Here are 10 tips that can save between 5,000 to 50,000 gallons of water a year even if you’re already conscientious about reducing your water consumption.
You use low flush toilets, turn off the tap when you brush your teeth, water the yard in the early morning and use a low-flow showerhead—just to name a handful of the wonderful things you do to conserve water. Kudos to you! You’re already doing everything you can to reduce your water consumption. There’s nothing left to do!
I thought the same thing myself until our kitchen sink got clogged. When you have to bail your own sink, you quickly realize just how much water you’re using to wash a few dishes and how little you can actually get by with. Living in California (now in its second year of a severe drought), I knew I could do better so I challenged myself to conserve even more water.
We’d already done the obvious things, so I had to get creative to come up with more ways to reduce my water consumption. Admittedly, it takes more effort and it does cramp your lifestyle a little bit. However, you won’t need to abstain from showering so you won’t be walking around covered in dirt and smelling like ripe summer ;).
WARNING: These tips ain’t for Eco-posers! While I don’t find them onerous at all, the average person probably wouldn’t bother. However, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably not average! Heck, you may even have better tips than me for saving water! And if you do, please share them in the comments below.
1. Turn Off the Shower
Water Saved Per Year: 1,825 to 43,880 gallons
Forget the 5-minute shower. If you’ve got hair, that’s not possible. Instead, you can spend as long as you want in the shower. The catch? You can’t have the water running the whole time. Turn it off when you’re soaping up, shampooing, conditioning and/or shaving. Only turn it on to rinse. That’ll get a 5-minute shower down to three minutes of running water.
A low-flow showerhead cuts your water consumption to 2.5 gallons per minute as opposed to the usual 5 to 10 gallons. If you take a 10-minute shower, that’s 25 gallons. If you take a 5-minute shower, that’s 12.5 gallons. If you take a 3-minute shower, you are rockin’ it at 7.5 gallons per shower. Assuming one shower per day, that’s a savings of 1,825 gallons per year. Water savings are much more if you have a regular showerhead. For example, if you normally take a 15-minute shower at 10 gallons per minute, you’ll save 120 gallons per shower or a whopping 43,800 per year!
2. Capture Your Shower Water
Water Saved Per Year: 365 to 730 gallons
There’s another way to save water in the shower. Keep a rustproof watering can in your shower. While you’re waiting for the water to warm up, fill up the watering can and use this to water plants or even wash your car with one bucket of water (see #9 below).
Even if your watering can holds just one gallon of water, you’ll save 365 gallons a year. Stick a 2-gallon container in the shower and you’ll save 730 gallons!
3. One Pot of Water for Dishes
Water Saved Per Year: 730 gallons
Try the “One Pot Challenge” for washing dishes. When you think you’re using very little water to wash dishes, this challenge is an eye-opener. Often, you’ll use several times the volume of what your washing to actually wash it.
Place a large pot under the tap and try to wash all your dishes without filling the pot. When you capture the water run off in a pot, you’ll be surprised to see how much water is actually running down the drain. Make it a game to wash a load of dishes without filling your pot full.
You’ll likely reduce your water consumption to at least a third of what you were using before. That’s a potential savings of at least 2 gallons a day and probably much more.
4. Reuse the Rinse Water
Water Saved Per Year: 182.5 gallons
Keep a flower vase next to the kitchen sink. As you rinse your dishes, capture the “clean” rinse water into the vase. By clean, I mean the water without chunks of food. It can either be clear rinse water or sudsy water. Then, when you have pots or pans to soak, you can use the water from the vase.
Assuming an average of one pot or pan to soak per day (this is a very conservative estimate), you’ll save at least a half gallon per day for a savings of 182.5 gallons a year.
5. Stretch out the Dishwasher
Water Saved Per Year: 243 to 365 gallons
Okay, the debate is on whether a dishwasher saves water. If you’re doing the “One Pot Challenge” wash, then it’s probably not efficient to use the dishwasher. However, if you’ve got a family and lots of dishes, you’re very likely tempted to use the dishwasher.
If that’s the case, you can stretch out how often you run the dishwasher by washing the occasional glass or dish. When you look at your dishwasher rack, you’ll see that it actually doesn’t hold that much. By washing dishes by hand occasionally (using very little water), you can probably skip a day of turning on your dishwasher.
If you run your dishwasher every other day, skipping a day will let you run it every three days, a reduction of 50%. A typical dishwasher uses 6 gallons of water per cycle whereas the average Energy Star dishwasher uses about 4 gallons per cycle. If you cut your use to once every three days, you’ll be running it 121.67 times per year vs. 182.5.
That’s a reduction of 60.83 cycles per year or a savings between 243 and 365 gallons per year depending on how much your dishwasher uses per cycle.
