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Tips for Conserving Water

Updated on November 13, 2010

With the unofficial start of summer this past weekend, most folk's water bills will be rising. Americans are somewhat obsessed with who has the greenest lawn and use lots of water each week to keep it green. On top of watering the lawn, there will be flowers and gardens that need watering. Even if you don't have lots of annuals to tend to, in places that get pretty hot and don't receive much rain, outdoor watering is a fact of life and a requirement if anything is to live. There are ways to save on water though.

1. Reuse water when you can. Put a bucket in the shower with you to collect the excess water coming out of the showerhead. Use this water to help fill the washing machine, flush the toilet, or water the outdoor stuff (let it cool off first though). Another way to reuse water is to use the water leftover from steaming vegetables or boiling pasta to water your plants. The added nutrients will benefit the plant and you are using the same water twice.

2. When you are waiting for the tap water to get hot, collect it in a jug to use later. When I turn my faucet on hot and wait for it to actually get hot, I collect almost a full gallon milk jug each time. I use this to water my garden or houseplants. This can easily add up to a few gallons a day, or 100 a month.

3. Get pipe insulation and wrap it around any exposed pipes.  This will help the water that is sitting in the pipes stay warm longer.

4. Get a low flow shower head. Typically people don't notice a difference in the amount of water that comes out when they are showering, but they are using less water.

5. Have small children share bath water. In fact having kids take a bath will typically use less water. If other kids are anything like my kids, showers are fun and they like to hang out and play in them. Which drains the hot water tank completely and yet they still haven't done their hair.

6. When running the bath water, plug up the drain before you turn the water on, and then adjust the water temperature later.

7. Another tip for kids - take different colors of electrical tape to mark the appropriate depths for kids to fill the tub to. The older kids will get deeper water than the younger kids. Use a different color for each child.

8. Only shower once a day. I am amazed at how many people bathe two or more times a day. Sometimes this may be warranted, but I can't recall a time that I have really been that dirty multiple times a day.

9. Only water your lawn when needed - which is not going to be every day. If when you walk across your grass you leave footprints behind, it is time to water. They say that lawns only need 1 inch of water a week. I find this hard to believe, but maybe it really depends on the climate. We were on watering restrictions for most of the time I lived in CO. We found that watering our lawns three times a week for 15 minutes at a time was plenty to keep the grass green. Two times a week however was not enough.

10. Water outdoors in the early morning or late evening when the water is less likely to evaporate. The more water the soil can soak up the less often you will have to water.

11. Only run the washing machine or dishwasher when it is very full. My husband is always amazed at how many more dishes I can fit in the dishwasher after he thinks it is full. My dishes always come out clean and overall I am using less water and electricity when I run these machines less frequently.

12. Think about installing a low flow toilet or a front loading washing machine. These things use less water compared to the regular ones. Frequently utility companies will over rebates or credits on your bill for installing these, so it could be a better deal than you think.

13. If you don't want to install a low flow toilet, fill a 2 liter bottle with water and put it inside the back of your toilet. This will make the toilet use less water to flush.

14. In the 60's and 70's there was a saying - "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down." Consider this advice, especially if you have small children. Unfortunately small children love to flush the toilet, even if they only got a few drops out. A compromise around here is that before we leave the house we all use the bathroom and flush at the end. One flush versus five or six can save a lot of water over the course of a week or month.

15. Keep a jug of water in the fridge at all times. It will be nice and cold and you won't have to stand there waiting for the tap water to get cold, all while gallons of water are flowing down the drain.

16. Think about whether you need to actually fill up the pot with water or would half a pot work? So many times we just fill until something is full not really considering the actual amount that would suit our needs.

17. When you are planting grass or plants, look for ones that use less water or that are even drought tolerant. There are many options to chose from and still look very nice. Xeriscaping has gotten very big in Colorado for more reasons than just saving on water. There is usually less upkeep as well, which will free up your time for other things. That is a win-win situation if you ask me. Planting in the spring or fall will require less water to get the plant established.

18. Pay attention to the weather. If it rained earlier in the day, do not water your flowers and garden later that day. And please turn off your sprinkler system. It is painful for me to watch sprinkler systems going while it is raining. It seems like such a waste.

19. Fix the leaks! Leaks can waste hundreds of gallons of water each month. For faucets it is easy to tell if they are dripping. For toilets, put some food coloring into the tank and if the water in the bowl turns that color you know you have a leak.

20. Do your dishes really need to be rinsed before being put in the dishwasher? I know for my dishwasher to get things clean I can't have chunks of food on them, but other people's dishwashers have built in garbage disposals that can handle that. No pre-rinsing needed.

21. If you are in the market for a new appliance, look for one that uses less water.

22. Don't leave the water running while you are brushing your teeth or shaving.

23. Adjust the force of the water. You don't always need full blast to get some clean. When rinsing produce in particular the water really does go right down the drain. Turn the water down so you are using less and catch the runoff in a tub to water other things.

I believe that saving on water consumption will greatly help the environment. Not only that but it will save you money. As with many things, just by being aware of how much water you are using will likely get you using less. Pay attention and don't do things out of habit. Think first to see if they are really needed. Here's to conserving water!


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    • HubSub Urban Mom profile image

      HubSub Urban Mom 9 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      These are awesome ideas. I too use most of these tips. Here in the SF Bay Area, EBMUD, our water utility agency has just announced they are putting all of their East Bay customers (1 million?) on a water retention plan due to our past droughts. That means if personal households don't cut their water usage by at least 19%, they will fine us. Ouch. And companies? They have to cut their water usage by about 30%. Yikes! These are GREAT tips, whether or not your utility company places you on a water retention plan. Thanks!

    • Rob Jundt profile image

      Rob Jundt 9 years ago from Midwest USA

      Great list. I would never have thought of most of these. Thanks.

    • Jennifer profile image

      Jennifer 9 years ago

      Neil, thanks for the book tip, I will look into it. I love reading up on this stuff and always am looking for ideas. I will also check out your hub.

    • proudgrandpa profile image

      proudgrandpa 9 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Hello Jennifer,

      You are truly a lady after my own heart. I published a hub a while back called, Reduce+Recycle+Reuse that led in this direction but I applaud the good and practical ideas you put forth. I agree that it is all about common sense and mindset. Teaching our children pays great benefits for their world as well.

      A book that made a lot of sense to me if called the Green Book in which Cameron Diaz and other celebs talk about practical solutions and their effect on the planet. It is an eye opener.

      Please keep up the good work and interesting hubs.

      Thanks, NEIL

    • profile image

      William Kho 9 years ago

      Hi Jennifer,

      Grat ideas. I like your shower water saving ideas in particular. You save our planet. Hope many people out there will adopt your water savings ideas.


      William Kho

    • wannabwestern profile image

      Carolyn Augustine 9 years ago from The Land of Tractors

      Jennifer, great frugal tips as always. We use Xeriscaping here in AZ too. My yard is is on acreage and divided into zones. We have a few small planters containing desert-friendly blooming flowers, and then an area in front of the house that have some decorative cactus and agave. They require very little water, and we have NO grass. The rest of our yard is all natural, and whatever grows, grows. One thing about xeriscape planting is to plant groupings of plants together. This conserves water, too. For example, you could plant something under trees that can grow in partial shade. The plants act as a ground cover and help the trees' roots conserve water. Very good tips. We all need to be more responsible water users for the next generation.

    • profile image

      dianado 9 years ago

      Wonderful ideas - I never thought about reusing the vegitable water. Several on here never occurred to me and they are very practical - like teaching kids appropriate bath water levels. Thank you so much!