Like many other Americans, water is not something I’ve thought about through most of my life -It’s just an ordinary thing of an ordinary day. It’s easy to take water for granted since it flows easily out of the tap. Then it’s mind-blowing to me to know how hard it can be for people to access safe water in many parts of the world.
Droughts in California. Diminishing of water reservoirs in Cape Town. Water rationing in Rome. And in India, many people are dealing with limited water supply and poor quality of drinking water. In the rural parts of the country, people are fighting every single day against long distances and harsh weather conditions to get access to clean and safe water.
It doesn’t take a hydrologist to realize that water crisis is one of the most important global issues that our world is facing nowadays. In fact, Bank of America Merrill Lynch reports that water scarcity is one of our biggest problems worldwide, and there are 1.2 billion people live in areas where they don’t have access to clean drinking water and likely spend their entire day searching for it. In a recent report, NASA pointed out that our world is running on the brink of a freshwater shortage. Rivers and lakes disappearing increase around the world and the world is heading toward a water-secure future. The UN expects that 3.4 billion people will be living in countries highly stressed for water by 2025. When water is scarce, people living in these countries are forced to consume contaminated water.
If you’re anything like me, you are freaking out about the water scarcity, and you want to do something, anything, to prevent this from happening because this is not a problem for “them” or “those”. It’s a problem for “us” and “we”. And one of the best ways we can do is to conserve water.
The good news is that conserving water does not to be difficult or expensive. There are a lot of things you can do to cut down on your water consumption.
Better late than never. It’s never too late to start saving water. Making just a few small changes to our daily habits can result in big water savings. So I’m here to provide you with some tips for saving water on a daily basis both indoors and out.
How you can help
We all can make a positive contribution to solving the water crisis.
First of all, simply change your mindset. Instead of thinking of your tap water as an abundant resource or a renewable resource, think of it as having limits or a non-renewable source.
Alexandra Cousteau, an advocate on the importance of water conservation, said: “When it comes to understanding the challenges to understand water, I really think we focus too much on ‘scarcity’. Water is and always has been scarce”. She goes on to say “The truth is, we really need to go back to grade school Earth Science class and remember that water on the planet exists in an interconnected cycle.”
To put things into perspective, find your own water footprint – is the amount of water your family consumes in daily life (You can get your water footprint using a quick calculation or continue to the extended calculator). You might be surprised by how much water you actually use on a daily basis because you may not see the “invisible” water that was used to grow your food and to produce your clothes and the things you buy. That said, our use of water is not limited to bathrooms, kitchens, and gardens. On a daily basis, we contribute to the consumption of large volumes of water when buying products, from the food we eat, the energy we use.
By measuring water footprints, you cannot only know how much water you use on a day-to-day basis, but you will also get a clear picture of how water is used in today’s consumer society. Understanding our water consumption can help you learn how to save water by making changes in your diet or lifestyle.
And now, without further ado, here are several ways to can do to reduce your water consumption while saving big bucks on your water bills.
Save water in the kitchen
Do the dishes properly
It takes less water to wash dishes in an automatic washer than to wash by hand if it is a modern model and you’re washing full loads. Studies have shown that 27 gallons of water per load by hand versus as little as 3 gallons with an energy-efficient dishwasher.
If you have a dishwasher, use it, especially it’s an energy-efficient dishwasher. A full, energy-efficient dishwasher cleans best and brings the best results in saving water.
- Scape off the food scraps with a utensil over the trash or the compost pile before you load it.
- If you use a new dishwasher that doesn’t require pre-rinsing, then a pre-rinse is unnecessary. If you have to rinse your dishes, use the washer’s pre-rinse instead or rinsing them in the sink – it uses less water.
- Test your machine – Run a full load of dishes on the lowest setting and shortest cycle. Change a cycle that’s a little bit longer if your dishes aren’t clean. After a few tests, you will find the cycle sweet pot that cleans best with the lowest possible amount of water used.
- Since most dishwashers use the same amount of water, even if it’s only cleaning one or ten dishes, so wait until it’s full. If you need a dish but the dishwasher isn’t full yet, wash it by hand instead of running the entire dishwasher.
