Eight Water Conservation Tips and Tricks

On average, each Californian uses about 85 gallons of water every day, but it depends on the season. In winter months, it’s as low as 60 gallons per day and in summer months, it’s as high as 110 gallons per day. That’s between 12 and 22 of those 5‑gallon water cooler jugs, every day for every person! About a quarter of that water literally gets flushed down the toilet. More than half comes from faucets, showers, and appliances.

Efficient water use is always important, but it’s imperative right now. The drought will pass, and rain will come again, but right now, in this moment, we have a civic duty to do what we can to help. Our local rivers, water suppliers, and various sources of fire protection water need each of us to do our parts to make sure there’s enough of this valuable resource to go around. There are countless ways to easily save water and save money while doing it. Here are some water conservation tips and tricks.

  • Look for and fix leaks. Dripping faucets and worn toilet flappers are common types of leaks found in the home:
    • Check your water meter, wait a few hours without using any water, and check your meter again. If your meter changes, you probably have a leak. Be careful lifting the lid to your meter, as wires can be connected from the lid to the meter that are expensive to replace. Information about your water meter can be found at http://rrwatershed.org/maximize-outdoor-water-use.
    • To find a leak in your toilet, place a few drops of food coloring in the tank and wait 10 minutes. If color shows up in the bowl, you have a leak.
    • Examine pipes and valves under your sinks to check for moisture.
    • Check your irrigation system regularly to look for leaks and make repairs promptly.
    • Don’t forget your
    • garden hose. If it leaks at the spigot, replace the hose washer and ensure a tight connection with pipe tape and a wrench.

Fixing household leaks can save you about 10 percent on your water bill. While you’re at it, see if you can find a leak at work and report it to maintenance staff. If you see an irrigation leak around town, report it to the local utility.

  • Fix the flush. In general, the older your toilet is the more water it uses. Toilets built before 1982 use 5 to 7 gallons per flush. Toilets built between 1982 and 1993 use about 3.5 gallons per flush. Newer toilets use 1.6 gallons of water or less. For the average flusher with an old commode, that’s a savings of about 20gallons per day or 600 gallons per month per person! Look inside the tank of your toilet for a date stamp either on the inside of the tank near the top or on the underside of the tank’s top. Try flushing less. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Never use a toilet as a garbage can.
  • Take shorter showers, or fewer showers. You probably aren’t THAT dirty anyway. Challenge yourself to take a 5-minute shower. Replace your showerhead. There are many low-flow options out there for just a few bucks. The average family could save 2,700 gallons per year by installing more efficient showerheads. Hot water savings reduce demands on water heaters, saving energy dollars too!
  • Save water at the faucet. Replacing faucets with low flow options can reduce water use by as much as 30 percent or more without sacrificing performance. Not ready to replace a faucet? Try adding a low flow faucet aerator. They’re small, inexpensive, easy to install and can reduce faucet flows to 1.5 gallons per minute. A family can save about 700 gallons of water per year by installing an aerator. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth, wash your hands and shave. Use a machine dishwasher if you have one and avoid pre-rinsing dishes. Machine washing generally uses less water, energy, soap, and time. If you must manually wash dishes, always use a basin to soak and scrub dishes and be quick with rinsing. Try not filling up the basin. Rinse out recyclables in the dishwasher, with dirty dishwater or wipe them clean with a gently used napkin. Reducing demands on hot water saves energy too. If you’re in the market for a new appliance, toilet, faucet, showerhead, or faucet aerator look for the WaterSense label. This is a distinction earned by meeting EPA water efficiency criteria without compromising the quality of your fixture experience.
  • While you wait for water from your bathtub and sinks to warm up, try catching it in containers like milk jugs or buckets. Use the water you collect to water plants and make coffee. You can also use it to flush the toilet by dumping water into the bowl with one quick pour into the bowl to create a strong flush.
  • Generate less laundry by wearing clothing multiple times if they’re not dirty and reuse your bath/shower towel for an entire week. Only run appliances when you have a full load for washing. Try air drying dishes instead of using a dishtowel.
  • Let your lawn go brown. Or even better, explore alternative landscaping and irrigation options like rock gardens, native and drought tolerant plants, rainwater harvesting and other long-term options. Add 2” -3” of mulch to help retain soil moisture. If you must irrigate, do it at night or in the early morning to minimize evaporation. Make sure you have a garden hose nozzle with an auto-off lever so you can target plants and avoid spraying everywhere. Landscaping should survive, not thrive in a drought. Use a broom or blower to clean surfaces instead of hosing them off.
  • Don’t wash your car. If you can’t stand a dirty ride, wash your car at a commercial carwash. Many facilities recycle their wash water, but even if they don’t, car washing equipment is much more water efficient than your garden hose. Avoid washing your car at home.

To take a Home Water Use Survey and find drought information or more water conservation ideas, check out the Russian River Watershed Association’s drought page at http://rrwatershed.org/project/2021-drought-updates-and-information and Resource Library at http://rrwatershed.org/resource-library.

Thank you for being part of the solution!

This article was authored by Vanessa Apodaca, of (West Yost Associates), on behalf of RRWA. RRWA is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.