Conserve Water Whenever Possible–Our Future Depends On It!

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

Fresh water is the lifeblood of our planet. No one can survive without it.

Water is an important source of food, health, energy, and transportation and supports a huge diversity of life on earth. Civilizations could not have existed without access to fresh water. However, fresh water is not possible without a healthy planet, and today human actions are putting our planet at risk.

Water conservation must become a higher priority for Americans who use more water per person than citizens of any other country. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an American family of four uses water at a rate of 400 gallons per day at home alone.

In 2008, at least 36 states expected to have a water shortage by 2013, according to U.S. government estimates. Why? Increasing population growth and sprawl, rising temperatures, droughts, and inefficient water use. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported in December 2013 that 11 major US cities could expect to experience severe water shortages in the near future.

Of the world’s total water supply, 97.5 % is salt water, and less than 0.5 % is usable, unpolluted clean water. Many major rivers around the world, including the Colorado, Ganges, Rio Grande, and Yellow, are running dry part of the year.

Carefully conserving water lessens the damaging effects of droughts. Droughts decrease food production, raise food prices, increase fire hazards, as well as worsen soil erosion and insect infestation. They are a normal part of climate cycles, so they can be somewhat anticipated and planned for. Therefore it is possible and crucial to conserve water now to minimize the effects of drought later.

Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Superba' (Russian sage)

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), a drought-tolerant perennial and member of the mint family, adds beautiful color to a desert landscape. 

How much water do we generally use each day?

A family of four in the United States uses 400 gallons of water every day, enough to take 10 baths! By being smarter about water use, we can save water, energy, money, and help our environment, too. When we use water more efficiently, we leave more water in rivers and streams to support fish, wildlife, and recreation.

Highest volume water use inside the home:

  • Toilet: 20-26% (although water-saving toilets can reduce this amount)
  • Clothes Washer: 19-22%
  • Shower: 19% (water-saving faucets can cut this figure down)
  • Faucets: 19%
  • Leaks: 14%

Start conserving water today. Small adjustments can make a big impact. Here are some tips to save water and protect rivers, wildlife, and our future:

Wash laundry and dishes only when there is a full load.

Always turn off running water.

Take shorter showers.

Eliminate any and all leaks.

Reduce the flow of toilets and showerheads.

  • Consider purchasing a low-volume toilet that uses less than half the water of older models. Note: In many areas, low-volume units are required by law.
  • Install a toilet displacement device to cut down on the amount of water needed to flush. Place a one-gallon plastic jug of water into the tank to displace toilet flow (do not use a brick, it may dissolve and loose pieces may cause damage to the internal parts). Be sure installation does not interfere with the operating parts.
  • Replace your shower head with an ultra-low-flow version.
  • Place a bucket in the shower to catch excess water for watering plants.
  • Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects, and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
  • Avoid taking baths – take short showers – turn on water only to get wet and lather and then again to rinse off.
  • Avoid letting the water run while brushing your teeth, washing your face, or shaving.

Kitchen tips:

  • Dishwashers typically use less water than washing dishes by hand. Energy Star dishwashers save even more water and energy.
  • Try to run the dishwasher or washing machine only when completely full.
  • If you live in an older home, consider replacing your plumbing with low-flow fixtures and low-flush toilets.
  • If your dishwasher is new, cut back on rinsing. Newer models clean more thoroughly than older ones.
  • Designate one glass for your drinking water each day, or refill a water bottle. This will reduce the number of glasses to wash.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean. Don’t let water run needlessly when washing dishes, shaving, or brushing your teeth When washing dishes by hand, fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water.
  • Use the garbage disposal minimally. Instead, compost vegetable food waste and save gallons every time.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap.
  • Don’t use running water to thaw food. For water efficiency and food safety, defrost food in the refrigerator.
  • Install an instant water heater near your kitchen sink, so you don’t have to run the water while it heats up. This also reduces energy costs.
  • Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap. This way, every drop goes down you and not the drain.
  • Reuse leftover water from cooked or steamed foods to start a nutritious soup. It’s one more way to get eight glasses of water a day.
  • Cook food in as little water as possible. This also helps it retain more nutrients.
  • Select the proper pan size for cooking. Large pans may require more cooking water than necessary.
  • If you accidentally drop ice cubes, don’t throw them in the sink. Drop them in a house plant instead.
  • When shopping for a new dishwasher, washing machine, showerhead, or other appliance, use Consumer Reports and other reviews to compare resource savings among Energy Star models and choose efficient. Some dishwashers can save up to 20 gallons of water per load!
  • Dispose of chemicals properly at a hazardous waste drop-off center. Never pour them on the ground, into the sewer, or down the drain.

