Conserving Water

Do You Know How Much Water You Use?

Each person in a household usually uses approximately 85 gallons of water each day.  In many cases, this number is 100 gallons a day or more.  And this figure doesn’t include the amount of water used to water lawns in the summer.

Based on a 1984 study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  (Yes, the average household has a toilet leak that accounts for 5% of each person’s water usage).  Routine activities can use more water than you think.  Study the figures below to pinpoint areas where you might cut your usage.


Shower 20-50 (5-10 per minute)
Tub Bath 36 (full)
Toilet Flush 5-7
Tooth Brushing 2 (tap running)
Hand Washing 2 (tap running)
Shaving 3-5 (tap running)
Dish Washing 20 (tap running)
Automatic Dishwasher 10-15 (full cycle)
Clothes Washer 10-30 (full cycle)
Outdoor Watering 5-10 (per minute)

National Averages:

Average person uses 72.5 gallons per day

Average person uses 1.5 gallons per day for drinking and cooking

Average person drinks 2 quarts per day

Average pet drinks 2 quarts per day

Being water wise is mostly a matter of common sense. Now that you are aware of how you are using water, you can choose to reduce your usage to save money.

Other Ways To Be Water Wise

The Kitchen

Here are several tips on spending less time and using less water in the hot kitchen.

  • Use a dishwasher rather than washing by hand, and save approximately 5 gallons per load.
  • Don’t rinse the dishes in hot water before loading the dishwasher. Just scrape them clean and use the dishwasher’s heavy setting. You’ll save 2-5 gallons of water, and conserve energy, too, since you aren’t using as much hot water.
  • Don’t run tap water to cool it for a drink. Keep water in the refrigerator.
  • If your dishwashing soap does not have phosphates, you may be able to recycle rinse water to give your plants a drink.
  •  Wash fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of using running water. When you are finished, use the water in the pan to give your plants a drink.

The Bathroom

  • Two-thirds of your water is used in the bathroom, and a lot of it is wasted. Try these tips to reduce usage:
  • Is it possible that your toilet has a leak? You can test it by putting 10 drops of food coloring in the tank. Don’t flush for 15 minutes. If the colored water shows up in the bowl, the tank is leaking and needs to be repaired.
  • Don’t use the toilet as a trash can. Facial tissue and cigarette butts aren’t worth the seven gallons of water it takes to flush them away.
  • Don’t use so much water with each flush. Cut your tank capacity. Most toilets work just as well with less water. Fill a plastic bottle with water and put it in the tank out of the way of the flushing mechanism. Make sure it doesn’t displace too much water or you’ll have to flush twice and waste more than you save.
  • Don’t use the shower as a massage or steam bath. Instead of using more water than you need, take shorter, cooler showers: they cut waste, save time, and let you exercise some self-control. You may even want to consider showering “The Navy Way.” Because fresh water is relatively scarce on ships, sailors were taught to turn on the shower just enough to get wet, and then turn it off while lathering. They would turn the shower on again for rinsing. You can use one less gallon of water per shower by keeping the water pressure lower or by making your showers a few seconds shorter.
  • Remember the “Rule of Five”: Take five-minute showers and use no more than five inches of water in the bathtub. If you still need help reducing the water you use for showering, get a water-saving showerhead which may save you over ten gallons per shower. For a family of four, that’s over 40 gallons a day!
  • Conserve water when brushing your teeth by turning off the water after you wet your toothbrush. There is no need to keep water pouring down the drain. Just wet your brush and fill a glass for mouth rinsing.


Other Tips for Inside the Home

  • Check the water taps in your home to see if they all have aerators or spray taps. An aerator mixes air with the water. This not only cuts the flow but also reduces splashing. The spray tap is similar, but also can swing from side to side like a tiny showerhead.
  • Check every faucet in the house for leaks. A single dripping faucet can waste far more water in a single day than one person needs for drinking in an entire week.
  • Select the appropriate water level for the size of your load of laundry. Most washers now offer preset water levels for small, medium, and large loads. Use full loads whenever possible, however, and save up to 10 gallons per load.
  • Know where your shut-off valve is. If emergency water leak repairs are needed, quickly locating and shutting off your valve will prevent flooding and water waste.
  • Here’s a two-for-one idea if you have a fish tank in the house. When you clean the tank, use the dirty water on your houseplants. It’s rich in nitrogen and phosphorous, which gives you a nice fertilizer while you use the same water twice.


