50 ways to save water

KITCHEN AND LAUNDRY

No- or low-cost actions

  1. Run the dishwasher and the washing machine only when they are full.
  2. Don’t prerinse dishes before loading the dishwasher. You’ll save as much as 20 gallons a load, or 6,500 gallons per year. Our tests show prerinsing doesn’t improve cleaning. 
  3. When your dish load is small, fill the sink or basin and wash dishes by hand. Place soapy dishes on a rack, and spray rinse.
  4. Wash vegetables and fruits in a bowl or basin using a vegetable brush; don’t let the water run.
  5. Use recycled water on plants. Sources: water left from boiled eggs, tea kettles, and washed vegetables; dehumidifier concentrate.
  6. Investigate using waste water from the washing machine, bathtub, or sink on outdoor, inedible plants. States vary in their approach to so-called gray-water use. Check with your state or municipality’s department of environmental protection for details. (We don’t recommend using gray water to wash the car; small particles in the water may scratch the paint.)
  7. Steam vegetables instead of boiling. Besides using less water, you’ll retain more vitamins in the food.
  8. Chill drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the faucet until the water is cold.
  9. Defrost food in the refrigerator, not in a pan of water on the counter or in the sink. Besides saving water, it’s less likely to breed bacteria.

Long-term investments

  1. Make your next dishwasher a water-saver. Check our Green ratings for efficient options. 
  2. Make your next clothes washer a water-saver. Check our Green ratingsfor efficient options. 

BATHROOM

No- or low-cost actions

  1. Fix toilet leaks. To determine whether your toilet is leaking, add food coloring to the tank water and let it sit 15 minutes. If it appears in the bowl, there’s a leak. 
  2. Don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket. 
  3. Turn off the faucet when brushing teeth. Faucets can spout two to three gallons per minute.
  4. Time your showers to keep them short; this can cut 5 to 7 gallons per minute with an old-style showerhead. Or turn off the water while lathering. 
  5. Displace some water in the toilet tank of an older toilet with a capped plastic liter bottle filled with water.
  6. Also for older toilets: Consider installing an early-closing flapper valve, which prevents a part of the tank from emptying.
  7. When taking a bath, close the drain before turning on the water. And fill it half as full as you usually do; you could save 10 to 15 gallons. 
  8. Install new showerheads and low-flow faucets.

Long-term investments

  1. Replace older toilets with low-flow models. 
  2. Insulate your water heater and all hot-water pipes so you waste less while waiting for the hot water to flow.

LAWN, PATIO, DRIVEWAY

  1. Fix leaky hoses and hose connections.
  2. Outfit all hoses with automatic shutoff (pistol-style) nozzles.
  3. Adjust hose attachments and sprinkler heads to emit large drops instead of fine spray, which evaporates more easily.
  4. Use a sprinkler timer, but don’t overwater. Your local Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension office can advice on what’s appropriate for your region. 
  5. Position sprinklers so they’re not watering driveways and walkways.
  6. Hand-water with a hose where possible. Homeowners who water with a handheld hose can use one-third less water outdoors than those who use automatic sprinklers.
  7. Water during the coolest time of the day to reduce evaporation. Don’t water when it’s windy. 
  8. Adjust your lawnmower to cut grass to a height of 2½ inches high. Doing so will help trap moisture and reduce the amount of watering you’ll need to do.
  9. If faced with watering restrictions, concentrate first on shrubs and trees, then perennials, then annuals. Unless your lawn in newly planted, let it grow brown; it will likely perk up as the weather cools.
  10. Sweep driveways, sidewalks, and steps instead of hosing them down.

GARDEN

No or low-cost actions

  1. Add compost to soil to improve its water-holding capacity.
  2. Mulch beds to a depth of 2 to 3 inches to reduce evaporation.
  3. To ensure that potted plants and flowers use water most efficiently, consider using special patio pots that allow water to reach roots efficiently. Such products are available at garden retailers. 
  4. Choose drought-tolerant plants. Perennials include coneflower, butterfly weed, goldenrod, iris, and daylily. Annuals include verbena, dianthus, and cosmos. Herbs include thyme, rosemary, lavender, aloe, and many species of salvia. As for shrubs, conifers generally use less water in the summer than flowering shrubs. Trees include Japanese pagoda, Kentucky coffee, honey locust, and Eastern red cedar. 
  5. Put off planting major shrubs. Even drought-tolerant varieties need a season or more of intensive watering to properly develop root systems. 
  6. Reduce the size of your vegetable garden. Plant tomatoes and herbs in pots and use recycled water on them. 
  7. Consider buying a rain barrel to catch water from your gutter system to use on plants. A barrel that holds about 60 gallons—and includes a childproof lid—costs about $100. Most have a spigot for easy dispensing on your plants.

Long-term investments

  1. Consider drip irrigation for flowers and shrubs. These systems, which can be purchased at home-improvement and garden retailers, are lengths of thin plastic tubing perforated at intervals and placed at the base of plants where the water can most efficiently penetrate to the roots. 
  2. Develop a long-term landscaping plan that uses drought-tolerant plants. Wise landscaping can save up to 50 percent of the water you use outdoors. Change the composition of your lawn to drought-tolerant strains. 

RECREATION

No- or low-cost actions

  1. If you’re allowed to fill your pool, use a cover to reduce evaporation. 
  2. Fill pool a few inches lower than usual.
  3. Avoid water toys that need a constant stream of water. 
  4. Don’t install or use fountains or other water ornaments unless they use recycled water.

Long-term investments 

  1. Consider buying a pool filter that uses less water during filter cleaning. Some new filters waste no water at all. 

OTHER TIPS

No- or low-cost actions

  1. Check your home’s water meter for system leaks. Turn off all faucets and water-using appliances, then read your meter. Make sure no one uses water for 30 minutes, then take a second reading. If the dial has moved, you have a leak in a toilet or water pipe.
  2. Participate in water-conservation programs in hotels and motels. Many lodging establishments give you ways to inform the maid that you don’t need fresh towels every day, which will save on their laundry-water usage. 
  3. If you use a diaper service for your baby, and live in a region where water is a bigger issue than landfills, consider switching to disposables.
  4. Patronize commercial car washes that use recycled water. Or, wash at home, if watering restrictions permit, using a bucket of water, not a running hose. 
  5. Investigate further. Check out the Water Saver Home, a Web site developed by the California Urban Water Conservation Council in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency. Another good source of information is WaterWiser, a site of the American Water Works Association in cooperation with the EPA and Bureau of Reclamation.