Laundry tips:

  • Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when they are full.
  • When doing laundry, match the water level to the size of the load.
  • Washing dark clothes in cold water saves water and energy, and helps your clothes retain their color.

Bathroom tips:

  • Shorten your shower by a minute or two. You’ll save up to 150 gallons per month.
  • Keep your shower under 5 minutes. You’ll save up to 1,000 gallons per month.
  • Toilet leaks can be silent! Test your toilet for leaks at least once a year.
  • Put food coloring in your toilet tank. If it seeps into the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak. Fix it to save gallons.
  • When running a bath, plug the bathtub before turning on the water. Adjust the temperature as the tub fills.
  • Upgrade old toilets with water-saving models.
  • Use a water-conserving showerhead. It is inexpensive, easy to install, and can save up to 750 gallons a month.
  • Turn off the water when brushing your teeth to save up to 4 gallons a minute. That’s up to 200 gallons a week for a family of four.
  • Plug the bathtub before turning the water on, and then adjust the temperature as the tub fills up.
  • Fix dripping faucets and running toilets. Just one drip a second can waste 2,000 gallons of water per year.
  • Plug the sink instead of running the water to rinse your razor, and save up to 300 gallons a month.
  • Turn off the water while washing your hair, and save up to 150 gallons a month.
  • When washing your hands, turn the water off while you lather.
  • Place a bucket in the shower to catch excess water to use to water plants later. This also works when washing dishes or vegetables in the sink.
  • Take 5-minute showers instead of baths. A full bathtub requires up to 70 gallons of water.
  • Install water-saving aerators on all of your faucets.
  • Drop tissues in the trash instead of flushing them and save water every time.
  • Look for water-conserving toilets, sink faucets, urinals, and showerheads.
  • One drip every second adds up to five gallons per day! Check your faucets and showerheads for leaks.
  • While you wait for hot water, collect the running water and use it to water plants.

General indoor tips:

  • Teach children to turn off faucets tightly after each use.
  • When the kids want to cool off, use the sprinkler in an area where your lawn needs it most.
  • Encourage your school system and local government to develop and promote water conservation among children and adults.
  • Monitor your water bill for unusually high use. Your bill and water meter can help you discover leaks.
  • Learn how to use your water meter to check for leaks.
  • Reward kids for water-saving tips they follow.
  • Avoid recreational water toys that require a constant flow of water.
  • Fix leaky faucets with a wrench. It’s simple, inexpensive, and can save 140 gallons a week.
  • Watch for leaks. Check all hoses, connectors, and faucets regularly for leaks.
  • We’re more likely to notice leaky faucets indoors, but don’t forget to check outdoor faucets, pipes, and hoses.
  • See a leak you can’t fix? Tell a parent, teacher, employer, or property manager, or call a handyman.
  • At home or while staying in a hotel, reuse your towels.
  • Run your washer and dishwasher only when they are full to save up to 1,000 gallons a month.

Xeriscape landscaping (Lawn and plant care with water conservation in mind):

