How to reduce water usage in your home

How to reduce water usage in your home

Saving water in your home is possible with a good water management plan.

Freshwater is a precious resource and also a privilege to have access to in our homes. Saving water requires only two things from everyone living in your home: to design a good water management plan and to adopt it. To accomplish these tasks can sometimes be difficult because all people and households are different. In other word, water conservation is a relative experience. Some households truly waste a lot of water and there is little motivation to change this practice. Water conservation is a choice and this article is merely a guide to better practices.

Water consumption in the United States

Our water is used by many different industry sectors, including municipal public supply, industrial, energy, mining, and agriculture. Every water delivery system was engineered and built with their user in mind to support required demand for the full system lifecycle. For example, the average American family uses about 300 gallons of water per day in their home (or about 180 gallons per person.) About 70 percent of household water is used indoors and 30 percent is used for irrigation.

Remarkably, today, residential water usage only constitutes about 8 percent of all water used in the United States. The bulk of all our freshwater resources, about 80 percent, are equally used between thermoelectric (nuclear) power plants and agricultural sectors. Since the mass adoption of nuclear fission in the 1960s and 1970s, the total water consumption in the United States steadily runs at about 350 to 400 Billion gallons per day.

Water consumption in your home

Although only 8 percent of all freshwater is used in residential purposes, this water is, by far, the most expensive and the most difficult to deliver and to recover after use. This is why reducing this burden greatly helps your household budget. During the recent period, since 2005, municipal water use had decreased by about 4 percent, despite an increase in both population and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States.

The reason for this decrease in household water use is several federal, state, and local policies implemented in the 1990s that have facilitated water-efficiency improvements. For example, the National Energy Policy Act of 1992 established efficiency standards for all toilets, urinals, faucets, and showerheads manufactured after January 1994. In the hottest parts of the United States, per capita, water use is still relatively high. Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Hawaii, and Nevada have the highest water use rates.

Ways to save water in your home

Everyone in your household needs to participate in design and execution of the Water Management Plan. Some conservation actions are expensive, other actions can be inconvenient, yet others may be a simple matter of changing a perspective. Regardless of how conservation actions come to life in your household, the following are some basics that can help you manage your water consumption.

  • Each water fixture in your home has a unique water consumption rate called flow rate. This is why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains and sponsors a voluntary partnership program for water-efficient products

  • Any old fixture can be replaced with a new water-efficient unit to reduce water consumption. Some fixtures are easier and less costly to replace than others.

  • Most kitchen sink faucets can be upgraded with a flow rate aerator to reduce water consumption. Water-efficient faucet aerators can be easily installed with either kitchen or bathroom faucets. The best sink aerators have multiple flow rates: 0.5 GPM flow rate for soaping, 1.0 GPM for washing, and 1.5 GPM for rinsing. For comparison, a standard sink faucet aerator has a 2.2 GPM flow rate. A bubble spray aerator is ideal for use in homes and a needle spray aerator produces a shower-like pattern that is often used in commercial applications. For example, Niagara Conservation water-efficient faucet aerators have excellent specifications.

  • Some landscaping spray sprinkler bodies feature integral pressure regulation spray (PRS) design that helps to decrease the outdoor water waste associated with irrigation systems. Pressure regulated sprinklers can help you save approximately one gallon per minute per spray. For example, Rain Bird 1800 Series Maximum Efficiency Pressure Regulated Spray Heads carry excellent specifications.

  • To run a dishwasher is typically more water-efficient than hand washing dishes in a kitchen sink. To install a new dishwasher in a home without an existing unit may not be cost-effective, but to replace a broken dishwasher almost always is a good choice. Picking a dishwasher is normally a matter of a budget and a preference, however, some dishwashers are better at saving water than others. ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps consumers choose superior energy and water-efficient appliances, such as dishwashers.

  • Most showerheads can be easily replaced with a reduced flow rate units, rated at 1.5 GPM, 1.8 GPM or 2.0 GPM. For comparison, a conventional flow showerhead is rated at 2.5 GPM. An efficient showerhead may take some getting used to, but a well-designed unit can deliver good coverage and spray intensity without noticeable sacrifice to the overall experience. For example, products from High Sierra, Niagara Conservation and Delta Faucet Company generally carry great water-efficiency specifications and quality.

  • Toilets use the most water in a home, accounting for about 30 percent of all indoor water consumption. Water-efficiency of a toilet is rated on gallons per flush (GPF) basis. Toilets are a major source of wasted water in many homes because their designs are inherently faltering, and their leaks are often neglected due to added complexity. A typical toilet is rated at 1.6 GPF according to minimum federal regulations in the United States. An installation of a water-efficient toilet is expensive and time-consuming, but newer models can deliver 20 percent better water-efficiency at 1.28 GPF, or 1.6 GPF Full and 1.1 GPF Reduced (Dual-Flush) with an equal performance to that of a standard 1.6 GPF toilet. For example, American Standard and KOHLER Co. offer flexible and efficient specifications.

  • Turning off faucets completely after each use and keeping an eye on any leaks will help you avoid any unexpected water use issues. Treat your water bill as a tool to monitor for unusually high use. Your water bill can help you discover leaks, especially if you have areas in your home that are rarely visited. An open faucet in a rarely-visited part of your home can do great damage to your Water Management Plan.

  • A typical bathtub holds about 80 gallons of water. Taking fewer baths, or shorter showers maybe a good way to cut down water usage. This is purely a personal preference, so keep in mind that not everyone will agree with this. Remember, saving water requires everyone living in your home to adopt water conservation outlook, but don’t let it become an obsession. For any good habit to stick, a positive reinforcement is required.

The best thing you can do is to evaluate all existing fixtures in your home and do a basic cost-benefit analysis against replacing each fixture as the primary tool for archiving a water-efficient home. Making these improvements should help everyone in your household to be more conserving without giving up the comfort and hygiene that only clean water can deliver.

Related to: water management, saving water, conserving water, home water usage

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First published: August 24, 2019
Last updated: November 03, 2019