If you don’t have a dishwasher, you can still reduce the amount of water with hand-washing by following these steps below:
- Scrape your plates with a spatula before food has a chance to dry. By doing this, you will save the water you use to run the disposal.
- Place the well-scraped dishes in a pile right by the sink instead of starting your water and then reaching for dishes one at a time.
- Read your soap’s label and use the amount specified on the label. If you’re using too much dish soap, you’ll need more water to wash away the suds.
- Fill up your sink with warm water and detergent, shut off the faucet, and then wash a stack of dishes at a time. Once your water becomes cold, dirty, or loses all its suds, let half of it drain and add fresh water. By not washing dishes one by one under constantly flowing water, you can save 200-400 gallons a month.
- Fill up the sink with cool water and rinse the dishes by immersing them in the water. You won’t need to refill the rinsing water unless it gets soapy.
- Drip dry. Ok, drip drying dishes has nothing to do with conserving water, but has everything to do with saving time!
Save water while cooking your fruits and vegetables
Wash your vegetables and fruits in a bowl of water instead of leaving the water running. You can expect to save up to 35 gallons per month with this simple way.
You can save water by steaming your vegetables instead of boiling. Steaming vegetables requires a lot less water and also preserve flavor and nutrients.
If you still want to boil your vegetables, there are still ways of saving water. First, just use enough water to cover vegetables. Second, boil the water in your electric kettle first (since electric kettles are constructed to boil water faster than a pot on the stove), then pour the boiled water over your vegetables and put the lid on the saucepan so they boil quicker. This will save you water, energy, and money.
And when you’ve finished boiling, keep on saving water by using the gray water from boiling vegetables for soups, sauces or gravy. If you are not going to use the water right away, keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
If you don’t want to use the vegetable cooking water in your recipes, just use it to water your garden. Make sure to avoid watering garden with the water that contains more than a trace of sugar, oil, salt, or starch. Also, use the water as soon as it cools down so it won’t get nasty with bacteria.
Don’t use water for defrosting
Using water to defrost frozen food is a waste. Just leave them in the fridge overnight. Or go and enjoy a cup of tea while everything thaws at room temperature or in the sun. Food will be defrosted and water will be saved at the same time.
Invest in a water aerator
Much like a low-flow showerhead, adding flow-reducing aerators to faucets can drastically cut down on water use without compromising performance. These aerators are easy to install and cost just a few dollars.
Save water in the bathroom
Did you know that a 10-minute shower with a standard shower head takes 25 gallons while an average bath requires 30 gallons of water?
Most people are not aware of how much water they use while taking their ordinary baths or showers, but showers or baths are typically the third largest water use after toilets and clothes washers in an average home.
So the first way to save water in the bathroom is…
The 5-minute challenge
As I said, a shower often uses less water than a bath, but the amount of water you can save actually depends on the efficiency of the showerhead and length of time for a shower.
To get started, here are five ways to measure a five-minute shower:
- Use a shower timer or a simple kitchen timer
- Set a watch timer or using a timer function on your smartphone
- Listen to any five-minute song (This is my favorite way)
- Sing the ABC’s 10.5 times. Stops after M on the 11th time.
- Count backward from 300 – this is meditative and useful
Tip: Be sure to have fun doing this or your 5-minute challenge will fail. A little friendly competition can be fun. It can be a husband/wife, child, or family member. You can challenge your family member to take 5-minute showers as well.
While a standard showerhead uses 12.5 gallons for 5 minutes, a low-flow showerhead uses around 8-10 gallons for 5 minutes. Consider installing a water-saving showerhead for additional savings. You don’t need a complete bathroom remodel to start saving. If you’re looking for a great low-flow showerhead, you may want to check High Sierra’s Low Flow Showerhead.
By using a low-flow showerhead and reducing your shower time to 5 minutes, you can reduce your water usages, saving thousands of gallons of water a year.
