8 Low-Lift Things You Can Do to Save a Lot Water
Do you know how much water gets wasted when you let the faucet run while shaving, brushing your teeth, or hand-washing the dishes? Hint: It's a lot (like, hundreds of gallons every week). Or how much water is required to raise and produce beef? Without meaning to, you might be letting more water get wasted than is really necessary. So here's a wake-up call to eight super-easy tweaks you can make to both your household appliances and your lifestyle choices that could help conserve some precious H2O. The sooner you take note of what you might be guilty of (we all are, don't panic), the sooner you can alter your habits and start reducing your water footprint.
Turn Off the Faucet While Brushing Your Teeth
Think it doesn’t matter if you leave the water running while you brush? Brushing your teeth may seem like a trivial task in this context, but if you leave the water running while you brush for the American Dental Association–recommended two minutes twice a day, you’ll end up letting anywhere from four to eight gallons of water run down the sink each day, depending on the age and model of your faucet. And while you’re at it, remember to turn off the water while you’re washing your hands properly (for at least 20 seconds), shaving (only turn it on to rinse the razor), and washing dishes by hand.
Bring Your Water With You
Buying a plastic bottle of water from the store may be part of your daily habit, but it’s not too late to change your ways and quit parching the planet. More water than what’s inside the bottle is used to produce and package that product. Each one-liter plastic bottle can take several liters of water to produce, when taking into account the entire supply and production chain. Refilling your own bottle directs the water where it’s needed―right into your body.
Install a Low-Flow Showerhead
Low-flow showerheads can cut water use in half—maybe more. According to USGS, older showers use up to five gallons of water per minute, while water-saving or low-flow shower heads use more like two gallons per minute. If you take a five-minute shower using this type of showerhead, the showerhead would save enough water in a year to fill a 15-foot aboveground pool. Plus, you save on the water bill and on all the energy that would have gone into heating the excess shower water. Everyone wins. But, at the very least, even if you don’t install a low-flow head, you can work on trimming down your shower times.
Install Faucet Aerators
Faucets account for about 20 percent of indoor water use and typically flow at twice the rate they should. Installing aerators in kitchen and bathroom sinks greatly reduces the water flow rate—and they can cost as little as two or three dollars per sink. Look for sink faucets, aerators, and other accessories with a WaterSense label, which EPA certified to use a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute. This can reduce a sink's water flow by 30 percent or more from the standard flow of 2.2 gallons per minute. According to the EPA, “[r]eplacing old, inefficient faucets and aerators with WaterSense labeled models [or twisting on a WaterSense labeled aerator] can save the average family 700 gallons of water per year, equal to the amount of water needed to take 45 showers.”
Choose Recycled-Paper Products
Products made from 100-percent recycled paper require much less water in their manufacturing than do those made from virgin paper. If your family goes through four rolls of paper towels a week, choosing recycled reduces waste significantly. Better yet, use cloth dish towels to cut back on paper towel use in general (recycled or otherwise). Choose recycled printer paper when hard copies are necessary, or opt for digital mail, bills, and subscriptions when possible to save water.
Water Your Lawn in the Early Morning or Evening
If you irrigate in the middle of the day, evaporation prevents a lot of that water from reaching the plants’ roots. Watering the lawn in the early morning or evening (typically the coolest parts of the day), and avoiding watering on super-windy days, small changes that could save gallons of water each week.
Eat One More Vegetarian Meal a Week
It takes a lot of water to grow the grain to feed the cow that ultimately produces a hamburger. A six-ounce steak has a water footprint of 674 gallons, while a salad’s water impact is more like 21 gallons. A 2017 environmental impact analysis found that the omnivore's diet had the greatest water footprint (and carbon footprint) compared to vegetarian and vegan diets. Swapping just one meat-centric meal every week for a vegetarian option can save more than 3,000 gallons of water.
Use a Lower Dishwasher Setting
The typical household will use six to 16 gallons of water with each run of the dishwasher. Contrary to popular belief, it’s rarely necessary to use the normal setting on a dishwasher or to rinse plates beforehand. The light-wash setting often cleans just as well while reducing water use up to 55 percent.