Both Freshwater Fish and Your Wallet Want You To Make Some Changes!

Reader Contribution by Kari Klaus
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Low-flow shower head

Photo WaterHawk Smart Shower

Going zero-waste, decreasing electrical usage and recycling are all great ways to incorporate sustainability into your lifestyle without having to give up the things you love, but what about water usage? Is it possible to live with the same creature comforts while cutting back on the amount of water used? And why does water conservation really matter?

While clean, safe water seems to magically pour out of taps in places like the US, that isn’t a reality in many places in the world. Less than 1% of all the water on the planet is “available” freshwater, meaning it isn’t locked in glaciers. And due to varied weather and geography, the replenishment rates of freshwater are anything but reliable.

Though water is technically renewable, it is only renewable in the sense that it can become pure freshwater through natural processes after being tainted. Water is a finite resource—meaning there’s only so much to go around. As the global population steadily grows, this means that the same, fixed amount of water needs to adequately support all our communities, agricultural practices and natural ecosystems or something will give.

Unfortunately, the truth is that our freshwater ecosystems are what is paying for humanity’s ever-growing need for more waterover 2,000 species of freshwater fish species have become extinct or severely endangered in just the past few decades according to studies done by National Geographic. Sadly, this is compounded by the fact that freshwater ecosystems are deteriorating at an alarming rate—and much faster than their terrestrial counterparts.

Based on surveys done by the US Geological Survey, the average American uses, on average, between 80 and 100 gallons of water daily. That being said, there are many other countries that use significantly less water than is used in the US! The UK, which has a comparable standard of living to the US, averages only 39 gallons of water used per person, daily!  So I think it is definitely possible to cut back on water usage while maintaining the style of living we are accustomed to—and with the water-conscious smart tech that is currently available it’s a lot easier than you might think to make impactful changes!!

How to Not Flush Your Money Away—Water Saving Bathroom Hacks

We’ll start off with the bathroom, where most people use the most water! When it comes to decreasing your water usage, the bathroom has a myriad of ways that you can alter what you already have to make your home more environmentally friendly (and save some money on that water bill!!).

Low Flow Shower Heads:

The EPA calculates that 17% of most people’s entire water bill is due to simply showering! Thus it’s one of the best places to start cutting back on water usage (that won’t break the bank). If you check out your shower head (or the packaging it came in) you should notice a number followed by GPM, for example 3.0 GPM, or 3 gallons per minute. This measures how much water you’re using. The average showerhead uses 2.5 GPM, however older showers can use up to 4 or 5 GPM.

To correct this, look for shower heads with the WaterSense label, indicating a Rate of 2.0 GPM or less, or any faucet with the same capacity. Amazon has some budget friendly options  and even a few that monitor your real-time water usage, so as you shower you know how much water you’re using. If you’re looking for the Mac Daddy of low flow, smart shower heads there are also smart-tech companies like Hydrao that save water and track your usage patterns and savings, as well as much more.

Water Heater Recirculation Kits:

Do you get in the shower the minute you open the tap? I sure don’t—the water is freezing! The solution: installing a Water Heater Recirculation Kit. These kits basically loop the cold or lukewarm water through a small system, instead of flushing it down the pipes, until the desired temperature is reached. They can be purchased in many hardware stores, such as this kit at Home Depot, or online (Amazon to the rescue as always!) and a simple one-hour installation can save you up to 10% on your water bills!

Photo Watts Instant Hot Water Recirculating System

High-Efficiency Toilets:

Toilets are the #1 culprit for indoor water usage—using on average 24% of your total water usage. Thankfully, some brilliant engineers out there have come up with a whole slew of solutions for you to save you from flushing your money down the toilet! There are Gravity-Assisted Toilets, Dual-Flush ToiletsPressure-Assisted Toilets and Vacuum-Assisted Toilets (who knew?!). Each type has slightly different technology, but the end result is that less water is used per flush.

While replacing your toilets is definitely not cheap, think of it like an investment—you invest $200 (plus or minus depending on your taste, obviously) in a new toilet and it will pay itself off in no time, and then save you money for years to come. Home Depot and Lowe’s both have very large selections if you want to check them out for yourself!

Photo WoodBridge Toilet

How to Cook Up Even More Savings—Water-Saving Hacks for the Rest of Your Home

Though the bathroom is where most of the water in the house is used, there are definitely other household appliances that can be upgraded to help you save water and save money!

Smart Dishwashers:

Hand-washing dishes takes time and, unless you’re a house elf, no one likes to do it. Luckily, Energy Star dish washers are here to save the day! It has actually been proven that it is both less water-intensive and energy-intensive to use your dishwasher (given it meets the Energy Star ratings). I’m not sure how they measured the amount of energy you or I would exert while hand-washing, but if they say I shouldn’t ever wash another plate in the name of science, I definitely won’t argue!!

Since the 1990’s we’ve seen dishwashers go from 10 gallons a wash, to only 2 gallons a cycle—thus Energy Star rated washers can save almost 4,000 gallons of water over the appliance lifespan. Additionally, on average it costs only $35 a year to run one. A few companies worth checking out are Miele, Asko and Beko as they are industry innovators.  

No more hand-washing…saves you money…protects our environment…honestly it’s a win-win-win!!

Photo Miele Optima

Eco-Friendly Washing Machines:

Washing machines, just like dishwashers, are another household appliance that has come so far over the past few decades. The amount of water used in older machines is over double what is used in new High Efficiency (HE) and Energy Star certified machines.

One of the innovative front-runners in this category is Fischer & Paykel; they have developed a patented technology that means their washing machines only use 22% of the energy and 58% of the water used by a conventional washing machine. On top of this, their EcoSmart technology also saves 30% of the energy typically used in the dryer!

Photo: Fisher Paykel AquaSmart

Smart Garden Sprinklers:

I think many people sort of forget that the yard is part of the house, so being mindful of how much water is being used in the garden is really quite important, but often overlooked! Most people love their gardens but are not gardeners, and as a result, they over- water the living daylights out of their plants (as someone who has worked for greenhouses and nurseries, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told people plants can’t swim!).

So I introduce to you a high-tech garden gadget: Rachio’s Smart Sprinkler System. This system isn’t just some over-priced watering timer, oh no, it actually takes into account so much data  it’s unbelievable…It takes into account weather patterns, soil type, exposure to the sun, humidity, and creates a “hyperlocal precision forecast” that dictates if, and how much, and at what time your garden will be watered. Like I said, unbelievable. And that’s not all, a smart system like this can cut your water bill for the garden by over 50%.

Photo Rachio Smart Sprinkler System  

By Syd Ulrich-Dogonniuck, Sustainability Content Writer for Realty Sage

There are so many more ways to save water in your house, but hopefully the ideas above started to get you thinking of other ways to curb your household water usage. For more ideas to save water in and around your home, check out some of these other eco-friendly gadgetshere on RealtySage.com.


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