Collect shower water
What is the first thing you do when you take a shower? You turn on the water and wait for the cool water to begin running warm. While you’re stripping down to your suit, making crazy faces in the bathroom mirror or doing other regular things, all that water is running wasted down your shower drains – and you’re paying for it.
Now, let’s look at how much water is typically wasted while waiting for it to get hot?
Let’s say it takes one minute for the shower water to warm up. An average showerhead uses 3.5 gallons per minute. If you take seven showers a week, in a year, the wasted water equals 1274 gallons of shower water a year.
As you can see, tons of gallons of water a year per household is wasted while waiting for the water to get hot. But there is something that we can do to stop this waste.
Put a bucket in the shower to collect the water.
Once you are ready to take a shower, remove the full bucket and put it aside. Then, the next time you need to flush your toilet, water plants, or clean the home, you can use this water. By doing this, not only you are saving 1274 gallons of shower water a year, you are also saving another 1274 gallons in toilet flushes. Which also means, you won’t have to pay for the wasted shower water that would have gone right down the shower drain – plus you won’t pay for the water that used for flushing your toilet. Huzzah!
You can save even more water if you use the bucket to capture clean water while you’re showering. But be careful you don’t get shampoo or soap in the bucket water if you plan to use the water for your plants.
Save water with your toilet
Since most indoor water use involves toilets, this is a good place to start saving water. Here’s a look at water-saving strategies for your toilet.
Check your toilet for leaks
Toilets are one of the most common sources of water waste in the home. Sometimes, it’s easy to tell if your toilet is leaking, when the water can be heard running. But some leaks are not as easily discovered, meaning the water may not be seen or heard running, these are called silent leaks. To determine if your toilet has a silent leak, drop a little food-safe eye in the tank. Do not flush. Give it 10 minutes. If that color becomes visible in the bowl, your toilet has a silent leak.
The “bottle in the tank” method for older toilets
One easy and inexpensive way to save water used in toilet flushing is to minimize the amount of water needed to fill its tank after each flush. To do this, there’s one thing you can do right now to make an immediate difference: put a plastic bottle filled with water in your toilet tank to reduce the amount of water that flushes out.
I’ve also heard of people putting bricks in the tanks of the toilets in their house. Bricks, however, are ideal for this, as they have the potential to deteriorate and clog the plumbing. Instead, find a plastic milk jug and place a few items inside it such as rocks, then fill the rest with water. Take the lid off the toilet tank and drop the plastic jug into the tank, without interfering with the moving parts inside the toilet.
If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, try the Tank Bank. This tool clips onto the side of your tank and it saves approximate 0.8 gallons per flush.
Upgrade your toilet
Most likely, you’re current dumping more than a gallon of drinking water down the sewer each time your flush. While an old toilet uses up to 5 gallons per flush, a WaterSense-labeled toilet uses only 1.6 gallons for a full flush and 0.8 gallons for a half flush. So converting your old toilet to a water-saving toilet is one of the effective ways to conserve water at home. Here’re three main types of water-efficient toilets to consider if you’re willing to spend some serious cash.
This type of toilet is used internationally and is more expensive than other types of toilets.
A dual-flush toilet saves water by offering two ways to flush: a low volume flush for liquid waste only and a full volume flush for solid waste. It uses either two buttons or two separate handles to distinguish between half and full flushes. This high-efficiency toilet has a much larger trapway than a standard toilet and uses a wash-down flushing design instead of a siphon system, so it can use much less water to get the job done. However, the main issue with this toilet is flushing doesn’t always get rid of all the waste so you will be more active with your toilet brush.
By using a new dual-flush toilet, you will use only 20% of the water used in a traditional one. Dual-flush toilets have become more mainstream, so you might be ready to take the plunge and install one.
In case you don’t want to go as far as purchasing a new toilet, you can retrofit the dual flush functionality onto your old toilet by using a dual-flush conversion kit. The bowl will still use the siphon system to get rid of the waste, but you will have two options – the partial or full flush.
This type of water-saving toilet was first introduced to the market in 1984 and is used more in commercial premises since it is more expensive to purchase and install and it is sometimes louder when flushed than other types of toilet.
