Ways To Reduce Water In The Home

Man Brushing Teeth

One of the most important things on this planet is water. It is the one resource that every single living organism on earth needs to survive. And yet, in our daily lives, we use hundreds of liters of water, and often without realizing it. Things like washing the dishes and drinking glasses of water are innocuous enough, but how much water goes down the drain without even touching you when you take a shower? Or how many times a day do you flush the toilet, often just out of habit?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the average household of four uses 400 gallons (over 1500 liters) of water per day. Most of that (around 70%) is from indoor use, and most of that comes from the bathroom. Luckily, there are a number of changes you can make in your life that can dramatically reduce the amount of water you consume. Some of the changes cost a bit of money (like replacing old faucets with new ones), but most of them are free.

Replacing Old, Leaky Faucets

So the best solution isn't a Band-Aid one — it's one that hits right at the root of the problem. A lot of homes have leaky faucets, taps, pipes, whatever. If you spend a little money to replace those old fixtures for new ones (and, even better, to low-flow ones) then it'll save you a lot of money in the long run. Just think about how much money is literally going down the drain simply by dripping all night out of your bathtub's faucet. You could hire someone to install the faucets for you, but if you feel confident there are usually easy-to-follow instructions packaged with the fixtures that make fixing it a breeze.

If It's Yellow, Let It Mellow

There's a rhyme that usually comes up when you're camping or at a cottage: “If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down.” The message is pretty straight-forward: don't waste water by flushing down only urine; instead, only flush the toilet anytime you poop.

This rule can easily be adapted in your house. And for good reason! In the same report from the EPA, toilets alone contribute to 27% of water use in the home. That's the biggest slice of the pie right there, and you can totally cut it in half (or more) by letting urine lie and only flushing down solids.

Saving Water While Showering

The shower, while not as popular as the toilet, still wastes a lot of water. A standard shower head uses 2.5 gallons (over 9 liters) of water per minute. For a 15-minute shower, that's 37.5 gallons (142.5 liters) of water, which is a huge amount! One thing you can do is cut down on the amount of time you spend in the shower, of course. However, this may not be a feasible solution for everyone.

Another trick you can do, though, is turn the shower off whenever you're soaping up or putting in shampoo/conditioner. Turn the water back on again to rinse everything off, then turn it off again for your next lather. Think about it: when you're putting soap on your body, you're probably standing back and avoiding the water, right? Why not just get rid of it altogether and call it back when you need it?

If you're not the type to take showers and prefer baths instead, try not to fill the tub up all the way to the top. Save those long, soaking nights for a special occasion and instead just fill the tub up partway, using that water to clean yourself.

Be Sparing At The Bathroom Tap

This is a quick one, but sometimes people have a habit of turning on a bathroom tap full-blast to wash their hands or brush their teeth, and then leaving it that way throughout the entire ordeal. But when you're soaping up your hands or your toothbrush is in your mouth, you don't need that water to be on. It's just running down the drain, completely untouched! So turn it off instead! Push the handle up only part-way when you do need it, and turn it off again when your hands are wet enough to soap up, or when your toothbrush has enough water on it for you to clean your teeth.

Doing Dishes In A Smaller Basin

So there are basically two schools of thought when it comes to doing the dishes: one is to fill the sink (or both, if you have two sinks), and use that water for washing and rinsing the dishes, perhaps changing it if it's getting too dirty. The other is to run water from the tap to both wash and rinse the dishes, not keeping any of the sinks plugged up, and instead allowing the water to run down the drain as it's being used.

Both approaches certainly work towards getting the dishes clean, but in certain contexts one could be considered better than the other. If you have only a small number of dishes to be done (say, the dishes from leftovers that you just heated up) then you don't need to fill one or two entire sinks. However, if you have a large number of dishes (say, from the morning after a large party) then it would be more wasteful to run water for every single dish that was being washed.

But we can take these approaches even further than that. Do you have a pot that you just cooked pasta in that needs to be washed? Why not use that to hold the wash water instead of the larger sink? Just squirt some soap in and make the water all sudsy, then wash as per usual. The same cannot be said for the rinsing sink (if you have a second one) since your dishes might not all fit inside of the pot, but it's still a step in the right direction.

If you have lots of dirty or greasy dishes, or dishes with food that's caked or stuck on, a good approach would be to soak them first, perhaps for half an hour to an hour. Then, in the soaking water, scrape off the food bits and compost those before starting the actual dishes. This will take a bit more time, but it'll give your dish-doing a headstart as most everything will be just shy of clean. Doing this makes it less likely that you'll have to change out the washing water for new stuff.

One last thing: if you do decide to use running water to rinse off the dishes and you've got two sinks, rinse the dishes over the washing sink (or the pot with wash water). This will keep more water in circulation, and the water you're rinsing off still contains some soap, so you can reuse that as well.


This article touches on just a few ways to cut down on the amount of water we use. In these times when there are things like droughts so close to home, it makes sense to reserve as much of this precious liquid as we can. And if we all take steps towards it, and are aware of how much water we use, the billions of us out there can significantly reduce the amount we're spending on our water bills — not to mention the impact we're having on the environment.

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