How Do You Conserve Water at Home?

| 6/15/2010 12:16:16 PM

Tags: water conservation, WaterSense program, Environmental Protection Agency, question to readers,

white toilet 

Using less water at home can save you money. What are some of the best ways to conserve water? Our recent article, Save Money on Water suggests taking advantage of the WaterSense program. It is a program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that began in 2006 to promote the conservation of the U.S. water supply. It allows people to easily identify fixtures and appliances that are more water-efficient.

In particular, a water-efficient toilet can make a big difference in your water use. For more about different types of toilets, check out our article on Best Options for High Efficiency Toilets.  

What are you doing at home to conserve your water?

Photo by iStockphoto/Creativel 


8/13/2010 9:13:05 PM

So far, taking Navy showers, using dishpan, and flushing only when necessary. Recently, installed a rainwater off the roof collection system for watering the garden. As a desert dweller, have come to view water using toilets as unconscionable. But compost toilets are sooooo expensive. Just discovered Joseph Jenkins' book, The Humanure Handbook. Finally, someone who has really thought through this matter and clear instructions on how to build and manage an inexpensive compost toilet. One guess as to my next project...

8/10/2010 7:47:02 PM

I have a bucket in the bath to capture water while I'm waiting for the hot water. I use this to flush the toilet. I also have milk or juice jugs under all the sinks to capture water while I am waiting for the water to get hot that I use to water inside and outside potted plants. We have rain barrels that we capture rain water and us for different things. The condensation from the a/c is piped to the banana tree.

8/3/2010 2:42:39 AM

I was proud to replace my ancient toilet with a Niagara - made toilet from Home Depot, under the Glacier Bay name. This is a 1.28 gallon toilet, and cost me about $128.00 if I remember right. While this toilet doesn't "clean" itself as well as some, due to its radical design - it flushes very well, and uses a "flapperless" technology, so you don't have any flappers and such to deteriorate and cause increased water consumption. Overall, for the money I am very pleased with this toilet - which in a 1 bathroom home is a very important appliance! The common hot water in our complex has never really gotten to my kitchen sink in the 20 years I have lived here, despite pump changes and water heater changes. I finally installed a 4 gallon Ariston electric water heater on my counter top. This eliminates waiting a long time for my water to attempt to heat up for my washing machine or dishwasher, or hand washing. I do have to service it twice a year, cleaning it out with vinegar and replacing the anode rod (not expensive) - but it is a small price to pay for really hot water when I need it - and with a convenient on/off switch, I turn my hot water heater off when I am not home, or when it is very hot to save energy. This Ariston hot water heater is neat, because you can plumb the somewhat cold hot water line from the building into the cold side of the electric water heater, so you are simply "boosting" the temp of the incoming "hot" water to an acceptable temperature.

8/2/2010 11:54:29 PM

Simple and easy without sparing much inconvenience regardless of your water habits: We all run the shower for a couple minutes to let the water warm up before jumping in - place a 5 gallon bucket under the shower head to collect this water, then use it for watering plants, watering animals, flushing the toilet or anywhere that you may need a few gallons of water. Extra tip - don't wait for the bucket to fill up - just for the water to become warm.

8/2/2010 8:24:25 PM

1- Bought 3 1500 gallon collapsible tanks from USAF auction- Hooked up to downspouts. I am installing 20 gallon plastic barrel in attic hooked to toilet so I can flush with rain water 2 Take Navy showers: have soap and shampoo ready , turn water on to wet down then immediately turn water off and lather. Water back on for rinse 3 washing clothes I save the rinse water in big bucket and use it in garden , pre wash etc 4 washing hands I use a few drops of water and let the SOAP do the work . Same for brushing teeth - no running water 20 CENTS a GALLON laundry soap/ cleaner for 3 & 4 above I use homemade soap : 1/2 cup borax , 1 cup washing soda and 1 bar Fels laundry soap ,grated,dissolved into 10 yes TEN gallons hot water. Use 3/4 cup on top loaders 5 I pre soak all dishes , especially silver ware by soaking in biggest pots/dishes full of water with few drops of above soap 6 wash vehicles in rain with kids in hot weather it's a blast! 7 save water in buckets until it gets hot - tho with solar water heater going online it will be unnecessary

