Every day, it seems, a new climate catastrophe is making headlines.
Salmon are dying in California because the water they inhabit is now too hot for them. The Hoover Dam reservoir is at record levels, which could affect the water supply to the West Coast. And California is, once again, in the grip of a drought, affecting the nation’s food supply.
States and municipalities across the country are calling on residents to conserve water as the precious resource is threatened with impending scarcity. Even if you don’t face mandatory water conservation, there are small changes anyone can make around the home.
American households spend up to $ 500 a year on their water and sewer bills, according to Tim Carroll, spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency. Furnishing your home with water-efficient appliances and incorporating water-saving practices could reduce your bills by about $ 170 per year.
Even something as simple as turning off the water when brushing your teeth can have an immediate effect, said Ellen Hanak, director of the Water Policy Center at the California Institute of Public Policy.
“Don’t run a dishwasher with three plates in it; fill in first. And ditto for the laundry. Use these devices effectively, ”she said.
Think of low-flow toilets and low-flow shower heads. A regular showerhead uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute, while low-flow showerheads use two gallons per minute, according to the EPA. And if you’re worried about not having good water pressure with the low-flow option, two experts noted that the technology has improved from previous models.
Check the EPAs WaterSense Calculator to find out how much you could save; for example, a family of four who replaces toilets, faucets and shower heads with low-flow alternatives can reduce their water use by about 21,000 gallons per year.
Household waste averages nearly 10,000 gallons of water per year on leaks, including running toilets and dripping faucets, according to the EPA. Depending on your washer, that’s enough water for hundreds of loads of laundry.
If your water utility has a real-time meter, check if it is recording water usage overnight. If so, you probably have a leaky toilet. If you don’t have a real-time measurement, hard water streaks in the bowl could indicate the toilet is leaking. Another test: Put drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. After 15 to 20 minutes, if any of the food coloring has entered the bowl, you have a leak, said Steven Taylor, master plumber at Neerings Plumbing & Heating in Salt Lake City.
To check for leaking faucets, place a pot underneath and leave it overnight to see if any water collects.
You can make any necessary repairs yourself, Taylor said, starting with replacing the toilet flapper. But if you are unsure of your skills, hire a plumber.
Depending on what area of the country you live in, it may be worth considering breaking away from the traditional American lawn. The Mediterranean-style courtyards, complete with rocks and native plants, may be worth exploring.
Earlier this summer, Nevada passed a water conservation act that will ban certain types of decorative turf in 2027, such as in office parks, subdivision entrances and medians.
Also consider the size of the water droplets your sprinkler emits. While it may seem counterintuitive, a system that sprays larger drops can save water because less evaporates, said Kurt Schwabe, professor of environmental economics and policy and associate dean at the University of California at the Riverside School of Public Policy. Ask if your local utility offers high efficiency sprinkler heads.
Water early in the morning or in the evening. If you wait until the hottest part of the day, the water will vaporize before it hits the ground. And shake up the mentality that the grass needs to be watered every day. “It’s actually best if you water every other day or every third day,” Schwabe said.
It may not be possible to swap in assistive devices, but when it’s time to buy new ones, look for models that use less water. The average dishwasher now uses about six gallons per load, compared to up to 10 gallons for older models, according to the EPA.
Your washing machine is the second largest consumer of water in your home, behind bathroom appliances. According to the EPA, new washing machines average 31 gallons per load, compared to over 40 gallons for older models. Choosing a high efficiency front load washer can reduce water use to as little as 13 gallons per load.