Thanks to a study by the American Water Works Association, it's easy to see where we need to concentrate when considering indoor water conservation. View a helpful tip sheet (PDF) that addresses the many ways you can save water at home.
More water is used for flushing toilets than any other appliance in the home. The following are some ways you can make your toilets more water efficient:
- Upgrade to a high-efficiency model: If you suspect that the toilets in your home were installed before 1992, you may want to consider replacing them with newer high efficiency models. They are readily available at any local hardware store and they work really great.
- Displace some of the water in the tank: If replacing your toilet is not something you can do right now, consider installing a water displacement device such as a toilet dam or small plastic jug or bag filled with water. These devices are installed in the tank behind the toilet. As the toilet tank fills, the displacement device takes up a set amount of volume, causing the tank level to rise to full using less water. Be sure that the installation of the device doesn't interfere with the operating parts of the toilet and that the overflow pipe is not continually draining. Do Not use a brick as a displacement device. It will likely begin to break down in your toilet and cause plumbing problems.
- Check to see if your toilet is leaking: Take the lid off of the tank at the back and put a few drops of food coloring into the water. Don't use the toilet for 10 to 15 minutes. If you see the color coming through to the toilet bowl then you have a leak between the back water storage tank and the bowl. This can waste a considerable amount of water since it runs continually from the tank to the bowl and out through the pipes underneath. Many times the culprit is the rubber flush valve at the bottom of the back tank. These can be purchased at your local hardware store and are fairly easy to replace.
- Use it only for its intended purpose: Remember, toilets were never designed to be used as a trash can. The pipes beneath your house can be easily clogged by flushing items down the toilet that actually belong in the trash can. Only 3 things should be sent down the toilet bowl; #1, #2 and the paper hanging next to you. All other products included "flushable" wipes, feminine products, ear swabs, dental floss, packaging of any kind, etc. can result in costly plumbing repairs and should never be flushed down the toilet.
- Watch the water level: When it comes to washing clothes, be sure to use the water level selector to match the amount of clothing you are washing. If you don't have a water level selector, be sure to only run full loads.
- Pre-Soak: Clothes that are heavily soiled should be pre-soaked so that you don't have to wash them twice.
- Look for leaks: Check faucets and hose connections for leaks. Inspect pipes for pinhole leaks or leaking joints.
- Make a wise purchase: If you're in the market for a new clothes washer, purchase one with water conserving features including a water level selector.
- Upgrade your shower head: Today's low flow shower heads are leaps and bounds better than the early models from years ago. With new conservation oriented plumbing regulations, many manufacturers have stepped up to the plate and produced a variety of shower heads that meet our expectation of a powerful and comfortable shower while still conserving water. Next time you're at the local hardware store, take a look at the variety of low-flow shower heads that are available. Check out the Environmental Protection Program's Shower Better Program.
- Take shorter showers: Be mindful of how long you have been in the shower. Just cutting back by a few minutes will add up to big savings.
- Turn it off: It may not seem like a lot of water, but turning the water off while you are brushing your teeth or shaving saves a significant amount of water over the days, weeks and months of any given year. Think about how many of us live here in North Texas. If we all turned the water off whenever we weren't actually using it, the savings would be enormous!
- Add an aerator (or replace a clogged one): Aerators are an easy and inexpensive way to save water at the faucet. Aerators add air to the stream which decreases the amount of water coming out of the faucet. Your hands get just as clean with this air-filled stream.
Even the smallest of leaks can lead to a great deal of wasted water. Be sure to regularly check your faucets, toilets, pipes and outdoor faucet taps. You can find information on do-it-yourself repairs at your local hardware store. However, if you have not had much experience with plumbing repairs, it is best to find a local, licensed plumber.