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Four Places Where You Can Save Water at Home

Written by Ed Avis - 17 Comments

Four Places Where You Can Save Water at Home

Water is a precious commodity, and we use a lot of it. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at your monthly water bill. A typical family of four consumes 300 to 400 gallons of water per day, which means between 9,000 and 12,000 gallons flow through a household each month.

How much does that cost? Depending where you live in the country, water costs anywhere from $2 to over $20 per 1,000 gallons, so many consumers are paying well over $200 per month on water. Ouch!

Trimming your water bill doesn’t mean wearing dirty clothes or skipping showers, however. Here are four places to slow the flow:

In the bathroom

As you can imagine, the bathroom is where a family uses a large proportion of its daily water. A low-flow showerhead is an obvious idea, but sometimes they make it harder to get a good shower. Instead (or in addition), persuade your spouse and kids that a shower is a place to get clean, not a place to soak oneself.

If you were ever in boot camp, you probably remember being given four minutes to shower, shave, and, well, use the toilet. You can’t expect your family to be quite that speedy, but the truth is that washing yourself in a shower can easily be done in five minutes. Save your soaking for the swimming pool.

If your kids are young, have them take a bath or shower together. (And if you’re lucky, your spouse will want to take a shower with you — just to save water, mind you.) You probably already have a low-flow toilet, and if you have one made in the last decade, it probably does the job just fine (early low-flow toilets were simply too wimpy to take care of business).

If you want to upgrade the water efficiency of your toilet, seek a two-stage toilet, which uses even less water when there is no solid waste to dispose of. And if you notice a leak anywhere, fix it right away.

Finally, don’t let your kids run the water while they’re brushing their teeth!

On your lawn

First, plant native shrubs, grasses, and other plants rather than a giant, boring, green grass lawn. You might be able to avoid watering the lawn altogether if you do that. But if you do have grass, follow a few basic tips to save water:

  • Don’t water the sidewalk or driveway (adjust your sprinkler to hit just grass).
  • Go slow and let the water soak in, rather than spraying a lot of water on quickly and letting it flow off the lawn.
  • Install a rain barrel under your downspout and use that water for your lawn and garden.
  • Aerate your lawn so that the water soaks in better (so you can use less).
  • Don’t water more than you need to (if your lawn feels spongy, you’re overwatering).
  • Adjust your mower to a higher setting, because longer grass retains water better.
  • Measure rainfall with a rain gauge or tin can, and adjust your lawn watering accordingly.
  • Don’t water on windy days when much of the water evaporates.
  • Use drip irrigation on trees and other large plants, so the water goes only where it is needed.

In the kitchen

Here are a handful of tips for saving water in the kitchen:

  • Designate one water glass for each family member to use all day – that way, you won’t need to wash more glasses than necessary.
  • Put a pitcher of water into the refrigerator so it’s always cold and you don’t have to run the water to let it cool down when you want a drink.
  • If possible, try to cook multiple items in one pot of water (e.g., cook carrots in the same pot as the bag of instant rice).
  • Some foods can be cooked in the microwave instead of a boiling pot of water (e.g., corn on the cob tastes great if you wrap it in plastic wrap and microwave it).
  • If you wash dishes by hand, don’t run the water while you’re washing; instead, wash in one basin and rinse in the other basin.

In the laundry room

Don’t let your spouse or kids toss towels into the dirty laundry basket until they’ve been used at least a couple of times. The same goes for most items of clothing (pajamas, for example, do not need to be washed after each wearing). Use the lowest water level possible for the amount of clothes you’re washing. Use shorter cycles if you’re washing clothes that are not particularly soiled.

Another tip… If you ever have an unusually large amount of clothing to clean at once, consider using a coin laundry. These machines are often larger and more energy-efficient. You probably won’t save money, but you’ll be reducing water use in the big picture. Plus, you’ll get your big job done a lot sooner, since you can normally use as many machines at once as you need).

Following even a few of these tips can trim your water bill substantially. Perhaps more important, though, every gallon you save from the drain is another clean gallon that your kids and grandkids will have available to them in the future. Water is not only expensive, but clean water is becoming a scarce resource!

Published on November 3rd, 2011
Modified on November 6th, 2011 - 17 Comments
Filed under: Frugality

About the author: is a writer and editor in Oak Park, Illinois. He specializes in personal finance, parenting, and small business topics. He is married and has two sons.

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17 Responses to “Four Places Where You Can Save Water at Home”

  1. 1
    Stacey Says:

    Another tip: if possible, have only boys because they never shower! just kidding… but seriously: my three boys have to be drug INTO the shower, my friends with daughters? They have to drag them OUT of the shower.

    One more: Use the water from the dehumidifier to water your plants.

  2. 2
    Mary Says:

    This is being discussed on the Dave Ramsey boards this morning so I posted a link to this post over there. We stayed in a primitive cabin once and I was amazed at how clean I could get bathing in the same amount of water as you’d find in a baby bathtub.

