50+ Ways to Save Water

By Max Wong on 11 April 2013 (Updated 20 August 2013) 5 comments
Photo: peasap

You know you live in a First World country when you have the luxury of flushing your toilet with drinking water.

Even though most Americans don’t spend a good part of their day worrying about accessing fresh water, water in this country is growing scarcer and more expensive with each passing year. Even if you live in a rainy climate, you can do the planet and your pocket book a favor by conserving water. (See also: Save Hundreds by Getting Yourself Out of Hot Water)

In the Kitchen

To avoid wasting water from a running tap, collect it in a bottle or Brita pitcher and chill it in the refrigerator for drinking. Or, while waiting for the water to warm up, use the water to rinse dirty dishes, water the plants, or wash produce.

Instead of using the garbage disposal, compost your fruit and vegetable scraps. (In turn, adding compost to your yard will help the soil retain moisture).

Only use the dishwasher when you have a full load. Instead of pre-rinsing dishes in the sink, use the rinse and hold setting on your dishwasher.

If you can afford to get an energy star dishwasher, do it. The best dishwashers and washing machines only use four gallons of water per load. Less water than you’d use hand-washing. (See also: The 5 Best Dishwashers)

If you are hand-washing dishes, use the least amount of detergent possible to reduce the amount of water you then have to use to rinse the dishes.

Steam or microwave veggies instead of boiling them. If your recipe calls for boiling vegetables, only use enough water to cover them, and put a lid on your saucepan. Use the water leftover from boiling vegetables as a basis for homemade stock.

Make one-pot meals. Fewer dishes means less water for washing up.

Defrost food in the refrigerator overnight instead of using hot running water. (This is the best food-safe method). If you are in a rush, thaw your food in the microwave.

In the Bathroom

Don’t let the water run while you are brushing your teeth or soaping up your hands.

Instead of rinsing it in running water, clean your razor by swishing it in a cup of water.

Install a low-flow shower head and/or an aerator.

Make sure to insulate your hot water pipes. This avoids wasting water by cutting down the time it takes for hot water to flow through and saves energy.

Turn down your hot water thermostat. In addition to protecting you from being scalded by accident, adding cold water to cool down extremely hot water wastes energy and water.

Take shorter showers. Set a timer so you don’t cheat. Turn off the tap while shaving, soaping up, or waiting for conditioner to do its thing.

Use a bucket to collect water while waiting for the water to heat up. Use this water to force flush your toilet, shave your legs, or mop the floor.

Bathe your kids together or reuse your bathwater to wash your kids. Or reuse the kids’ bathwater to wash your dog. Or...you get the picture.

If you can’t afford a low-flow toilet, put a brick to your toilet tank until you can afford to add a dual flush system or a flow restrictor to your existing toilet. Also, check to make sure that your tank isn’t leaking. To check for leaks, add some food coloring to the tank water. If your tank is leaking, you’ll see the dye in the toilet bowl before you flush.

Flush your toilet less often. If this sounds disgusting to you, know that in drought areas of Australia, the government is encouraging men to pee in the garden to conserve water. Avoid using the toilet to dispose of hair, bugs, goldfish, or other random waste items that can be composted or thrown in the trash instead.

In the Laundry

Use the least amount of detergent that you can. In addition to making your clothes last longer, your washer will not have to work as hard to wash all the soap out. If your clothes still smell soapy when they come out of the wash, you are using too much detergent.

Only run full loads of laundry. If you have a small household, consider sharing laundry duty with your friends or neighbors to ensure every load is a full load.

In the Yard

Check the weather forecast. If it’s going to rain in the next four days, let nature water your plants for you.

Use a broom to sweep walkways and driveways instead of hosing them down with water.

Use leftover bath water to water non-food plants, wash the car, or clean the siding.

Plant drought-resistant ornamental plants.

Use the Square Foot Garden system or permaculture methods of under-planting and inter-planting tall vegetables with shorter vegetables to self-mulch. In addition to growing a tremendous amount of food in a small space, you’ll also save on water.

Don’t water your garden at high noon, in addition to losing more water to evaporation, you run the risk of burning your plants. (Water beads act like little magnifying glasses). Water in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler.

Add soil amendments like compost to your soil that will help it retain water. Mulch your garden to keep water from evaporating quickly.

Water the base of your plants using a watering can, a soaker hose, or a drip system instead of watering the tops of the plants with a sprinkler or hose.

Install a rain water tank or divert water from your gutters into the garden instead of into the storm drains.

Replace your lawn with low-water plants.

If your neighborhood covenant requires you to maintain a lawn, install a low-water grass variety. Deep soak your lawn once a week to encourage deep root growth instead of watering for less time more often. Also, make sure that your lawn needs to be watered before turning on the hose. If the grass springs back after you step on it, you don’t need to water.

Taller grass holds more water than short grass so wait a bit between mows. Short lawns will burn because they don’t have leaf protection. Don’t mow your lawn to less than one inch in height. (See also: The 6 Best Lawn Mowers)

Aerate your lawn in the summer to help it absorb more water quickly.

When planting a garden, try to group plants by their watering needs. Also, sparsely planted areas are more difficult to water efficiently. Try to plant in the spring or autumn when it’s cooler.

Avoid buying outdoor toys that require constantly running water.

How much water do you save every year by conserving water? How many dollars do you save? Please share your favorite water saving tips in the comments section.

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Guest's picture

I'm actually looking for a large water tank right now that I can use for watering over the summer months. We have a rain barrel right now, but it's really not enough capacity to carry us through the dry months here in Seattle.

Guest's picture

Your kitchen tips about saving water are great, I never thought about putting the water in a Brita pitcher while I let it heat up! Force flushing the toilet sounds a bit extreme for me, but I guess there are no limits to saving the planet!

Guest's picture
AWB

Composting toilets are another great way to save money in the bathroom. Also, if possible digging a well at approximately $12/foot makes better use of natural water and costs less. This water can also be recycled into the ground for later use or re-filtration if used for drinking.

Guest's picture

I know someone who advises storing water in mason jars in case of emergency. This, is a great idea. The water will stay fresh, free of contaminants, and the process looks pretty straightforward.

So while it's a good idea to save water (not use as much), it's also a great idea to actually SAVE water in case of an emergency.

Thanks for the article!

Guest's picture

This may sound a little odd, but I shower every other day (except in the summer) and don't miss daily showering.