8/2/2010 2:51:59 PM

We have a pool and we keep it covered at any time we're not swimming. We have low flow toilets but we also bail the water from our bathtub to use to flush the toilet and we only flush every 2-3 times if it's urine. We've let our lawns die and replaced them with drought tolerant plants which we water by hand and only when they need it. We also have a 350 gallon rain barrel connected to the rain gutters - that water goes to our fruit trees.

corinne funk
8/2/2010 12:48:42 PM

I have a few suggestions that might be helpful and have worked for my husband and I. When it comes to flushing the toilet we probably only do it 3 - 4 times per day when only urinating. No need to flush every single time as it is only liquid. A low flow toilet is great but if you are still flushing 20 or more times a day, depending on your family size, are you really saving much water. I only wash the dishes in the sink and maybe use my dishwasher once in a while when we have company for dinner. Many people say using a dish washer instead of washing by hand saves more water but again it depends on how you do it. I buy a dish soap made in Canada called Biovert. There is no rising required with this soap and if you leave the dishes to dry on there own there are no spots. Awesome stuff! Also, the process of washing the dishes makes a difference in how much water you use as well. Always start with the dishes that are the least dirty and work you way up to the dirtiest. Even if you have a pile of dishes you can wash all of them in one sink of water that is about half full. Also, if I am boiling water for pasta or hard boiled eggs or something that doesn't dirty up the water too much I will pour it in the sink and use it to wash dishes with. I have 4 rain barrels that catch 220 gallons of water off our urban house and this is what I use to water our vegetables and flower beds. The grass gets what ever falls from the sky. Happy conserving!

jo ann_4
8/2/2010 12:22:11 PM

We only flush every other time for urine. It does stain the bowl if let to sit too long so every other saves us lots of water on our low flush toilet. We never "waste" any water that's been poured. If you didn't finish that glass of water? put it in the pitcher that we use to water plants. Brought home a reusable water bottle from a hike and now the water is hot? Pour it in the pitcher for plant watering. When I walk my dog I try, when practical to pee in the woods and save a flush.

8/2/2010 12:20:43 PM

A small thing, but, as others have remarked, every bit helps. Save water used for steaming or boiling veggies, let it cool, and use it to water plants. Leftover tea and coffee can be used for this as well. It not only reduces the waste of water, but adds nutrients (at no cost!) to house plants. They will love it!! I also agree with the other suggestions, although we have "discussions" over the "yellow, let it mellow.." procedure. I insist on doing it at night, not just to save water, but to avoid waking others by flushing. BTW, although male, I also have a suggestion for the other guys which, although off this specific topic, can improve relations with the other gender. At night, especially, but often during the day as well, I sit when I go. It creates less mess and noise, both of which are appreciated by the ladies, and , when practised at night, allows you to do your thing without turning on any lights. This will cause, again, less disturbance to the household, but lets you stay half-asleep, so getting back to sleep is easier. Unless you have just moved into a place within the last six weeks, or have undertaken massive renovations, you won't run into anything, and even if you have to negotiate some stairs, if you count steps and/or feel for landmarks, you'll be fine. Just be alert for toy trucks, dollhouses, etc!

jeff foglia_4
6/29/2010 10:53:20 AM

Combined idea of one 82' energy auditor and one brand new. Milwaukee and Madison WI.6/10 Electronic ignition hot water heaters vented by fan through wall can be TURNED OFF 95% of time. Simple Simon- unplug it. Then when you need a few showers plug it back in wait 10 min. Hot water rises to the top-unplug it.Dishes same thing. It almost instentaneous hot water virtually free May triple life of unit or more.Now for some high tech! Attach an $8.00 Light timer so it atomatically comes on 15 min. before morning and evening showers and dishes.If You have a dish washing machine you need to experiment with how much water and temp needed. Conventional say 140 degrees for sanitary minimum. Those who have pilot lights must kneel and relight each time as the Jamaicans do. Or you can buy 3 $2000. instantaneous European models

living on less
6/27/2010 5:29:05 PM

Living in So. IL it gets hot. I've caught water in buckets or barrels growing up w/ my family. I have 55 gal. drums with faucets on them on my gutters for watering plants in summer. In fall or spring the same water is used for flushing toilets via a watering can filled sitting by the toilet. You empty you fill. Family of five can use lots of water. Baby baths are reused. Have buckets under sinks. When we must run the a/c. which is almost a cardinal sin, we keep the condensation in tubs for reuse. Perfectly clean for whatever. Also the same for the furnace in winter when we can't burn wood for whatever reason i.e. (away, wood gets wet when out of dry). When possible I want to install an outside shower for summer and have runoff drained into garden. We make our own organic soap. So no harm done.

