Home Water Conservation During Dry Times

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension


During this time of drought our office is receiving phone calls from homeowners regarding their wells and their concerns of running out of water. If you are on a municipal water source there should also be concern as water levels are getting lower from the lack of rain. Although we all are aware of what should be done to conserve this important resource we sometimes need to be reminded to make the necessary changes in our lifestyle.


Inside our homes the bathrooms account for 75% of our homes overall water use, the kitchen is 20% while cooking, drinking and miscellaneous is 5%. Because of this, start in the bathroom areas while making your observations and changes.


* Fix leaky faucets – a slow steady drip can waste over 350 gallons a month. A faucet with a steady stream can waste 4600 gallons a month.


* Install water saving showerheads. The older showerheads use between five to seven gallons per minute (gpm). A low-flow showerhead reduces the water usage to 2.5 (gpm) or less.


 How do you determine if you need a low-flow?  Set a 2 qt. saucepan on the floor of the shower and position it in the middle of the shower stream. With the shower on full, count how many seconds it takes to fill the pan. If it takes fewer than 12 seconds, you could use a low-flow shower head. If you have a low-flow shower head installed, it should read 2.5 gpm or less. Remember not to dispose of the water but recycle it on plants, the pet water dish, etc.  The shower heads are available in most plumbing departments of hardware, discount or home improvement stores for less then $10.00.


* Shorten your showers. Even a one or two minute reduction could save 700 gallons a month.


* Waiting for hot water when taking a shower can waste another 200 to 300 gallons per month.


* If your toilet is from 1992 or earlier, you probably have an inefficient model that uses between 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush.  New and improved high-efficiency models use less than 1.3 gallons per flush—that's at least 60 percent less than the older toilets.


* Don’t use your toilet as a garbage can or ashtray.  You could save 400 to 600 gallons a month.


* Capture tap water. While waiting for hot water at the faucet, catch the flow and use in other areas such as watering house plants. You could save 200 to 300 gallons a month.

* Check your toilet for leaks. Put a dye tablet or food coloring into the tank. If colored water appears in the bowl without flushing there is a leak that should be repaired. This could save you about 200 gallons of water every day.


* Installing low-flow faucet aerators can reduce your water at the faucets from 3-7 gpm to 1.5 gpm. If an aerator is already installed on your faucet, it will have its rated flow imprinted on the side. This should read 1.5 gpm.


* Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. You could save up to 3000 gallons a year.


* Turn off the water while shaving – you could save three gallons a day.


* If you wash dishes by hand don’t leave the water running for rinsing. You can save 200 to 500 gallons per month.


* Keep drinking water in the refrigerator to avoid having to run the faucet for cold water. You could save 200 to 300 gallons per month.


* Don’t let faucets run while cleaning vegetables. Rinse them in the sink or a pan.  You could save 150 to 250 gallons per month.


The remaining 5% may not sound like much after the bathroom usage but is still enough to be concerned with conserving.


* Choose high efficiency appliances, such as Energy Star rated clothes or dishwashers, when replacements are needed. Water-saving dishwashers use about 4 gallons of water, which is about one-third of the water needed by an older dishwasher. The average washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load while the newer high-efficiency washing machines use less than 28 gallons of water per load. To achieve even greater savings, wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate load size selection on the washing machine


* Avoid using garbage disposals for food scraps as they use around 11 gallons of water to operate.


It is better to recognize the value of our water resource while we still have it available.