Water is wasted during: landscape irrigation; hosing down walks and drives; washing automobiles; dishwashing; washing clothes; flushing toilets; showering and overheating by a water heater. It’s also wasted when pressure regulators are set too high.
Most water gets used in the bathroom, so that is where you have to be most careful. Don’t flush water away unnecessarily. Most toilets installed before the early 1980s used five to seven gallons of water per flush. Those installed after that time disposed of 3.5 gallons per flush. Today almost every state is mandating the use of 1.6 gallon toilets. If you are like most people, toilet use in your house accounts for 40 percent of water use. Converting from a 7-gallon toilet to a 1.6-gallon one could reduce overall water use by 25 percent or more. A leaky toilet can cost you 50 gallons of water or more per day regardless of its size. To find out if your toilet leaks, remove the tank lid and add about 7 drops of red or blue food coloring. Do not flush for about 15 to 20 minutes. If the water in the bowl colors, a leak exists.
Low-flow water fixtures also save on waste, especially at the showerhead. You may have a showerhead in your home that allows a flow of 7 gallons per minute. A five-minute shower can use 35 gallons of water. A low-flow showerhead (3.5 gallons per minute) can reduce the water used in a shower by half.
There is another hidden expense when one showers, and it manifests itself each month when you get your gas and electric bill. The less water you use for a shower, the less hot water needed to get the job done. And, by the way, low-flow showerheads are aerated and feel similar to a shower you might take with an old-fashioned showerhead.
Water heating is an important issue. The hotter the water in your heater, the more cold water it will take to cool it in a mixing situation (clothes washer, shower, etc.). Bleed your water heater every six months or so. Air in the tank will cause overheating, and might result in water being lost through the pressure-overflow valve. The easiest way to bleed the water heater is to open the drain valve at the bottom until the water coming out stops sputtering. Usually two to three gallons are lost. A bucket, eye protection, rain gear and heavy rubber gloves will help. Remember the water that will come out is hot.
The kitchen and laundry also can be waste centers. Dishwashers and clothes washers can use 15 to 50 gallons of water per load. Be a good manager and only run full loads. For clothes washing, cut down on recommended detergent levels (approximately 20 percent), and eliminate extra rinses. Use completely full loads or adjust the water level, if your machine allows.
During the summer, outdoor water use skyrockets. Washing an automobile can use 100 gallons and washing down a sidewalk easily can use up 60 gallons or more.
Another way to save water is to precisely control water pressure as it enters your home. This, appropriately enough, is done with a water-pressure regulator. If you have a regulator, adjust it so that the pressure does not exceed 60 lbs. If you don’t have one, buy a water-pressure gauge (about $12) with a garden-hose fitting. Hand screw it onto the faucet closest to where the main water line enters your home. Turn the faucet on with the gauge in place and read the number behind the needle. Regulator or no, it is wise to make this pressure check. High water pressure not only is wasteful, but can do damage to dishwashers and washing machines, as well. Many appliance warranties are voided when pressure exceeds 100 lbs. Unfortunately, hiring someone to install a water-pressure regulator can cost several hundred dollars.
Conserve and save.