The average American household uses 400 gallons of water a day, adding up to almost 150,000 gallons a year! This estimate does not even consider the water it takes to produce the food we eat or the products we use throughout the day. When one in 8 people in this world do not have access to clean drinking water (and this number is steadily on the rise), there is no doubt we are incredibly lucky to have a relatively stable water supply.
At our homes in Corvallis and surrounding areas all of the water coming in is drinkable, even the water we use to flush our toilets, take a shower, or do the laundry with. It is so important that we treat water as a precious resource and teach our children to be more conscious of water usage, and there’s no better time of year to take a minute to be thankful for our water. By making small water-conscious changes around the house, we can not only significantly lower our utility bills, but we can protect wildlife and natural ecosystems while enhancing our community and overall environment.
With climate change and rainfall at record lows throughout the country there is predicted to be longer and more severe droughts in the near future. As parents it is our job to teach the significance of water and energy conservation to our children, for their future is dependent on collective awareness and positive change.
Conserving Water at Home: 12 Steps to Get Your Family Started
There are so many inexpensive, simple ways to conserve water in the home and yard. Here are twelve tips to get your family started:
- Use only full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher. One full load uses less water and energy than two half loads, so save up dishes or laundry throughout the week to make the most of each time you wash.
- Turn off the faucet when brushing teeth. All you really need is to get your toothbrush wet and then turn the water off. Turning off the tap when brushing teeth twice a day can save up to 8 gallons of water daily. Kids may also enjoy using a small cup of water to dip their brush into instead of using the faucet.
- Keep reusable water bottles in the fridge. Keeping cold bottles of water in the fridge instead of waiting for water to cool down out of the faucet can save a significant amount of water during the summertime.
- Fix any leaks. A small leak in your plumbing can waste 20 gallons of water a day. Keep an eye on your water bill as a spike may indicate that there is an unknown leak somewhere in your home. You can check for toilet leaks (which can waste up to 200 gallons a day!) by putting a couple drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. Without flushing, wait 30 minutes to see if any of the color has seeped into the toilet bowl. If so, you have a leak that should be repaired as soon as possible.
- Turn off the hose. When washing cars, bikes and outdoor toys use a soapy water bucket and sponge instead of keeping the hose running since an outdoor hose can waste 6 gallons of water per minute! Also, some car washes use recycled water so seek them out.
- Consider water-saving appliances and fixtures. There are many easy-to-install water-saving devices that are well worth the initial investment. Low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators, ULF (ultra-low flush) toilets, toilet tank banks, and energy-efficient washers and driers are only a few of the numerous budget and eco-friendly products available for household use.
- Recycle kitchen water. Try keeping a water waste bucket in the kitchen so whenever you have water left from washing produce or leftover drinking water you can dump it in the bucket instead of down the drain. Use this recycled water for watering plants or flushing the toilet.
- Cut down on showers. Showers use 2.5 to 5 gallons of water per minute, so skipping a shower once a week or reducing shower times can add up to huge water savings. A short 4 minute shower can mean using 20 gallons of water! Try setting a timer or playlist to make taking quick showers a fun challenge for the whole family. Also, while waiting for the water to heat up, put a bucket over the drain to recycle the water that would otherwise be wasted.
- If it’s yellow, let it mellow. Not only is it a fun rhyme for the kids, selective flushing can be a serious water saver. The typical toilet uses 1.5 to 3 gallons every time you flush.
- Plant “water-wise” plants in your lawn. By planting drought resistant ground cover instead of a typical water-intensive grass your family can make a statement about the importance of water conservation. The new “eco lawn” is an up and coming trend to seriously consider when redesigning your landscape. Also watering your garden in the early morning instead of later in the day allows the plants to make the best use of it so less is needed overall.
- Install a rain barrel. Collect rain during the wet winter and spring to water plants with throughout the drier season. This tip works particularly well in Oregon, and plants actually prefer rainwater to treated tap water so it is a win-win.
- Save electricity. Since power plants use thousands of gallons of water to cool down, conserving electricity at home indirectly saves water too. Also cleaning waste water or “grey water” is a very energy-intensive process, along with the energy involved in using hot water heaters. Water and energy truly go hand-in-hand, so encourage family members to cut down on electricity use.
By Sarah Nieminski