8 long-term tips to reduce water use as drought worsens

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Climate change has led to unpredictable weather patterns around the world. While some areas are getting more rain and snowfall than before, others are experiencing widespread drought. Notably, a 22-year mega-drought has engulfed the southwestern region of the United States, the longest drought in over 1,200 years.

As the world’s population grows, the demand for water resources also increases, as does water scarcity. That’s why it’s vital that everyone does their part to save water at home, especially when drought is a constant threat to many regions, due in part to climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average American household uses about 300 gallons of water a day; 30% of this use is for toilet flushing. This is split around 70% for indoor use and 30% for outdoor use, though it depends on what kind of landscaping you have.

In the United States, even if your home is surrounded by landscape or drought-tolerant flora, conserving water makes sense for both the environment and your wallet.

Here are some ways to take a close look at your water utilities and save water long term for future generations.

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1. Install devices labeled WaterSense.

Just as the EPA Energy Star designation points consumers to energy-efficient home appliances, the WaterSense label is the EPA’s seal of approval for water-saving or low-pressure faucets and showerheads, toilets, washing machines and dishwashers.

In particular, WaterSense-labeled products must be at least 20% more water efficient than the average product in that category. What’s more, these EPA-approved devices should still deliver the impressive features and performance levels that consumers expect.

These Energy Star and WaterSense labeled products may be more expensive than other less efficient products and appliances on the market, but consumers are expected to recoup the money in savings over time.

And because most energy-efficient technologies are not proprietary and therefore can be used by multiple manufacturers, consumers have the opportunity to shop among different brands for a wider choice.

If a new energy-efficient appliance isn’t on the budget, consider adding a low-flow faucet or aerator to your sink.

The Environmental Protection Agency claims that those with the WaterSense label can save 700 gallons of water each year.

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2. Be careful when using the faucet

Even with a low-flow faucet or aerator, it’s easy to turn the faucet on full blast while you’re brushing your teeth. Instead, make a conscious effort to turn off the faucet until it’s time to rinse.

The same applies to washing dishes or hands. “Don’t let the water run all the time,” says Victor Holas, founder of SimplySwider.com, a DIY home renovation website.

If you have a double kitchen sink, you have another water saving option. “Fill one sink with soapy water for washing and the other with clean water for rinsing,” Holas says.

Note, however, that it is much more efficient to use a dishwasher than washing dishes by hand, because the dishwasher uses much less water.

3. Take shorter showers

We use more water in the shower than you think.

The average shower takes about eight minutes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If you have a standard shower installed, the flow rate is 2.2 GPM, which is almost 18 gallons of water per shower.

Skip shaving in the shower and you’ll cut down on time and water consumption instead.

Adrienne Urban, owner of the health website Whole New Mom, offers an alternative. “In most cases, instead of a full shower, a quick wash under your armpits and a dry shampoo on your hair is enough to keep you looking and smelling fresh,” she says.

4. Fix leaks quickly

A leaky faucet is not only annoying, but can lead to a lot of water loss over time.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that leaks in the average household can result in the loss of nearly 10,000 gallons of water per year. In fact, 10% of homes waste more than 90 gallons of this limited resource per day on unfixed leaks.

So it’s no surprise that every March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) holds Leak Cleanup Week.

The problem with some household leaks is that they are not always easy to spot. For peace of mind – not to mention lower water bills – install a smart water monitor on your water meter. It’s easy to make with your own hands, and once it’s ready, you can sync it with the app on your smartphone or tablet.

According to Rick Miles, CEO of Flume, a company that sells smart water monitors, his experience is that more than 22% of homeowners find a leak within one week of installing Flume, and 70% of users find a leak over time.

Here at Reviewed, we have tested many smart water monitors and smart leak detectors, but not Flume. Our top overall winner is Moen’s Flo, and we also love the options from Ring, Eve, and Govee.

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According to the 2022 Hippo Housepower Report, homeowners must act quickly to fix a leak, but few do. Insurance company Hippo surveyed 1,000 homeowners about their home care habits and found that 87% of homeowners don’t check their plumbing regularly.

