There is no doubt that we are spoilt in the developed world: We use far too much water, and we really should be doing something about it. The problem is that we live in houses that are already predisposed to wasting water. Granted, these days, if you buy a new home, it should be environmentally sound with the latest domestic water conservation strategies in place. However, what if you live in an older house or in a more modern one that has been poorly maintained?
This article sheds light on where you are using the most water and how you can do your bit to help conserve domestic water.
How is Most Water at Home Used?
The average amount of water used by an American is about 152 gallons a day. In Britain, they do a bit better at 88 gallons. However, to put this into context, the average Asian uses no more than 25 gallons a day and the average African only 12. It seems like Westerners need to do a lot better.
Looking at the numbers above, I think it is fair to say that most of us are blissfully unaware of how much water we use in daily activities. So, let’s have a look at where most of our water goes. As a quick side note, I’m going to continue quoting only figures for the US. Otherwise, this article will be all numbers and percentages.
- At nearly a quarter (24%) of all daily use, the humble toilet comes in first place. That’s 37 gallons per person each day just for going to the loo.
- In second place is the shower using 31 gallons (20%) a day.
- In third place is water from the tap, which uses 29 gallons (19%).
- And in fourth place are washing machines with 26 daily gallons (17%).
- At last come leaks with an astonishing 18 gallons (12%) a day.
The remaining 8% is labeled as ‘other’. One of the items probably in the ‘other’ column is water softeners. While it is true that water softeners ‘waste’ water when regenerating, they also save it in many other ways. So if you live in an area with hard water, getting a water softener may benefit your water conservation.
This, however, depends on the right programming so that waste is reduced to a minimum. It is also important that you are not using an outdated model as these tend to use a lot more water than necessary. If you would like to know more, you can find easy-to-understand diagrams of the softening process and how water softener regeneration works on this page.
Domestic Water Wastage
One of the figures that jump out in the list above is the amount of water wasted because of leaks. Citing figures from the EPA, the Washington Post says that Americans waste 1 trillion gallons of water this way – every single year. To put that figure into context (I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot in this article), 1 trillion gallons are the equivalent of the water use of 11 million homes.
Although some of this waste can be attributed to invisible pipe leaks, a great deal of it is leaky taps, showers and toilets. To quote the Washington Post ‘one faucet (tap) leaking one drip per minute adds up to 34 gallons per year’.
Another area of concern is the amount of water that a toilet may be wasting. Flushing a toilet uses a considerable amount of water already, but if you add in the amount of water wasted because of worn out flapper valves, a common cause of leaking toilets, the amount could run into the hundreds or even thousands of gallons each year.
Conserving Water at Home
I think it’s fair to say that we could all do more to help the environment by using less water. What many people might not realize is that this is actually not that hard. It doesn’t mean showering only once a week or wearing the same dirty outfit day after day. It’s just making a small effort to fix little things. So, let’s look at some ways we can all do our bit!
In the Bathroom
Since the bathroom is where we use almost half of our water, this is where we can do the most good.
- Firstly, all modern toilets comes with a dual flush system. If yours doesn’t, replacing it would be a good start.
- Another extremely effective way to save water is to put some pebbles in a couple of plastic bottles, fill them up with water, and then place them in the toilet tank away from any moving parts. That will save you thousands of gallons a year. Just make sure there is still enough water in the tank for a proper flush, about three gallons or so.
- For showers, one of the best and easiest ways to save water is to install a low-flow showerhead. Not running the shower constantly helps too. Once you have got yourself wet, turn off the shower. There is no need for the shower to be running while you’re lathering yourself up. When you’re ready to rinse, turn the shower on again.
- Another great way to save water when showering is to add a timer. If you know you only have a certain time to get wet, soaped up, and rinse yourself off, you will spend far less time daydreaming and much more time washing.
Doing the Laundry
Saving water when washing clothes is a little more complicated.
- One obvious way to save water is to make sure you are washing full loads.
- Another is to make sure you are using a high-efficiency washing machine. If you haven’t got one, you should consider replacing your old washer as you could be using six times less water for each load. If you use your washing machine once a day, that could mean a saving of 329 gallons a week.
Finally, let’s look at leaks.
- The first and most obvious thing to do is fix any leaking taps and showerheads. Don’t forget to check your taps outside as well.
- Next, check if your toilet is leaking. Sometimes it is not that clear, so one of the best methods is to add a few drops of food coloring to the water in the tank. Check a bit later and if there is colored water in the bowl, you know there’s a leak.
- After you have done all of the above, one final thing you can do is to check for invisible leaks. This is best done when you are going to leave the house for a few hours or more. If the house is empty during the day, this is a perfect time to check. First, make sure that there is nothing in the house that may use water. Next, check the water meter and make a note of the number. Finally, when you come back, recheck the meter. If it has moved, there is a leak you don’t know about.
There are certainly some shocking figures in this article, but if we were to decide that they were too big to fix, we would never improve the situation. To quote a well-known expression, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Try and take your first step to save water today.