These days, pressure assisted toilets growing in popularity since they are a water efficient toilet and they leave the bowl cleaner because the flush is stronger and the water level in the bowl is higher.
Despite looking identical to standard toilets, the pressure assisted toilet operates using compressed air which acts like a spring and pushes the water into the bowl more forcefully. So no additional pumps or other devices are needed.
Composting toilets or waterless toilets
While not for the faint of heart, this is considered as the most water-efficient type of toilet since it operates without any water. Composting toilets treat the waste by a biological process called composting. In the toilet, the solid waste is composted by bacteria, while the urine is diverted off to prevent the creation of anaerobic decomposition which results in nasty odors and vector problems. If you’re interested in this eco-friendly option, I highly suggest checking out The Humanure Handbook. It’s a fascinating read.
Turn the tap off
Yes, you can save a lot of water by simply turning off the tap while you soap up and wash your hair, while you brush your teeth or shave, while you wash your hands, and many other uses.
Turn off the tap might seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes we are busy and become careless while doing something on a regular basis.
When it comes to conserving water, every little bit helps. Turn off the water while washing your hair and save up to 60 gallons a month.
Turn off the water while brushing your teeth can save up to 30 gallons of water per month. Which means you can save up to 360 gallons per year for every person in your home that brushes with the tap off.
Save water in the laundry room
Washing laundry is a significant use of water in the average home – about 20 percent of the water consumed in the average home. Washing and drying clothes not only uses a lot of water but you also use energy and detergents. Here are some ways to reduce your consumption of water and energy while doing laundry.
Start with the right washing machine
The best way to save water in the laundry is to make sure you choose the high-efficiency washers. These machines are typically font loading washing machines. According to EPA (The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), a traditional washing machine uses 40-45 gallons of water per load, but a water- and energy-efficient model uses less 28 gallons of water, saving of 6000 gallons of water per year for an average family.
One of the most important factors when choosing a water-efficient is the water factor rating. The rating is based on the amount of water used per cubic feet of the washing machine. The smaller the rating, the more water efficient the clothes washer.
Run full loads
Only use your washing machine for big loads. If you only have a few items to clean, wait until you get a big pile of dirty laundry that you can wash at once. Some older washing machines don’t have a function to know how many items you have in there, so they tend to use more water than necessary.
Keep laundry count to a minimum
Of course, the best way to save water in the laundry room is to do less laundry!
Most likely, the slacks and shirt you wore yesterday are still clean enough to wear today. They can be worn more than one time, however, you want to change your socks and underwear on a daily basis.
Wearing your clothes at least twice before throwing them in the hamper not only helps to save a lot of water but also prevents wear and tear on your clothes. In case, you’re worried that people noticing you wore the same clothes for two days in a row, you can skip a day and wear them the next day instead. In truth, very few people will remember what you wore the day before unless what you wore was very eye-catching (bright colored shirt for example).
You can also keep laundry count to a minimum by washing your household’s towels when they actually need to be washed. You don’t need to launch your towels after a shower because you are clean when you get out of the shower. Just make sure you hang them up to air dry and you can use them a number of times before washing.
Save water in your garden
I would like to share with you a great tip that helps me save a lot of water in my garden is: Try watering your garden in the early morning or the evening when it’s cool outside. This helps cut down on evaporation due to high temperatures and wind speed.
Now, let’s see some more tips on conserving and managing water efficiently.
Plant flowers that need less water
You really don’t need to sacrifice style and beauty while saving water in the garden because some plants require less water than others to grow such as lavender, butterfly bush, palms, verbena. Choosing low water-use plants combined with basic management practices can keep gardens healthy and full of color while saving water.
Don’t forget native plants, not only do they look fabulous but they save you water too! Native plants generally require less water and general care since they are naturally adjusted to the local climate.
Drip irrigation is a form of irrigation where water and fertilizer are fed only near the root system of the plants. This system is very efficient in water saving since it helps to reduce evaporation by directing water to plant roots. Drip irrigation is ideal for a small garden and is highly effective at supplying one to three gallons of water per hour directly to the soil.
