Fun Fact: The same water that is flowing through our rivers and in our oceans today is the same water that was around when dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago.
Despite that same water surviving millions and millions of years, we are not consuming it the same way we did even 50 years ago. In the last 50 years, America's population has doubled and our water consumption here in the United States has tripled. And most of that water is wasted.
According to the United States Geological Survey, more than 1 trillion gallons of water are wasted every year. That being said, if we continue our wasteful habits, the Environment Protection Agency estimates that 40 states will face water shortages in the next few decades. According to the Texas Water Development Board, if a record drought occurs in the immediate future, the state could lose more than 400,000 jobs and $70 billion in economic activity.
The average American household uses 100,000 gallons of water a year. So taking steps in your own home can make a big difference in the grand scheme of water conservation. Here are a few tips:
1. Fix those pesky leaks
A slow-dripping faucet or always-running toilet can not only waste water, they waste energy, too. A leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day. A leaky faucet can waste up to 100 gallons per day. So check your toilet, washing machine, and any faucets for leaks often to avoid wasting water and racking up unnecessarily high bills.
2. Stick to showers but shorten them
On average, a 10-minute shower uses 25 gallons of water. Reducing your shower time from 10 minutes to five can save about 12.5 gallons. However, the average bath uses 35-50 gallons of water. So think of baths as an occasional treat and stick to shorter showers.
Want to take it an extra step? Place a bucket in the shower while you wait for the water to warm up and use that water to water plants, flush your toilet, clean, etc.
3. Turn the tap off
It can be easy and convenient to leave the water running when you brush your teeth, shave, or wash your hands. However, it's also a waste of water. Turn off the tap when you aren't directly using it. Just by shutting off the faucet when you brush your teeth in the morning and at night, you can save eight gallons of water a day. That adds up to more than 2,800 gallons a year!
4. Stop washing your dishes
You don't have to tell me twice. Rather than washing your dishes by hand, save time, energy, and water by utilizing your dishwasher. Washing by hand can use about 20 gallons of water per wash. But an automatic dishwasher only uses 9-12 gallons per cycle. Just make sure your dishwasher is full before use.
5. Reduce outdoor water use
Outdoor watering can account for more than 30 percent of your home's water use. Reducing outdoor water use can not only save water, it can help you save money. Many states' (Texas included) water utilities charge higher rates in the summer creating more incentive to water more efficiently.
You can help save water by limiting yard watering to no more than once a week, and prevent any water evaporation by watering early in the morning. Using a lot of mulch in flower beds can also help lock in soil moisture and keep your plants quenched. Avoid watering on windy days and make sure your sprinklers aren't hitting sidewalks or roads and wasting water.
Want to take it an extra step? Harvest rain water and use it for outdoor watering.*
6. Install energy-efficient fixtures and appliances
Installing high-efficiency appliances is one of the easiest ways to save water and energy without reducing any services. According to EnergyStar, energy-efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances conserve about 30 percent more water and yield on energy savings. High-efficient washing machines alone can save almost 25 gallons per load.
Toilets and washing machines are the two largest water-users inside your home, so replacing any old stools and washers can be a major water and cost saver. A family of four can save 16,000 gallons of water per year just by replacing toilets alone.
Individual water conservation is one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to save this precious resource. By making small adjustments to your everyday water use, you can do your part to ensure water is available for generations to come. If you're involved in city government and are interested in learning more about saving water within your community, click the button below.
*Check state and local laws for restrictions before harvesting rain water
Energy Star: Saving Water Helps Protect Our Nation's Water Supplies
Texas Water Development Board: Household Water Use Brochure
United States Environmental Protection Agency: Water Conservation at EPA