By: By Amy Westervelt
It seems you can hardly open a newspaper these days without reading the headline "Water is the new oil." But what does that mean exactly? In fact, water shortages may cause more severe problems than oil shortages: our lives literally depend on water, plus there are several alternatives to fuel but none really to water. We can technically "make" more water through techniques like rainwater catchment and desalination, but few individual homeowners have their own catchment tanks and even fewer are likely to rig up their own desalination plant. Even if such things were easy, it would still behoove us all to reduce our water usage first, not only because water is scarce, but also because we could all stand to shave a few dollars off our water bills. With that in mind we compiled the following tips to help you do exactly that.
In the Shower
Install water-saving shower heads or flow restrictors. Readily available at any hardware or home store, low-flow shower heads deliver 2.5 gallons of water per minute while traditional shower heads use 5 to 7 gallon per minute.
Take a Shorter Shower. You don't have to be a hero, just shave off a couple of minutes. According to the EPA, even a one or two minute reduction in shower time can save up to 700 gallons per month.
Use the Cold Water. If your shower takes awhile to warm up, catch the cold water in a bucket and use it on your lawn or in the garden.
In the Bathroom
High Efficiency Toilets. If your toilet is from 1992 or earlier, you probably have an inefficient model that uses between 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush. New and improved high-efficiency models use less than 1.5 gallons per flush - that's 60 to 80 percent less than their less efficient counterparts. According to the EPA, over the course of 10 years, one high-efficiency toilet can save a family of four roughly $1,000 without compromising performance.
Displace Water. Here's an old-fashioned trick: Put a plastic bottle or bag weighted with pebbles and filled with water into your toilet tank. Displacing water in this manner allows you to use less water with each flush, saving between 5 and 10 gallons per day.
Check for Leaks. To check your toilet for leaks, put dye tablets or food coloring into the tank. If color appears in the bowl without flushing, there's a leak that should be repaired. To check showers and faucets for leaks, read your water meter before and after a two-hour period during which no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, you probably have a leak. Fixing a leaky toilet saves up to 400 gallons of water per month, while fixing a leaky faucet can save up to 225 gallons per month.
Brush and Shave Efficiently. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving. Fill the bottom of the sink with a few inches of water to rinse your razor. Turning off the water while brushing and shaving saves six gallons of water a day.
In the Yard
Timing Is Everything. Sprinklers running when it's raining? Not cool. Put your irrigation system on a weather-based schedule. If you set it to water in the early morning, that's even better. Using weather-based irrigation scheduling on a moderate-sized yard can save up to 37 gallons of water per day
Maintenance. Make sure a leaky sprinkler head isn't costing you dollars and gallons.
Go Native. Use native plants in your landscaping that are adapted to the local weather, and you won't have to water them as much (if at all). Native plants in the yard can reduce residential water use by 20 to 50 percent.