When you woke up this morning, did you take a shower, brush your teeth and flush the toilet? On average, the U.S. Department of the Interior estimates that each American uses 80-100 gallons of water a day for indoor home purposes alone. That’s a shocking amount of water.
Due to the impact of climate change, our world is confronted with various environmental-related crises. One that’s specifically dangerous to our natural water stores is drought.
So, how can we conserve water at home?
In this guide, we’ll explain why water conservation is essential, then share a few ways to conserve water and make a difference at home.
Let’s dive right in!
The Case for Water Conservation
What causes drought? When there are lower rates of precipitation over an extended period, a shortage occurs. Droughts cause long-term damage to wildlife and plant ecosystems.
They can cause total crop failure and force farmers to sell livestock. Overpumping groundwater during drought can lead to the complete depletion of aquifers and the reduction of other freshwater sources.
States like California, which grow one-third of America’s produce, are particularly vulnerable during droughts.
Flash droughts can also happen in nature, meaning a region experiences reduced rainfall and extreme heat to accelerate the drought process.
These occurrences are symptomatic of climate change – extreme temperatures and La Niña events make things worse.
From 2010 to 2021, America endured 10 devastating droughts, each of which caused at least $1 billion in damage.
Currently, the U.S. is experiencing yet another drought in much of the West, Pacific, and high plains.
Due to a record lack of rainfall in these areas, as well as relentless heat, the drought continues. So far, it has caused 138 deaths.
Homeowners in drought-impacted areas know what it does to their water access – resources are limited, and the costs of their utilities go through the roof. Climate change effects mean more homeowners will soon see the impact of water scarcity.
Take a look at this short video by National Geographic for more on water conservation:
Take a step in the right direction to reduce the impact of drought – choose to conserve water by living a water-conscious life.
6 Ways to Conserve Water at Home
As drought becomes more commonplace in our country, we could all benefit from building resilience.
Our government and individual businesses need to step up to prepare for future shortages and identify ways to improve water security. Citizens should take some responsibility, too.
The following ideas will walk through home improvements and routine changes. These are some of the best ways to conserve water at home, even if you need to start with smaller steps like shortening your shower.
1. Rain Gardens
Build a rain garden in your backyard. They effectively catch rainwater to increase and renew the amount of groundwater.
Groundwater resupplies natural aquifers and is the primary water source most farmers use for irrigating their crops.
Additionally, rain gardens naturally filter any pollutants from storm water runoff, keeping our water supply a little bit cleaner.
How do you create a rain garden? Here are a few ideas for better water conservation at home:
- Choose a garden location downhill from your home and a few yards away from the foundation. Water should flow into the garden but not collect near the base of the home.
- Prepare the garden bed with well-draining soil to allow the rainwater to easily infiltrate the rain garden. Sand and compost are great additions to help promote plant growth and drainage.
- The best plants for a rain garden are water-loving perennial plants that can handle a good soak. Try elephant’s ear, forget-me-nots, spiderwort, and other favorites, trying to select plants that fare best in your native environment.
- Adding rocks can help with water flow and drainage while also helping add to the beauty and design of your rain garden.
- Raise part of the rain garden or surround the garden with a berm, providing some elevation that controls water flow and keeps it collected in the garden.
2. Rainwater Harvesting
Installing a rainwater harvesting system on your property reduces the amount of stormwater pollution by slowing the process of runoff and storing the water for future use.
Plus, it can help you become more self-sufficient by creating your own supply of available water.
Consider purchasing rain barrels or cisterns, and utilize the rainwater to hydrate your plants outside and in your house.
Water purification is an added challenge, so most homeowners aim to use the harvested water for purposes other than washing and drinking.
To conserve water dramatically, you can try using rainwater to flush your toilet. Some toilets require as much as 6 gallons per flush. Using rainwater will significantly cut your daily water usage.
3. Smart Gardening Choices
When caring for your garden, make sure you exercise these tips to conserve water:
- To avoid evaporation, water your plants in the morning.
- Make sure your hose has an on and off switch. Check that the nozzle is in good working condition and doesn’t leak.
- If you use a sprinkler system, ensure that all water goes to your plants, not sidewalks or a driveway.
- Ensure your soil is healthy and you mulch to keep moisture near the plant roots.
- Organize your plants into zones that require similar watering requirements, so you don’t need to over- or underwater them.
These gardening practices will help you save water and better care for your plants.
4. Low-Flush Toilets
As stated earlier, toilets are one of the worst offenders when it comes to water wastage. To right this wrong, replace an older toilet with one that uses 3.5 gallons or less water per flush.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a WaterSense label for commodes that meets this exact requirement. Sticking to toilets that use less water to flush will help you save money, too.
If you notice your shower head is leaking or is low pressure, try replacing it with one certified by the EPA’s WaterSense line. You can save over 2,000 gallons just by switching it.
While you’re waiting for your water to heat up, consider putting a couple of buckets in the shower. They will fill with water, and you can use them to water plants or flush your toilet – and best of all, you won’t waste water as you wait for your shower to warm.
The average shower is eight minutes long. Because the average showerhead expels 2.5 gallons per minute, that means most Americans use 20 gallons of water per shower. The best way to conserve water when showering is to reduce the time you spend.
Try speeding your showers up by making yourself aware of how much time you’re spending using a timer or listening to music.
You could also turn on the shower to rinse your body and turn it off when you lather on soap and shampoo.
6. Dishwasher and Washing Machine
Energy Star provides a helpful guide for water-efficient dishwashers or washing machines. On average, they use 30% less water and 25% less energy than other models on the market.
The best rule of thumb when using your dishwasher or washing machine is not to operate either unless they’re fully loaded.
You can also adjust the water levels to accommodate the number of dirty dishes or laundry in your appliance. When possible, utilize energy and water-efficient cycles for both devices.
How to Help Conserve Water at Home
Don’t make water conservation an optional part of your daily routine. Consider installing green infrastructure like a rain garden on your property, updating your toilet to a water-efficient model to reduce your water usage, or improving some of your habits.
If all of us come together, we could increase our resilience against drought in the face of climate change. Which ways to conserve water will you add to your everyday routine?
About the Author
Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated, where she covers sustainable housing and improved building techniques for readers interested in a greener future.
References and Useful Resources
U.S. Drought Monitor: Current Drought Map of the USA
Energy Star: Energy Efficient Products for Consumers
Harvard University: 4 Ways to Measure a 5 Minute Shower
Virginia Department of Forestry: Rain Gardens – Technical Guide
Frequently Asked Questions
How can we share water conservation with kids?
Kids might not grasp the full environmental crisis, but families and teachers can still teach them ways to conserve water that are fun and educational. Involve kids in these methods by helping them set up their own rainwater collection for watering flowers and making a fun game out of speeding up bath time. Check out the full guide for more.
How does conserving water help the environment?
It’s easy to get disillusioned with individual action. How can one household make a difference when we need governments and businesses involved, too? But reducing our demand on water systems and taking action in our own communities can ease droughts here at home and enable change at higher levels. Conserving water helps the environment because it helps us adapt to changing circumstances and create a more sustainable way to live. Check out the full guide for more.
What water-saving appliances are available?
The appliances that consume the most water are toilets, showers, and washing machines. Homeowners can find ever more water-efficient appliances on the market by investigating recommendations from the EnergyStar program. Modern options can greatly improve water conservation by reducing the amount of water needed to wash and flush every single day. Check out the full guide for more on water-saving appliances.