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Reducing Water Use and Costs

According to the American Water Works Association, the average household uses 350 gallons of water a day or approximately 127,400 gallons a year. The bathroom is where most water use occurs, with toilets and showers accounting for 27.7 percent and 17.3 percent of consumption respectively. Washing machines account for about 20.9 percent of indoor residential water use. There are many ways that households can reduce indoor water use, long term, and save money on monthly water and sewer bills. Household conservation measures in the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry area can reduce daily water consumption by about 30 percent or 51.9 gallons per person. Below are a few tips that can help households conserve water.

Everyday Conservation Measures:

Turn off the water when shaving, brushing your teeth, and lathering in the shower.

Turn faucets completely off to avoid drips. A slow drip (less than 5 drops per second) can waste up to 34 gallons of water a day.

Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when full.

Adjust the water level on the washing machine when doing less than a full load of laundry.

Avoid running water when washing fruits and vegetables. Washing in a bowl conserves water.

Take a shower instead of a bath. The amount of water needed to fill a tub varies, but on average, a bath uses 15 to 25 gallons of hot water, compared to less than 10 gallons for a shower.

Take short showers. An efficient 4-minute shower uses 10 gallons of water compared to an 8-minute shower, which uses about 17 gallons of water.

Long-term Conservation Measures:

Replace present showerheads with low-flow showerheads. All new showerheads are required by law to restrict water flow to 2.5 gallons per minute or less.

Install aerators on all faucets. Aerators are inexpensive, easy to install, and can reduce daily faucet water use by 13 percent.

Repair leaks immediately. Leaks account for 14 percent of household water use.

Consider installing low-flush toilets that use 1.5 gallons of water per flush, compared to 3 to 5 gallons per flush used by conventional toilets. A toilet dam can also be installed to conserve water.

Consider replacing your old washing machine with a more efficient model. Studies show that newer models can result in a 68 percent energy savings and a 38 percent water savings. Some utilities may provide incentives for buying new washing machines.

Conduct a Water Audit

A water audit measures household water consumption and can help detect water leaks. To detect leaks, set aside a time (30 minutes to an hour) when no water will be used in the house. Check the water meter before and after the time. If the meter reading changes, a leak is likely. To better pinpoint where a leak is located, conduct a full water audit. Information on how to conduct a residential water audit is available on the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Web site. The water audit can also help determine ways to reduce overall water consumption.

For more information about water conservation, visit the following Web sites:

American Water Works Association (AWWA)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Water Conservation Site


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Residential Water Conservation Techniques

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Water Efficiency Programs

U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network (EREN)


Content updated on 5/3/2004

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