With most of Earth's water saltwater, frozen or geographically inaccessible, water conservation has significant environmental benefits. As water supplies dwindle, conserving existing sources is increasingly important. Methods to decrease water use range from simple lifestyle adjustments to graywater recycling. (See References 2)
Upgrading toilets, showerheads and faucets to water-efficient or low-flow models can save not only water, but also the power used to treat, deliver and heat it. Products carrying the WaterSense label are thoroughly tested and conform to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's requirements for water-saving performance. (See References 2 and 3)
Washing machines and dishwashers also account for a large proportion of household water use. Energy Star-rated appliances use up to 50 percent less water than other models. Waiting until you can run a full washer load can also save thousands of gallons of water annually. (See References 1, "Appliances" bar, and References 2)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 30 percent of water consumption goes to outdoor uses (see References 2). Landscaping that works with -- not against -- your region's climate can do much to reduce irrigation needs. Native plants and trees are adapted to the local environment and are often able to subsist on rainfall alone. Use rain barrels and graywater systems for everything except edible vegetation. Applying mulch and compost can aid in the retention of irrigation water. Watering during cool morning hours decreases evaporation rates. (See References 4)
Being mindful of water waste is key to conservation. Turning the faucet off while brushing your teeth saves water, even if you have low-flow faucets. Watch out for leaks and drips and fix them promptly. Keep a bucket nearby to catch wasted non-soapy water when heating up the shower or draining the bathtub as a low-tech way to collect graywater. (See References 2 and 4)
Based in California, Andrea Peck has been writing science-related articles since 2006. Her articles have appeared in "The Rogue Voice," "Information Press" and "The Tribune." Peck holds a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and a minor in biology from San Diego State University.