Water Conservation

How to Conserve Water and Use It Effectively

Practices for Residential Users
An average three-member household can reduce its water use by 54,000 gallons annually and can lower water bills by about $60 per year if water-efficient plumbing fixtures are used.

Toilets, showers, and faucets combined represent two-thirds of all indoor water use. More than 4.8 billion gallons of water is flushed down toilets each day in the United States. The average American uses about 9,000 gallons of water to flush 230 gallons of waste down the toilet per year. Conventional toilets use 3.5 to 5 gallons or more of water per flush, but low-flush toilets use only 1.6 gallons of water or less.

Low-Flow Showerheads. Showers account for about 20 percent of total indoor water use. By replacing standard 4.5-gallon-per-minute showerheads with 2.5-gallon-per-minute heads, which cost less than $5 each, a family of four can save approximately 20,000 gallons of water per year.

Faucet Aerators. Faucet aerators, which break the flowing water into fine droplets and entrain air while maintaining wetting effectiveness, are inexpensive devices that can be installed in sinks to reduce water use. Aerators can be easily installed and can reduce the water use at a faucet by as much as 60% while still maintaining a strong flow. More efficient kitchen and bathroom faucets that use only 2 gallons of water per minute–unlike standard faucets, which use 3 to 5 gallons per minute–are also available.

Pressure Reduction. Because flow rate is related to pressure, the maximum water flow from a fixture operating on a fixed setting can be reduced if the water pressure is reduced. For example, a reduction in pressure from 100 pounds per square inch to 50 psi at an outlet can result in a water flow reduction of about one-third. Homeowners can reduce the water pressure in a home by installing pressure-reducing valves. The use of such valves might be one way to decrease water consumption in homes that are served by municipal water systems. A reduction in water pressure can save water in other ways: it can reduce the likelihood of leaking water pipes, leaking water heaters, and dripping faucets. It can also help reduce dishwasher and washing machine noise and breakdowns in a plumbing system.

Landscaping
Nationally, lawn care accounts for about 32 percent of the total residential outdoor use. Other outdoor uses include washing automobiles, maintaining swimming pools, and cleaning sidewalks and driveways.

Xeriscape Landscapes. Careful design of landscapes could significantly reduce water usage nationwide. Xeriscape landscaping is an innovative, comprehensive approach to landscaping for water conservation and pollution prevention. Traditional landscapes might incorporate one or two principles of water conservation, but xeriscape landscaping uses all of the following: planning and design, soil analysis, selection of suitable plants, practical turf areas, efficient irrigation, use of mulches, and appropriate maintenance (Welsh et al., 1993). Benefits of xeriscape landscaping include reduced water use, decreased energy use (less pumping and treatment required), reduced heating and cooling costs because of carefully placed trees, decreased storm water and irrigation runoff, fewer yard wastes, increased habitat for plants and animals, and lower labor and maintenance costs.

Behavioral Practices
Behavioral practices involve changing water use habits so that water is used more efficiently, thus reducing the overall water consumption in a home. These practices require a change in behavior, not modifications in the existing plumbing or fixtures in a home. Behavioral practices for residential water users can be applied both indoors in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room and outdoors.

In the kitchen, for example, running the dishwasher only when it is full can save 10 to 20 gallons of water a day. If dishes are washed by hand, water can be saved by filling the sink or a dishpan with water rather than running the water continuously. An open conventional faucet lets about 5 gallons of water flow every 2 minutes.

Water can be saved in the bathroom by turning off the faucet while brushing teeth or shaving. Taking short showers rather than long showers or baths and turning the water off while soaping can save water. Installing low-flow showerheads, as discussed earlier can increase this water savings even further.

Water can be saved in the laundry room by adjusting water levels in the washing machine to match the size of the load. If the washing machine does not have a variable load control, running the machine only when it is full can save water.

Outdoor water use can be reduced by watering the lawn early in the morning or late in the evening and on cooler days, when possible, to reduce evaporation. Allowing the grass to grow slightly taller will reduce water loss by providing more ground shade for the roots and by promoting water retention in the soil. Growing plants that are suited to the area (“indigenous” plants) can save more than 50 percent of the water normally used to care for outdoor plants.

As much as 150 gallons of water can be saved when washing a car by turning the hose off between rinses. The car should be washed on the lawn if possible to reduce runoff.

Additional savings of water can result from sweeping sidewalks and driveways instead of hosing them down. Washing a sidewalk or driveway with a hose uses about 50 gallons of water every 5 minutes. If a home has an outdoor pool, covering the pool when it is not in use can save water.

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