5 Ways to Reduce Your Water Footprint at Home
Understanding Your Home's Top Water Wasters


Conserving water is important because the supply is not endless. It may seem like water is all around us — but only about one percent is readily available for drinking. The other 97 percent of Earth’s water is saltwater and another two percent is frozen in ice caps and glaciers.

Conserving water means using our water supply wisely and responsibly. According to the United Nations, about 2 billion people are currently living in areas facing serious water scarcity. While in the US, most people have no idea that we use approximately 100 gallons of fresh water per day for bathing, drinking, flushing the toilet, cleaning and landscaping.

But that’s just direct water use. When you account for the fact that everything we buy, the energy we use and the food we eat requires water to produce, the average American's actual water “footprint” adds up to 2,000 gallons of water each day. We consume about 95 percent of our water without ever seeing it.

Conserving water isn’t just about protecting this natural resource — you'll save money as well, especially if you purchase water and sewage treatment from a municipality. So let’s take a look at some ways we can reduce our water footprint by looking at the top five water wasters at your house.

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Water Waster #1: Your Toilet
Accounting for approximately 25 percent of household water use, the number one water waster in your home is none other than your toilet. Depending on the age of your toilet, you might be using nearly 20 gallons of water a day (over 7,000 gallons a year) just by flushing.

Consider upgrading your older model to a low-flow toilet, which results in 70 percent savings in water and reduces indoor water use by about 30 percent. Federal regulations state that new toilets must use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush.

If you’re not ready to replace an older toilet or you already have a low-flow toilet, you can still do a couple things to use less water.

  • An adjustable flapper and valve kit can greatly reduce your usage. It a cheap fix that can save a lot on your utility bill.
  • You can also put filled plastic bottles or a tank bank in the toilet tank to use less water per flush. This will take up space and trick your toilet into filling up with less water.
  • Installing a dual flush converter allows you to use as little water as possible for flushes that don’t need more. They’re quick and easy to install and let you cut water waste further, up to 15,000 gallons for an average family.
  • Also be sure to test your toilets for leaks. According to the EPA, a running toilet may waste as much as 200 gallons per day! Checking a leaky toilet is simple. Just add food coloring to the toilet tank. If you see color in the bowl, you know your flapper needs replacing.

Water Waster #2: Your Washing Machine
We head to the laundry room for water waster number two: your washing machine. Laundry accounts for approximately 22 percent of household water usage. There are numerous ways to reduce water usage in the laundry room.

When it’s time to replace your washing machine, consider purchasing a water efficient and Energy Star rated model. The average conventional top-load washing machine may use up to 54 gallons per load, while the most efficient front loader washer only requires seven gallons. That’s a huge water savings for an average family washing eight loads a week! Energy Star and high-efficiency washers also use less electricity and remove more water from clothes during the spin cycle. This decreases drying time, cutting energy use even further.

If you’re not ready to replace your older model or are looking to cut your water use in the laundry room further, here are a couple tips you might try.

  • Consider doing laundry less often. If clothes or towels aren’t visibly dirty, use them more than once. Dry your clean body on a towel a few times before pitching it in the hamper, saving not only water and electricity, but also time and money.
  • Match your load size and cycle to the load of laundry you are doing. To be most efficient, only wash full loads of laundry, but this isn’t always practical. If you have only a few items, make sure you take a couple seconds to adjust the washing machine settings for smaller loads and choose the correct cycle. Also, skip the extra rinse cycle, you don’t need it if you pre-treat stains, use the appropriate amount of detergent and load the washer properly.
  • Check for leaks. Even small leaks can add up to big dollars on your water bill. Check for drips and leaks around water connection hose and any puddling underneath or around your machine. Proactive maintenance, like replacing water hoses every three to five years can save you time and money down the road.

Water Waster #3: Your Shower
While far more water efficient than baths, showers still account for 17 percent of household water use. According the EPA, the average American shower uses roughly 17 gallons of water and lasts for around eight minutes. That’s over 40,000 gallons per person per year!

Here are some ways to use your shower time and water more efficiently.

  • Change to a low-flow showerhead. This simple switch can cut your water use up to 40 percent over standard showerheads. While it may cost you some money up front, you will save money down the road. According to the EPA, if every showerhead in the United States was a WaterSense model, we’d collectively save 260 billion gallons of water and over $5 billion per year!
    Put a bucket in the shower to collect the normally discarded cold water that runs while you wait for the hot water to get to your shower. This water can be used for watering plants, flushing the toilet or cleaning.
    Take shorter showers. This may seem like a no-brainer, but even reducing shower time by one or two minutes will save water over the course of the week.

Water Waster #4: Your Kitchen Faucet and Sink
Faucets also account for about 17 percent of household water use, especially in the kitchen where you wash your hands, clan fruits and vegetables, fill a pot to boil water and soak dirty dishes. That’s just for food safety and hygiene! Consider using some of these water-saving strategies in your kitchen.

  • Add water saving aerators to your faucets. Aerators are simple to install, inexpensive and can cut water use by up to 77 percent.
  • Choose your dishwasher over hand washing. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, an Energy Star certified dishwasher can use as little as three gallons of water per load. Dishwashers made since 2013 are required to use five gallons or less of water per load. But remember, only wash full loads in the dishwasher.
  • If you do wash dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running for rinsing. Plug the sink and fill the basin with water to rinse your dishes.
  • Minimize use of your sink garbage disposal. Your garbage disposal requires lots of water and energy to operate properly. Consider starting a compost pile instead.

Water Waster #5: Leaks
Leaks in your home may be costing you lots of money over time. In addition to fixing leaky faucets and toilets, it’s a good idea to check the rest of your house for drips and puddles that could indicate ongoing leaks. That includes inspecting the pipes under your sinks, in and around your hot water tank, and in any outbuildings with water service. Here are some ways you can detect leaks in your home.

  • Conduct regular leak hunts. Tour your home regularly, both inside and out, to check for dripping faucets, showerheads, hoses and sprinklers. Most faucets can be fixed simply by replacing a worn-out washer.
  • Check your water bill for any instances of high or abnormal water use. This could indicate a leak.
  • For less obvious leaks, read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is used. Unless there is a leak, the reading should be exactly the same. If it changes, you have a leak. To narrow down the location of your leak, Close your main water shut-off valve. If the meter reading increases, the leak is between your meter and the shut-off valve. If it stops, the leak is somewhere in your house.