  • Don’t drown the driveway. When you wash the car, shut the hose off before you soap the car down.
  • Don’t water on a whim. Listen to the weather reports and hold off when rain is due. Check your grass for dryness before watering: if it springs back after you step on it, it doesn’t need water.
  • Don’t water on windy days. You’ll probably waste more water on the road or sidewalk than you’ll put on your lawn.
  • Don’t make a thirsty lawn wait. Water before 10 a.m. if you can. You’ll lose less water to evaporation because it’s cooler. If instead, you water in the evening, the blades stay moist too long and invite disease. Water early and you won’t end up with a fungus farm.
  • Let the water soak in. Light, frequent watering encourages short roots. Short roots are pushovers for weeds, diseases, drought, winter-kill and wear from people’s feet.
  • Prevent swamps. Leaks and left-ons are a big waste. Check your faucets and hose couplings to make sure water is only going when and where you want it. Nothing wastes water like a forgotten sprinkler, so set a kitchen timer and avoid creating your own river.
  • Remember: One sprinkler spraying five gallons per minute uses one and a half times as much water in an hour as ten toilets flushing, two showers running, two dishwasher loads, and a full load of clothes-all going at once!


What Else To Check And The Best Way To Do It

It’s best to make a systematic check throughout the house, floor by floor, so that you don’t miss any water appliance or fixture.


In the Basement

Hot Water Tank. The pressure relief valve could be stuck open. This valve is most often found near the top of the tank, and is usually a large brass fitting threaded into the tank. If it’s not working properly, water will be leaking from it, dripping down the side of the tank and accumulating on the floor. You will probably want to call a plumber to repair it.

Boiler. Listen for the sound of running water. If it’s continuous, and doesn’t stop and start periodically, there could be an underground leak in your boiler system. Call a plumber.

Water Softener. A leak could be caused if your water softener is not recycling properly. The cycling process, regulated by a timer, often occurs between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. You’re likely to have a leak in this unit if you constantly hear the sound of running water. If so, contact a plumber.

Washing Machine. If you see water on the floor near the machine, it is a sign of a possible leak. Call a washing machine repair service.

Humidifier. Water accumulated beneath the unit is a sign of a leak. Caution: If the overflow discharge is piped into a sewer or drainage line, you may not find any visual signs of a leak. Listen for the sound of running water. If it’s continuous, there could be a leak. Call a repair service.


On the Main Floor

Dishwasher. Water accumulated on the floor near the unit could be a sign of a leak. Call a dishwasher repair service.

Refrigerator Ice-Making Unit. A leak in the ice-making unit will cause excessive accumulations of ice in the freezer, and may also produce small puddles of water under the refrigerator. Call a refrigerator repair service.


On the Upstairs Floor

Bathtubs and Showers. Check the spout and shower head for dripping water. A new washer may be needed. You may be able to do this repair yourself by unscrewing the faucet and replacing the washer with one of the same size. But before doing this repair, close your home’s main shut-off valve. If necessary, call a plumber to make the repair.

Did you miss checking a sink or another water appliance in an out of-the-way place, like the garage or attic?


Water Faucets. Each faucet should be checked for leaks which could be the cause of water waste. Make sure faucets are closed when not in use. If you find a leaky faucet, change the washer (after turning off the shut-off valve, of course).

Most homes have one or more shut-off valves for outdoor faucets. These valves are usually located in the basement. During the winter, these valves should be closed to prevent freeze-ups. Be sure to open the outside faucet after you have shut the valve, so that any water still in the pipes will drain out.

It is also important to remove hoses from outdoor faucets in the winter.

Automatic Lawn Sprinkling System
. Soft spots on your lawn around the sprinkler indicate a leak which is being absorbed into the ground. Contact a plumber.

Swimming Pool. The pool system’s shut-off valve, which works automatically, could be malfunctioning, causing a continuous cycle of water being pumped in and then drained out. If the water level stays higher than normal, and it overflows when people are using it, call a plumber.

Service Line From Meter to House. If you find a soft, wet spot on your lawn or hear the sound of running water, you may have a leak in the service line to your house. Water soaks into the ground, causing the soft spots. Close the main shut-off valve inside your house. If the sound of running water continues, the outside service line could be leaking. Contact a plumber if you detect wet spots in your lawn.

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