Severe drought and water restrictions may be making headlines and history, Texas is far from the only region in the U.S. facing a drier summer. With the Environmental Protection Agency reporting that 40 out of 50 state water managers predict shortages in their states within the next 10 years, conserving water is no longer just the fashionable thing for homeowners to do – it’s essential.
American households use an average of 100 gallons of water per person, per day, according to the EPA. High water usage doesn’t solely impact the environment either. It also directly affects homeowners’ wallets; the average household spends up to $500 a year for water and sewer, the EPA says. Conservation methods like choosing low-consumption bathroom fixtures and practicing smart watering habits outdoors can reduce the amount of water homeowners use and pay for.
Texan’s are facing some painful conservation measures, but consuming less water doesn’t have to be onerous. This summer, you can use less water and lower your water bills by focusing on a few key areas:
In the bathroom
Americans use more water in the bathroom than in any other room of the house or anywhere outside it. In fact, according to the EPA, more than 43 percent of total household water consumption is due to toilets and faucets. If your bathroom fixtures are older, they’re likely less water efficient than newer models, and your household could be using even more water.
Switching to WaterSense labeled products can significantly decrease water consumption. Replacing an older toilet with a WaterSense labeled one can help your family realize a 71-percent water savings when replacing a 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf) unit. When replacing a 1.6 gpf model, you will gain a 38-percent savings and a 22-percent savings when replacing a 1.28 gpf toilet.
Faucets account for nearly 16 percent of total household water use, with the standard faucet using 2.2 gallons of water per minute. Switching to a WaterSense faucet uses less and can increase your faucet’s water efficiency by 30 percent or more.
In addition to replacing less efficient fixtures, you can also reduce bathroom water consumption by switching from baths (70 gallons of water) to 5-minute showers (10 to 25 gallons), and turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth (4 gallons), according to the EPA.
The washing machine accounts for nearly 22 percent of household water use, the EPA reports. Washing dishes in an older-model dishwasher consumes up to 15 gallons of water per load, and 3 to 5 gallons in an Energy Star rated machine, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Washing by hand uses 8 to 27 gallons. Many appliances have made leaps in water and energy efficiency in just the past few years. Replacing old appliances with newer, Energy Star rated or WaterSense labeled appliances can reduce your home’s water and energy consumption.
Even if your appliances are older, there are still ways to conserve energy and water. Never run the dishwasher for less than a full load, and don’t rinse dishes before loading them. Just scrape them thoroughly to remove food particles. When washing clothes, do full loads and separate lighter-weight items from heavier ones and use cold water rather than hot; most modern laundry detergents do the job just fine in cold water.
Outdoor water use consumes 9 billion gallons of water per day, the EPA says. To reduce water consumption outdoors, start by choosing plants that are native to your region – they’ll be much better habituated to the environment and need less water than non-native species. Not sure what’s native to your area? PlantNative.org offers a searchable database of plants for states across the country.
If you have an irrigation system, be sure it’s in good working order. Leaking irrigation systems can waste huge amounts of water. Before you water, check soil moisture in the lawn and planting beds. If you can easily insert a 6-inch screwdriver into the soil, you can probably wait to water. Water at night, when the hot sun and wind won’t evaporate the water before it can soak into the ground. Mulch around the base of trees can also help to retain moisture near the roots.