    Showering with my DH doesn’t save water though; we – uh – get too distracted :o

  3. 3
    Maggie@SquarePennies Says:

    If you can get your family to take their showers at night, they won’t get the sheets on their beds dirty as quickly. That way you can wash the sheets every other week instead of every week. Saves lots of water! Plus everyone can speed up their morning routine if they don’t have to shower at that time!

  4. 4
    Arvin Says:

    Um, the four places you can save water at home are the only places where you have running water in a home… the title seems redundant, no?

  5. 5
    BG Says:

    I would add: do a leak test, at your meter. A leaking toilet can waste tremendous amounts of water, and those leaks are hard to detect. Meters have a gauge builtin to them to answer, unequivocally, whether you have a leak or not.

  6. 6
    Dannielle @ Odd Cents Says:

    Very helpful tips! You can also use the water from the rain barrel to water your kitchen garden. My neighbour uses rain water for his fish tanks!

  7. 7
    John Says:

    Many showerheads only have a single flow setting, thus when you turn them on, they run full-steam until the water is hot enough to get in. If you have a long run of copper pipes, you also have to heat up the pipes before the water is warm enough. Before starting the shower, I’ll turn on the hot side of the faucet at low flow. The slower-moving water will add more heat to the pipes and run less water to get hot water to the shower.

    Another option if you have long hot-water runs is a http://www.chilipepperapp.com/ or similar. This unit pumps water from the hot pipe to the cold pipe until hot water arrives, almost eliminating water use and reducing the wait time for hot water. A few gallons saved per use will add up over the year.

  8. 8
    UltimateSmartMoney Says:

    It’s always good to save water especially in states where water is more expensive like NYC. For me, water is very cheap so even if I work hard to save water, it doesn’t add much. Maybe I can save about $10 per month. So instead I focus on electricity and gas by lowering the temperature using programmable thermostats.

  9. 9
    Kevin R. Says:

    I’d second BG’s recommendation. Mainly because the assumption “A typical family of four consumes 300 to 400 gallons of water per day, which means between 9,000 and 12,000 gallons flow through a household each month,” seems slightly high to me.

    I applaud the suggestions here, I do think they are great.

    However, I wonder where this statistic is from and from what era. Today, Federal guidelines for shower heads is 2.5 gpm (water saver ones are usually 1 gpm), toilets are now 1.6 gpf, with water savers 1.28 gpf, washer typically 40 gal for top loader and 24 for front loader, bathtub is usually 40 gals. Maybe it is because I do not have children, or maybe because I work in construction playing with numbers, but my first thought there a leak somewhere. It could be washing cars and watering grass (the garden hose can put out a lot more than realized) but it you add up the numbers (and cooking uses the least – remember water is 8 lbs a gallon, so most folks are not hauling out a five gallon pot when one will do), 300 gallons a day seems like a lot today (in the bad old days, showers were ~5 gpm, toilets — 7 gpf in the ’50s, 5 gpf in the ’60s, 3.5 gpf in the ’80s – so 300 gallons would be very go able). If your water bill is that high, I’d first look for drips or running toilets, ponder how green you need your lawn, else shut off the main water and see if the meter still spins. I actually did have leak between meter and house, which I noticed because my bill where higher than what they should have been from my calculations, now replaced my bills are within range I can predict.

  10. 10
    Vince Thorne Says:

    Excellent points. I would start with drips and leaks and work my way up to my habits through the lawn. Low flow toilets and showerheads work great in this regard as well.

  11. 11
    Victoria Says:

    Great tips! A suggestion though. I’m pretty sure it’s not healthy to microwave things in plastic. It releases chemicals that can make you sick in the long run.

  12. 12
    Mike Says:

    One more tip: I have a dehumidifier in the basement that runs nearly all the time from Mar to Nov. That is a place to get water that is already paid for (cost of running the machine). Mine has a bucket built in that holds 1.5 gallons, but could be hooked up to a hose for constant draining.

    This is water that is often called “gray water”. May not be safe enough to drink or wash dishes in, but will be fine for plants and lawn and probably ok for washing clothes or cleaning around the house.

  13. 13
    BG Says:

    John) That chilipepper thing is what I have been hunting for! Its ingenious, and not having to run new copper for a dedicate return line (to form a loop) is perfect for existing construction.

    Thanks!

  14. 14
    Mary H. Says:

    It takes a little while to get hot water to our bathroom so I always brush my teeth using the hot water valve. By the time I’m done rinsing my mouth, the water is starting to get warm.

    It takes a very long time to get the kitchen water hot. So I always use the hot water valve to do my food prep (washing veggies, etc.) By the time the meal is ready, the water is usually hot and I can use it to soak my pans.

  15. 15
    Michelle Says:

    These are great tips.

  16. 16
    Roseclar Says:

    We let the cold water from the shower run into a bucket until the water is warm enough for our shower and use the cold water to flush the toilet. Also we use the bath water to hand wash lingerie, to flush the toilet and to clean the floors.
    When we do the wash up by hand, we use the rinse water to clean the floors and to flush the toilet.
    Lot of flushing over here :)

  17. 17
    matt Says:

    Very good tips here. I always get on my wife for taking 20 minute showers. One thing that I have always found useful is when doing dishes to fill the sink up and wash them all without having the water running the whole time.

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