Most keen gardeners are well aware of the importance of mulch in helping to keep water from evaporating out of the soil on hot summer days.
But did you notice that using organic matter is also a great way to help conserve water in the garden?
The use of compost will allow the soil to hold water a lot longer, especially if combined with mulching. For example, if you water your vegetables every three days and start using compost, you could probably push that watering out to seven days with no obvious change in the health and vigour of the plant.
Make sure garden hoses don’t leak
According to EPA, approximately 10% of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day. Don’t forget garden hoses!
Check your garden hose for leaks at its connection to the spigot. If it leaks while you run your hose, simply replace the nylon or rubber hose washer and use pipe tape to ensure a tight connection to the spigot.
Water at the right time
Many of us over-water our gardens. This is not only wasteful, it also means we are doing more than required. A good way to avoid that is to check the moisture level of the soil by sticking your finger into the soil. If it is damp, it’s fine. If it is dry, then it’s time to water. If you have clay soil, watch your plants instead. Often times, when leaves turn brown and wilt due to over-watering, the dead leaves will be soft and limp. While with under-watering, those leaves may be crispy and dry.
Set up a rain barrel
Using a rain barrel to collect rainwater is one of the best ways to save water at home. A rain barrel is easy to set up, and the water you collect can be used to water the lawn, water your vegetable garden and even to wash your car.
Using a rain barrel can collect more rainwater than you may think. Just one-tenth of an inch of rain falling on a 1000-square-foot roof will yield 300 gallons of water. You have to admit that whether you’re in a drought situation or not, it’s hard to pass up that much of free thing.
To save water, change your diet
Those who have taken GRACE’s Water Footprint Calculator have learned that diet makes up the huge part of a person’s water footprint. This is part of what’s called “virtual” water use, or the volume of water used to produce the food we eat, the things we use daily life, and the energy we use. Virtual water is essentially all of the “invisible” water behind a product. Even though we often use far more of this water than we realize, it comprises the majority of our water footprint.
When it comes to reducing the water footprint of a person’s diet, there are several different approaches you can take.
Eat less meat
Of all foods, meat requires the most water to produce. Beef, for example, is the king of big water footprints. It requires about 1800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, while it takes only 180 gallons of water to produce the same amount of wheat. The problem is not the water that the animals drink, but the fact that we need to grow crops to feed them and it takes a tremendous amount of water to grow feed.
By choosing to eat more plant-based food, you can drastically reduce your water footprint as well as carbon footprint. Some less water-intensive proteins include pulses like beans, lentils, and peas. Chicken generally has a lower total water footprint than beef, so if you’re not ready to abstain from meat altogether, giving up or just cutting back on red meat (beef, pork, lamb) can help.
Don’t waste food
When we waste food, we are wasting all the resources required to produce that food, including water. It is the sad truth that 30 to 40 percent of the food supply is wasted in the U.S, that’s nearly half million gallons of water being wasted every year! So not wasting food is a smart way to reduce your water footprint and your food bill as well.
Eat less processed food
Water is used very wastefully in the process of making processed foods. For example, a one-liter bottle of soda contains not just one-liter of water and added ingredients. This small bottle requires about 400 liters of water to make, 400 times the amount of liquid in the bottle. While a cup of apple juice needs 60 gallons of water, one apple needs only 18 gallons of water.
As you can see, eating more whole foods and moving away from processed foods is a great step in reducing your water footprint because it takes additional water to process and package food.
And right now, maybe you just need a very concise conclusion. So here you are.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the things I mentioned, I can completely understand. If there is one thing you need to remember about conserving water, it would be :
Develop a water-saving mindset – Be conscious of every precious drop.
Yes, that’s all you need to start using water wisely. With a water-saving mindset, you will find yourself become more creative about how to save water and you can save water anywhere, anytime.
Just bookmark this page and come back here again to check if you can do all of the things I mentioned. This can be a real challenge, but it’s definitely worth it to see the amazing results! Good luck!