6/27/2010 9:32:08 AM

OK, this is really simple and low tech, so almost anyone can do it. I removed the trap from the bathroom sink and placed a bucket underneath. When the bucket is full, we use the water to flush the toilet. We also collect dishwater and water used to rinse fruits and veggies in a dishpan and use it for the same purpose.

6/26/2010 9:27:54 AM

Baby gets washed first in a small amount of water, 7 yr comes next and just adds a little more on top to that tub of water. I go last and leave the water, and we use a bucket to scoop it to flush the toilet. Hubby goes outside for #1, and only showers about 3x a wk. Front loading washer. Low flow faucets & showerheads. Use a dishwasher, but only when full- occasionlly will stop kitchen sink up and use that to wash dishes thru the day. Have 350 gal. tank under front porch that all but one downspout drains into. Downspout at backporch drains into 50 gal. rain barrel. Have 5 gal. buckets stationed at various other places outside to catch drips off of carport, workshop etc. Dogs drink the rainwater for most part, moved dogs outside so they aren't getting bathed regularly. Don't mop floors often (more out of laziness than anything else though). Use collected rain water for gardens. Only do edible gardens or flowers that are particular faves of bees- no ornamental- all functional. Don't water lawn at all. Drive dirty car. No brainers like turning water off when brushing teeth. Stop up sinks when washing hands, face etc. so I can rinse the baby's cloth diapers out when I change them, instead of running a pre-rinse cycle. Early potty training, dumps pee down sink from training potty.

mary janke
6/26/2010 6:27:37 AM

We save all our shower, bath and basin water into a tank outside the house, this water then flows through a sandfilter. The toilet gets flushed with the filtered water. We also use filtered water on the garden - it's a fantastic way to save large amounts of water. We also have a water saving shower head and our toilet has two flush options.

george works
6/26/2010 4:25:42 AM

We live in a semi-arid climate and get our water from rainwater collected from our roof, so we're careful with it. 1. We hand-wash the dishes. 2. High water efficiency washing machine. 3. Very short showers, sometimes Navy showers (wet down, turn it off, soap, turn it on to rinse) 4. We pee in jars, not the toilet, and use diluted urine as fertilizer in the garden. It works wonders and saves a lot of water.

sue heath
6/25/2010 9:22:27 PM

We use the brown flush it down program too, but we only let it sit through one use. If you use the toilet and you are the first, let it sit, if you are the second, you flush it, and of course if it's brown well, flush please. I also place a bucket in the tub to catch shower water, and use it to water plants, or flush the toilet. I had wash dishes in a pan and use the water to water plants with. We freeze veg. stock and reuse it. There usually isn't a lot of stock as we use waterless cookware. We have a 2liter bottle in the toilet tank, too.

winter star
6/25/2010 8:32:52 PM

At old apartment, we went way overboard--hand-pumping the tub/shower water out the window to a 55-gal drum, pumping it back up to flush the toilet. Did a separate barrel under the kitchen window, to catch sink and washer water. Those also watered backyard. Always do full washer loads; we now have a front loader, run that mostly with cold water. Took out old toilet and installed a 2-button extra-low flusher. Use a small pan for dishwater, and rinse with least amount of water to do hand-washed dishes. Drippers to irrigate planters. Shut-off on garden hose. Later will be getting larger cistern containers for rainwater, to supply cabin. LOTS to do!

