leaks in the home. Most leaks are relatively easy to fix, even if you don’t have much plumbing experience under your belt. Or you can bite the bullet and hire a pro to fix your home leaks. Even if you save just a few dollars every month, it’s worth it. After all, wouldn’t you rather be spending that money on something fun instead of flushing it down the toilet—literally?
Be “Water-Wise” With Your Mowing
As we mentioned above, thirsty lawns suck down a huge percentage of the local water supply. But there are several ways to boost your lawn’s water efficiency, while maintaining the lush turf you’re used to. One of the simplest steps is to let your grass grow a little bit longer—doing so allows the root systems to become better established, so that your lawn absorbs water and nutrients from the soil more effectively. Another easy fix? When you do mow, keep the clippings on the lawn instead of raking them up. That way, the water and nutrients in the cut blades gets recycled back into your lawn. Saving water by being lazier about lawn care? You can’t ask for a better deal than that!
Install Water-Saving Toilets and Showerheads
A low-flow showerhead is more than just a good gag from “Seinfeld”—it’s an easy way to get back up to 7.5 gallons a minute every time you shower. Meanwhile, if the toilets in your home haven’t been replaced since that episode originally aired, you might want to think about investing in some higher-efficiency models, which can reduce your water consumption by 1.28 gallons a flush. Products like these may even qualify you for a rebate from your local government; check out the EPA’s WaterSense Rebate Finder to find out if you’re eligible. Yep, that’s free money just for upgrading your home. Pretty cool!
Break These Water-Wasting Sink Habits
Most of the time we’re wasting water without even really thinking about it. After all, when access to water is literally right at your fingertips, it’s easy to be cavalier about the amount you use. That’s why it’s worth revisiting some common water-wasting habits to see which ones you can cut out of your daily routine. Maybe you tend to run the faucet while you brush your teeth or keep the water on while you rinse the dishes before they go in the dishwasher. Or you like to indulge in an extra-long shower or use the garbage disposal like it’s going out of style. All the extra water required for these activities adds up fast, which can sink your household’s water efficiency. Longtime patterns like these are hard to break, but research suggests that if you can change your thinking around your habits, you’ll be more likely to stick to your convictions. For instance, just telling yourself “I don’t waste water” instead of “I can’t waste water” may increase your success rate.
Remember, when it comes to water conservation, your efforts are no mere drop in the bucket!