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!