6/25/2010 12:58:42 PM

I do several things to save water: I only do full loads of laundry; I have a rain bucket under each drain pipe; I've added large rocks to my toilet tank to take up some of the water room; I do my dishes by hand; I only water my gardens, never the lawn, every other day; I don't have low flow shower heads but I only turn on the water half way which is plenty; when I have to water things using the hose because the buckets are empty I run the hot hose water and then drain the hose into the buckets for later use.

jennifer c
6/25/2010 12:40:04 PM

We use a ringer washing machine, I can do three loads of laundry for the price of one, then we use that water on the plants. We catch the little rain we get and also use the yellow mellow, brown down rule.

6/25/2010 11:45:49 AM

If you have access to your water tank and water lines make sure they are insulated. It will take less running of water to get it to the temperature you want at the faucet.

6/25/2010 11:42:46 AM

Urine left to stand in the toilet makes an insoluble substance that is like a rock stuck to your toilet bowl. Besides it smells when allowed to stand.

mary saunders_3
6/25/2010 11:40:19 AM

I have a water pillow under my back deck that saves 1,000 gallons from the roof. Water and sewer costs in Portland have skyrocketed and are going higher. This is not water that I could drink without careful filtering, but it is good for plants and back yard cleaning. Also, I am in an earthquake zone. The pillow might survive a quake, when water and sewer could be compromised. It's kind of embarrassing to admit this, but pillows were designed for the military I think. I also have a sawdust loo for the non-combined-sewer-overflow-correct, including some eco-conscious visitors. The Toilet Papers, The Humanure Book, and other internet sources explain different ways to do this. It even made Time magazine recently. If there is a quake, many Portlanders do this, even though a friend from Houston and a friend from Sydney deny that Portland is truly weird.

6/25/2010 11:39:14 AM

An old trick my dad used (and my family,now)was to put a two liter bottle full of water in the tank. It automatically reduces each flush by that amount. We don't have issues with waste removal, but if that is a problem, then a smaller bottle (e.g. 1 l, 500 ml, etc) could be used. Every little bit counts. We also direct water the garden plants with rain barrels (5 - 55gal drums). I am planning to add a tankless water heater and grey water re-cycling system in the future.

6/25/2010 11:39:12 AM

An old trick my dad used (and my family,now)was to put a two liter bottle full of water in the tank. It automatically reduces each flush by that amount. We don't have issues with waste removal, but if that is a problem, then a smaller bottle (e.g. 1 l, 500 ml, etc) could be used. Every little bit counts. We also direct water the garden plants with rain barrels (5 - 55gal drums). I am planning to add a tankless water heater and grey water re-cycling system in the future.

maggie tatum_1
6/25/2010 11:14:21 AM

I plant only native plants in the ground. They have to exist without me watering them. To water plants in pots on my deck, I use water out of the barrels I have under the downspouts. I have a tankless water heater, and when I run hot water, whether to a sink or my shower, I catch the early cold water in a bucket to use in my washing machine, dog's bowl etc. I do not use a dishwasher. Maggie T

diana henretty_2
6/25/2010 10:43:34 AM

We found by washing dishes by hand, using a dishpan for the wash and one for the rinse, really saves on the water bill. I carry both pans out to the gardens to water the hills of squash and zuccinni and so far we havent had bugs this year, our first bug free year. Also, we got 500 gallon tanks from the snack company "Little Debbie" and hooked them up to our rain gutters on the house. It takes just 20 min. to fill both of them in a downpour, and we use them for deep root watering, soaking each plant. The two tanks last us thru the dry months here in the Ozarks!

jersey pan
6/25/2010 10:34:48 AM

Well,i try to use water from soaking a pot or the water i run to "get the lead out" of the copper cold water line.Also water wasted from waiting on hot water.I use that H2o to flush bowl when its urine,paper.Another water saver i use steamed vegetable water(vitamins +)for plants or some in the dogs water dish (20-30% the rest clear).I don't add sea salt or virgin olive oil on vegetables until after cooked and put in bowl.It.s not just'water under the bridge'or down the drain anymore.

6/25/2010 10:33:40 AM

2 things: Don't use more water than needed "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down."

melinda tossani
6/25/2010 10:25:03 AM

When we run the water in the bathtub to get the right temperature, we put a bucket under the faucet. You'd be amazed how much water ends up in that bucket. We use that water for the dogs or to water plants.

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