14 Easy Ways To Cut Down On Your Water Use (And Save Serious $$)

Photo by Victor Torres

H2O is essential to life, and many of us are fortunate enough to live in areas where potable water is available in abundant supply. Such abundance can lead us to think that water is a commodity in endless supply, but that’s definitely not true.

Whether you’re worried about keeping your bill low or conserving a vital and precious planetary resource, here are some ways you can keep the metaphorical glass half full:

1. Tap that.

Use the magical tap water we’re so lucky to have. If your local water quality isn’t so hot, loads of rad water filtration options exist, from charcoal sticks to pitchers that filter 240 gallons of water a year for about 19 cents a day.

2. Disable your fridge's ice maker and water dispenser.

A simple ice tray makes arguably better cubes and saves water and energy. And let’s be real: Those freezer-made ice cubes can start to taste and smell pretty funky after a while, which is a real party foul.

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3. Ensure your plumbing is in good shape.

Drips can be an annoying drag (and can haunt your dreams). If you have a hunch your plumbing is inefficient, here are some quick diagnostics:

  • If you have access to your water meter, do an initial reading and follow up two hours later when you haven’t used any water. If the meter reading has changed, you’ve got a leak.
  • To check for a toilet leak, put red food coloring into the tank. If color appears in the bowl without flushing, you’ve got a leak (and a disturbingly red toilet now).
  • If you have leaks you’re not able to repair immediately, catch the water in a bucket and use it to water plants or flush the toilet.
  • Install low-flow showerheads: Showering accounts for nearly 17 percent of residential water use, and conventional showerheads flow at 5-plus gallons per minute. An affordable, low-flow option still gives you a good dousing and can save anywhere from one-half to 2.5 gallons per minute.

4. Take shorter, cooler showers.

Take a cue from French and Italian women, with their gorgeously glowy skin, and take shorter (limited to 10 minutes), cooler showers. Less time means less water, and less heat means less energy.

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5. Take fewer baths.

This one kind of breaks my heart because I come from a long line of women who read and get drunk in the tub, but it helps to think of soaks as an occasional treat because they use anywhere from 25 to 50 gallons, depending on your tub’s capacity, while a 10-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead uses only 25 gallons.

6. Tackle your toilet.

Flushing a toilet is one of the biggest water hogs in your house, but, ya know, it’s gotta happen if you’re going to have friends. The average person flushes a toilet five times a day, and every flush uses 5 to 7 gallons of precious water. If you own your place, consider a low-flow toilet, which uses 68 percent less water. And only flush the three P’s—poo, pee, and (toilet) paper. Avoid tossing tissues, so-called flushable wipes, tampons, nail trimmings, hair, paper towels, condoms, cigarette butts, dental floss, cotton swabs, or whatever else you’re trying to shove down the toilet. Not only do these items require a wasteful flush, but they also mess up septic systems.

7. Turn it off.

When you’re brushing your teeth, washing dishes, having a dance break, whatever—if you’re not actively rinsing off or filling up, turn the tap off. Remember: Faucets can flow at up to 3 gallons a minute!

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8. Turn it down.

The likelihood of you taking a 140°F shower and enjoying it? Slim to none. Most folks have their water heater turned up way too high, so lower it to 120°F and save some cash (and your skin). If you have an electric water heater, you can also put it on a timer, which can reduce standby energy loss. Fridges and freezers can also benefit from recalibrated temperatures, especially in winter.

9. Maintain your water heater.

Your water heater is one of the biggest energy users in your home (2,400 kWh annually for a two-person household). Keep it running smoothly with annual draining, and if your water heater is over seven years old, consider swaddling it in an insulation blanket like a giant baby, which can save roughly 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year and costs only about $20 to $30 at your hardware store (just make sure the kit is compatible with your water heater).

10. Hand wash.

Clean delicates and smaller loads of laundry by hand whenever possible.

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11. Fill your machines up.

If you must use your dishwashers and washing machines, do so only for full loads. Although I’m sure they’re precious to you, your eight white socks or two dinner plates do not merit a full wash cycle of their own.

12. Collect rainwater.

Sure, this sounds like something fairies would do, but a simple bucket is all you need to catch rainwater to irrigate outdoor plants. Just keep it covered when not collecting to avoid creating a mosquito’s dream world.

13. Regulate that irrigation.

Every year Americans waste close to 18 billion gallons of water (enough to fill the Great Salt Lake twice) on outdoor irrigation. Time-controlled sprinklers may seem like a solid idea but often use 50 percent more water than using a good ol’ hose with your good ol’ hands. Opt for hand-watering options like hoses and watering cans. Yes, they’re old-school, but your neighbors will curse you less when they don’t have to dodge an errant automatic sprinkler stream on their way to work.

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14. Use up the water in your glass.

Didn’t finish your bedside glass of H2O? Put it to good use by using it to water your plants.

Based on an excerpt from Give a Sh*t © 2018 by Ashlee Piper. Reprinted with permission from Running Press.

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