6. The No Flush Toilet
Water Saved Per Year: 1,401 to 7,665 gallons
Flush for #2 and don’t flush for #1. Hey, I did tell you this wasn’t for Eco-posers. Have a box of baking soda handy and sprinkle it in the bowl and keep the lid closed to take care of odours.
If your water has a high mineral content, you may get a mineral build-up ring in your toilet bowl that is a bitch to scrape off. You can either vigorously scrub regularly or ignore it. If it does build up, you can remove it by placing toilet paper soaked in CLR on the ring for the time directed in the instructions. This will help to remove the ring.
Let’s assume you pee three times a day.
“Older toilets can use 3.5, 5, or even up to 7 gallons of water with every flush. Federal plumbing standards now specify that new toilets can only use up to 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF), and there are high efficiency toilets that use up to 1.28 GPF.” (Source: conserveh2o.org)
That means you’re saving between 1.28 gallons to 7 gallons per flush for a total savings between 1,401 to 7,665 gallons per year.
7. Wash Your Hands With a Drizzle
Water Saved Per Year: 383 to 602 gallons
When you soap up your hands, turn the tap off. While you rinse, turn on a trickle of water as opposed to your usual amount. How much water you save will depend on the flow rate of your tap. The standard water flow is 2.2 gallons per minute or 1.5 gallons if you use a WaterSense labelled faucet.
This means if you turn the tap to only half the regular flow, you’ll save between 0.7 gallons to 1.1 gallons per minute. Assuming you wash your hands three times a day at 30 seconds each wash, that’s a savings of 383 to 602 gallons per year.
8. Use a Smaller Glass for Brushing Your Teeth
Water Saved Per Year: 28 gallons
Many people use big plastic cups to hold their toothbrushes and then fill the cups up with water when brushing their teeth. And, of course, they don’t use all of the water in the cup to rinse, just a fraction of it and the rest goes down the drain.
If you use a smaller glass, you’ll fill it up less by default. That’s less water going down the drain. Assuming you brush your teeth at least twice a day and you reduce the water going down the drain by 10oz/day, that’s 28 gallons per year, the equivalent of about 5 to 7 dishwasher loads.
9. The One Bucket Car Wash
Water Saved Per Year: 105 to 621 gallons
If you don’t have a car all, good for you. You probably don’t have kids or you live in an urban environment with fantastic public transportation. For everyone else, you can save gallons of water a year by washing your car yourself with just one bucket of water.
- Give your car a 30-second misting so that the surface is wet.
- Then pour some eco-friendly car detergent into a bucket as directed. Add water to the bucket, filling it about half full.
- Dip the mitt into the soapy water and use the mitt to hand scrub your car.
- For hubcaps, do those last. Dip a small scrubbing brush into the water and use a little elbow grease to scrub your rims. Rinse with a blast of water for 1 to 2 seconds per quarter section of a hubcap.
- When you have finished scrubbing your entire car, give it a quick 30-second rinse with the hose.
In total, you’ll only use the water in the bucket and the amount that you sprayed on the car. You can get fancy to calculate how much water flows through your hose or guesstimate an average flow rate of 10 gallons per minute. If you follow the above directions, that’s about 90 seconds of water flow for a total of 15 gallons, plus 2.5 gallons in the bucket, for a total of 17.5 gallons of water.
Whoa! Quite a lot of water to wash a car even if you’re a Scrooge about it. That’s why you can also reduce how often you wash your car to about once a month. Not that attractive, but it’ll suffice.
However, compared to taking your car to the car wash, you’re saving anywhere from 17.5 to 103.5 gallons per wash. See the stats below:
“Some friction in-bay automatic systems use approximately 35 gallons per vehicle, and a high-volume in-bay site could average 100 cars a day. Other in-bay automatics, employing the high-pressure touchless method, use 70 gallons per vehicle. A tunnel car wash with a moderate amount of high-pressure applications could use 120 gallons of water per vehicle.” (Source: Auto Laundry News)
Let’s assume you only wash your car 6 times a year. With the numbers from above, you’ll save 105 to 621 gallons per year.
10. Refuse the Water at Restaurants
Water Saved Per Year: 3 gallons
In the interest of service, many restaurant servers will bring you a giant glass of water. If you ask them not to fill your glass or to bring you water, you’ll save about 1 glass per restaurant visit. Let’s say you eat out once a week. That’s 52 glasses a year or about 3 gallons per year.
Okay, admittedly this one doesn’t save that much water, but when you’re already a water saving superstar, every extra drop counts. The value in this is actually in sharing water saving with others.
When your friends, family or the server sees you doing this, you can open up the conversation to talk about water conservation and share some of your fave tips for reducing water use. It’s the power of the multiplier effect that will ultimately make the biggest difference in reducing water consumption. You can help start the conversation and encourage people to save water right now by clicking one of the buttons below to share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or more. Mother Earth thanks you!