Worse, 13% of homeowners admit to never having one. Considering the average home water damage insurance claim can be up to $12,000, that’s quite a risk.

5. Collect domestic wastewater

Gray water can be used for various household chores such as watering plants and flushing toilets.

Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love, a company that offers high-tech solutions for residential and commercial lawn care, says, “During a drought, you can save water at home by collecting and reusing gray water.”

Gray water is wastewater that comes from your washing machine, shower, and bath. It’s not potable and should never be used for drinking, but Yamaguchi says it can be used instead of fresh water to flush toilets or water plants.

You can put the bucket in the sink in the laundry room, or you can simply dip the bucket into the tub of water and use it for the toilet. If you shower, try getting a larger bucket that you can stand in while you shower and collect the water.

Indeed, this method may not be practical or feasible for everyone, but it’s another reason to speed up your shower instead.

6. Clean exterior surfaces with a broom, not a hose.

It’s easy to get to the hose when cleaning hard surfaces around the house, but that’s quite a waste of water.

Holas suggests, “Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway or sidewalk. This will save a lot of water and also save you money on your water bills.”

7. Use rain barrels for outdoor watering

Rain barrels do collect rainwater, but more importantly, they collect runoff from your roof and gutters. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this has a double benefit: A rainwater barrel reduces the amount of water leaking from your property and also saves a supply of water that you can use to water your lawn and garden.

You may be able to buy a rainwater barrel in your city, but you can find one online or at your local home and garden store.

Rain barrels range from purely utilitarian to more aesthetically pleasing. You can even find ones that masquerade as self-watering flower pots on top with a large capacity water tank on the bottom.

Some rain barrels also come with their own hose and nozzle to make watering your lawn and garden even easier.

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Like gray water, rainwater is also not drinkable. Rain barrel accumulation is only for outdoor irrigation, and even then, you need to make sure you keep a close eye on how it is collected.

Tim Dunphy, water expert at Leaf Home, a leading provider of home solutions in North America, says: “Your gutters need to be clean and free of debris in order for the water you collect to be at the right level. A buildup of leaves and other organic debris in the gutters can settle to the bottom of the barrel, which can discolor rainwater and cause a putrid odor. It can also create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.”

Dunphy offers regular gutter cleaning or the addition of a gutter guard such as gutter guards.

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Dunphy says that your barrel should have a lid to protect the collected water, and also to keep animals and curious children from falling inside. To keep the barrel stable, he suggests digging out a four-inch base for the barrel. Fill with pea-sized gravel, then lay concrete blocks on top of the gravel for a solid base.

As an alternative to a rain barrel, you can have a rainwater harvesting system, or a rainwater harvesting system with a filter and pump installed underground, although Dunphy says this saves space, not money.

8. Water carefully

Whether you’re using water from a rainwater barrel or installing a WaterSense controller on your sprinkler system, you need to make sure you have an irrigation strategy in place.

To conserve water, especially in summer when gardens and lawns are at their most thirsty, water should be done in the morning, says Craig Wilson, director of Gardeners Dream, the UK’s leading online gardening retailer.

“Irrigating in the middle of the day, which is usually the hottest time of the day, keeps water from reaching the roots, which is wasteful,” explains Wilson. He also suggests checking the hoses regularly for leaks and other damage leading to wasted water.

Wilson also says that a soak hose is a worthy investment for a garden.

“The soak hoses provide a constant level of water and water right at the roots, which prevents bacteria from getting on plant leaves,” he says, noting that for best results, the hose should be positioned a few inches around the plant stems. .

Saving water also saves energy and money

While drought caused by climate change is reason enough to conserve water, it also saves energy. By using less water, less energy is needed to pump, heat and deliver water to your home.

On the other hand, saving energy can also save water, which is used to cool power plants. The EPA reports that a 60-watt incandescent light bulb that is turned on for 12 hours a day for a year requires 3,000 to 6,000 gallons of water to cool the power plants that light that light bulb.

Saving energy and water not only supports the environment, but also your family budget. By applying any or all of these methods in your home, you can lower your water and energy bills.

Short showers can be difficult, especially if you need to wake up in the morning, but you can tell it’s worth it in the long run.

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