Updated: Apr 8
Water - the stuff that all life is made from. This is why some people have called it “The Elixir of Life”. It is the foundational element we and our planet needs to flourish and survive. While one may think that water is abundantly existent on earth due to our oceans, there is a big difference in saltwater and freshwater in terms of how much exists and can be used by us.
While over 70% of our earth is covered in water, only 3% of all water is freshwater. Of this, only 1/6th, so only 0.5%, is actually available to use as the rest is either locked in glaciers or polluted beyond the possibility of cleaning it. To put this into perspective, if the global supply of water was 100 Liters/ 26 Gallons, the available freshwater is about 0.003 Liters, equating to around half a teaspoon.
With continuous pollution, run-offs into the oceans, and global warming, this amount is decreasing daily, and soon our resources will be depleted if we don’t do something about it. Plus, not the whole world's population has access to fresh water.
This is why it is crucial we talk about our water usage and how we could possibly reduce our impact and ensure that this foundational element does not disappear. To help this effort, we have compiled a list of the 5 biggest water wasters in our homes and show you some tips on how easily their impact can be reduced:
5. The Water-thon: Our Faucets
One of the most obvious sources of water usage in our homes is the faucet. Millions of gallons of water are used every day coming from our faucets to wash our hands and brush our teeth for example.
Through a conventional faucet, and estimated 2 gallons of water flow every minute, making it an incredible source of water usage. This means that in the time you and I brush our teeth, around 5 gallons of water are running down the drain.
But how can we reduce the amount of water that comes out of our faucets?
One option is to replace the faucets in your home with water efficient ones, such as the ones showing the WaterSense label for example. While this option is absolutely great, there is an obvious cost attached: purchasing and installing the faucet. Therefore, if it is too much of a financial obligation, save this option for the next time you have to replace a faucet. Instead, use the following way to start saving water today.
Turn off the faucet when washing your hands and brushing your teeth. It is estimated that you can save around 3,000 gallons of water every year if you just turn off the faucet while you are brushing your teeth and washing your hands.
In addition, try also to fill a cup with water and use it to rinse after brushing, rather than taking it straight from the faucet. This helps to control how much water you use.
Photo courtesy, United States Environmental Protection Agency
4. What's the Dish?: Dish Washing
Besides our bathrooms, kitchens have the highest usage of water in our homes. We use water for many different things, including washing our dishes, no matter if by hand or using a dishwasher.
When washing your dishes by hand, we use an average of 20 gallons every single time, which is a huge amount of water and a good portion of our water bill. As opposed to this, an efficient dishwasher uses only about 4.5 gallons for every load. So it might be worthwhile to save up for one!
However, if a dishwasher does not make sense for your household and you keep washing dishes by hand, try to fill your sink with water using a stopper, rather than letting the water run for the entire time. This way you can control how much water is used. Also, try to wet your sponge thoroughly and soap up your dishes before using the collected water to rinse your dishes. This way you can save a lot of water and costs.
If already doing dishes using a dishwasher, there are also ways to reduce the amount of water used. First of all, we should not pre-rinse your dishes, but rather invest into a better detergent that does the job for us. While it may be just a tad bit more expensive, on average, we can save more on your water bill than spend on the price difference.
Also, we should only use our dishwasher when it is completely full and packed in the most efficient way. Here, we can simply take a couple of minutes on the weekend to take out the dish rack and try out different combinations of clean plates and cups to see how we can best fill it in the future. This can even be a fun game of dish-tetris for the kids; They learn, and we save!
3. The Basket Case: Laundry
When we do our laundry, we usually separate the laundry into varying colors and have to do multiple loads of laundry. This means that we use an incredible amount of water while cleaning our clothes.
On average, an American family does about 300 loads of laundry every year, with every load using about 41 gallons of water. This amounts to around 12,300 gallons of water simply for our clothes.
But how do we reduce the amount of water we use while doing laundry? There are several ways we can help to reduce the amount of water used, which also helps to reduce our water bill!
One way to reduce our water usage is to turn off the extra rinse cycle on our machines. While we may think that our clothes will have detergent residue on them without the extra water, this is rarely ever the case, as the water needed is based on the amount of detergent used.
So we can even save on both ends, our water and our detergent costs by simply using the right amount of detergent. Also, we should try to only use concentrated detergent as this helps to reduce even the manufacturer’s water usage.
In addition, similarly to our dishes, we can help to further reduce our water impact while doing laundry by doing only full loads of laundry as opposed to ¾ or even only ½ full machines. If living in a household with other people, we can pool our laundry to make it even easier to fill that machine to the brim!
2. The Royal Flush: Our Toilets
By far the biggest source of water usage in our homes are our toilets. Even though more and more toilets are water efficient, many of the ones in our homes are old and expensive to replace. This has a huge impact on our water usage as older toilets use between 5 and 7 gallons of water per flush. With an average of 5 flushes per day per person, this adds up to an incredible amount.
While buying a new toilet is expensive, there are more cost-effective ways to save on the water our toilet uses today, such as replacing only the flush mechanism for example. Here, we can simply go to our hardware store of choice and purchase a water saving replacement that is easily installed by ourselves.
However, there are also ways to save water without having to buy anything new. We can simply take a plastic bottle or container, fill it with sand or water, and place it into our tank. This way, our toilet uses less water when filling itself and therefore less when flushing, cool right?! Watch our DIY video for a very simple water saving project!
Photo courtesy, How Stuff Works, Shop Toilet
1. The Water Left Behind: The Water We Don't Use
Now knowing that toilets are the biggest water users in our homes, what could possibly be #1? Actually, it is the water we don’t use that is literally the biggest water waster. While we sometimes think we use our water resources as well as possible, a massive amount of water is wasted every single day. Through letting rain, shower, and rinse water slip through our fingers, we are missing a huge opportunity to not only save water, but actually increase our resources of water availability.
When turning on our showers, we have to let it run for a while before it gets warm enough for us to get in. In the process, millions of gallons are simply going down the drain without being used.
To use this water efficiently, we can place a bucket into our shower to collect it. This water can easily be used to first wipe your floors and then flush the toilet with; a huge difference in water usage on all ends!
In addition, we can collect the water running through our rain gutters and the water stemming from rinsing our vegetables and fruits and use it to water the plants for example. This also makes a big difference that can even help to grow your plants better through the additional nutrients inherently included in the water. Again, a benefit on all ends!
This was our list for today that can hopefully bring about some change not only in the way we regard water but how we actually use it.