Although water covers 70% of the earth, only 3% of this is freshwater – water we can use for drinking, bathing, and farming. According the World Health Organization, 844 million people worldwide still lack basic drinking water. Water scarcity is a pressing issue increasingly heightened by growing human population, climate change, and unsustainable agriculture.
This issue became real to me when I was volunteering in Nicaragua a few years ago. The schools I visited only had holes in the ground as toilets, and we were limited to five minutes of shower time daily due to water scarcity. I started appreciating clean water a lot more after that trip, and began taking small steps to ensure I’m not wasting water. Here are six easy ways to save water at home and conserve this precious natural resource.
Take shorter showers
I used to indulge in unnecessarily long showers. While this helped me relax after work, I was wasting so much water on a daily basis, and my water bill was skyrocketing. Research shows that a standard showerhead uses 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) of water. I started to time my showers and turn the shower off when soaping to help conserve water. Bonus: I saw immediate savings on my water bill.
Fix leaky pipes and faucets
According to the EPA, the average household’s leaks account for more than 10,000 gallons of water every year, and 10% of homes have leaks that waste at least 90 gallons of water per day. Some of the most common leaks are dripping faucets and worn toilet flappers. This detailed guide by The Family Handyman shares simple ways you can find and repair leaks at your home without a plumber.
Add aerators to your faucets
Another easy and affordable way to conserve water at home is to install aerators in your faucets. Aerators inject air into the water stream, breaking the stream into a flow of tiny water droplets, thus reducing the splash distance. Additionally, aerators can reduce the flow of water from 2.2 gpm to 1.5 gpm. You can buy aerators at the nearest Home Depot or on Amazon for as little as $4! Watch this tutorial and learn how you can install aerators yourself with minimal equipment.
Use a dishwasher
Coming from an Asian country where dishwashers are rarely used, I always thought that they were not environmentally friendly and swore by hand-washing my dishes. Contrary to this popular belief, you actually save more water by using a dishwasher! According to the National Resources Defense Council, you use up to 27 gallons of water per load when hand-washing dishes. Meanwhile, it takes only three gallons of water to complete the same task with an Energy Star-rated dishwasher. Energy Star is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, encouraging consumers to purchase products that save them money and protect the environment at the same time.
Switch to a low-flow shower head
Shower heads that predate 1992 had flow rates up to 5.5 gpm. However, federal regulations now mandate that new shower head flow rates can’t exceed more than 2.5 gpm. If you’re still using one of the older fixtures, switch to a new one today. You can find quality low-flow shower heads that are easy to install for just $20 a piece and cut up to 60% from your water usage!
Switch to a high-efficiency washing machine
If you’re in the market for a new washer, consider buying a high-efficiency (HE) washing machine! HE washers are usually more expensive than normal ones, but they can easily pay for themselves in water and energy savings over their lifetime. New Energy Star-rated washers use 35–50% less water and 50% less energy per load, which translates to significant water savings over the years. Additionally, you can also purchase a front-load washer, as they require less water and can hold larger loads. Purchase a washer with an Energy Star label to ensure that it is energy efficient.
Originally published on June 22, 2018.