  • Use porous material for walkways and patios to prevent wasteful runoff and keep water in your yard.
  • Group plants with the same watering needs together to avoid overwatering some while underwatering others.
  • Plant species native to your region.
  • Water your lawn only when necessary and consider landscaping with native plants adaptable to your climate’s conditions.
  • Plant in the spring and fall, when watering requirements are lower.
  • When sprucing up your front or backyard, consider xeriscaping. This landscape method uses low-water-use plants to limit your water use.
  • Avoid planting grass in areas that are hard to water, such as steep inclines and isolated strips along sidewalks and driveways.
  • Leave lower branches on trees and shrubs and allow leaf litter to accumulate on the soil. This keeps the soil cooler and reduces evaporation.
  • Start a compost pile. Using compost in your garden or flower beds adds water-holding organic matter to the soil.
  • Use a layer of organic mulch on the surface of your planting beds and around plants to retain moisture, save water, time weeding and watering, and minimize weed growth that competes for water. Two to four inches of organic mulch around plants will reduce evaporation and save hundreds of gallons of water a year.
  • Next time you add or replace a flower or shrub, choose a low-water-use plant and save up to 550 gallons each year.
  • Collect water from your roof by installing gutters and downspouts. Direct the runoff to plants and trees.
  • Direct water from rain gutters and HVAC systems to water-loving plants in your landscape.
  • Adjust your lawn mower to the height of 1.5 to 2 inches. Taller grass shades roots and holds soil moisture better than short grass.
  • Leave lawn clippings on your grass, this cools the ground and holds in moisture.
  • Aerate your lawn periodically. Holes every six inches will allow water to reach the roots, rather than run off the surface.
  • If walking across the lawn leaves footprints (blades don’t spring back up), then it is time to water.
  • Let your lawn go dormant (brown) during the fall and winter. Dormant grass only needs to be watered every 3-4 weeks, less if it rains.
  • Weed your lawn and garden regularly. Weeds compete with other plants for nutrients, light, and water.
  • Fertilizers promote plant growth and also increase water consumption. Apply the minimum amount of fertilizer needed.
  • Use a trowel, shovel, or soil probe to examine soil moisture depth. If the top two to three inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water.
  • Set a kitchen timer when using the hose as a reminder to turn it off. A running hose can discharge up to 10 gallons per minute.
  • Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust sprinklers, so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street.
  • Minimize evaporation by watering during early morning hours when temperatures are cooler and winds are lighter.
  • Learn how to shut off your automatic watering system in case of malfunctions or rain.
  • Apply water only as fast as the soil can absorb it.
  • If water runs off your lawn easily, split your watering time into shorter periods to allow for better absorption.
  • Water only when necessary. More plants die from over-watering than from under-watering.
  • Prevent overwatering: Leaves turn lighter shades of green or yellow, young shoots wilt, and sometimes algae or fungi grow.
  • Adjust your watering schedule each month to match seasonal weather conditions and landscape requirements.
  • Install a rain sensor on your irrigation controller, so your system won’t run when it’s raining.
  • Don’t water your lawn on windy days, when most of the water blows away or evaporates.
  • Use drip irrigation for shrubs and trees to apply water directly to the roots, where it’s needed.
  • Water plants deeply, but less often, to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance.
  • Use sprinklers that deliver big drops of water close to the ground. Smaller drops and mist often evaporate before hitting the ground.
  • Forty % of the average homeowner’s water use is outdoors. Use a rain barrel or large buckets to collect rainwater from downspouts and gutters for watering gardens and landscapes. Use this to water your plants.
  • For hanging baskets, planters, and pots, put ice cubes on top of the soil to give your plants a cool drink of water without overflow.
  • Periodically check sprinkler system valves for leaks, and to keep sprinkler heads in good shape.
  • Spring is a great time to give your irrigation system a checkup to ensure it’s working efficiently.
  • Prune properly to help plants use water more efficiently.
  • Plant a rain garden to add beauty to your yard, while absorbing and filtering runoff. Water absorbed in a rain garden will filter pollution otherwise headed for streams.
  • Avoid using pesticides or herbicides on your yard and garden. The chemicals can contaminate groundwater and streams, and can also hurt kids and pets.
  • In the yard, use mulch to keep moisture from leaving the soil and minimize the need to water.
  • If you must water the lawn, water in the early morning or evening, and try to avoid watering on windy days. This will limit the amount of water that is wasted. Rain barrels reduce stress on municipal water systems during dry, summer months.

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” 

Cree Indian Proverb


  1. Source:
  2. Preserving Our
  4. Conserving water: Green Homes. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (Source:
  5. 100+ Ways to Conserve Water-Use It Wisely. (Source: American‎).
  6. 100 Ways to Save Water-Loudoun Water. (Source:…/100-Ways-to-Save-Water/‎).

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