Conserving water plays an important role in reducing your environmental impact. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, less than 1 percent of Earth's available water is suitable for use by the human population (see References 1). By changing your behaviors and upgrading some of your equipment, you can save water and cut your utility bills. Even small changes can add up to a big difference.
Look for water leaks both inside and outside of your house. Start with the faucets and pipes in the kitchen and bathroom, which get the most use. Check shower heads and faucets as well as utility sinks and outdoor spigots. Use caulk to plug leaks around the base of faucets. The EPA recommends replacing the aerator in older faucets to make them use water more efficiently. (See References 1)
Install efficient water fixtures. According to the EPA, toilets account for about 30 percent of household water use, while faucets are responsible for 15 percent and shower heads, almost 17 percent. For an instant water savings, look for low-flow models of faucets, toilets and shower heads. A low-flow shower head, for example, uses up to 60 percent less water than a standard model. When shopping for fixtures, look for the Energy Star certification and the WaterSense labels to identify efficient options. (See References 1)
Use water efficiently for washing. When running the dishwasher or washing machine, make sure you have a full load. In doing so, you will not waste unnecessary water. If your machine has size-based settings, change them when you do not have enough items for a full load; this will help use less water without sacrificing cleanliness. For washing yourself, use a shower instead of a bath to reduce your water use by more than 50 percent. (See References 2)
Update your landscaping and irrigation systems. Choose plants native to your area; they will make the most of the natural environment and thrive without much extra watering. When you do need to water your lawn, do it during cooler parts of the day to avoid evaporation. The EPA recommends watering manually as the most efficient option, but if you need to use an irrigation system, go for the most efficient drip system instead of an in-ground system to save water. Drip systems deposit water right at a plant's roots; in-ground systems, like sprinklers, spray water over the entire lawn or area and have a higher rate of evaporation. (See References 1)
Modify your behaviors. Instead of letting the faucet run while you brush your teeth, turn it off until it's time to rinse. Collect the water that runs while you're waiting for it to heat up and use it to water plants or put in a humidifier. Thaw foods in the refrigerator instead of using hot water for defrosting, and scrape dishes off before washing instead of putting them under the faucet. (See References 1)
Elizabeth Smith has been a scientific and engineering writer since 2004. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, newspapers and corporate publications. A frequent traveler, she also has penned articles as a travel writer. Smith has a Bachelor of Arts in communications and writing from Michigan State University.