Drought conditions persist in the Western United States, leading lawmakers to enact measures designed to reduce water consumption by residents. Homeowners are now having to make significant shifts with how they use water and curb waste.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average person uses up to 82 gallons of water a day in their home. Residential water use such as toilet flushing, showering, faucet use and laundry accounts for the majority of this consumption, costing the average homeowner more than $1,000 a year. This everyday use also causes wear and tear on plumbing systems which can lead to leaks in pipes and drains. Up to 10% of water can be lost to leaks, with some not always easy to detect.
“Homeowners should be vigilant in inspecting and fixing any water leaks found around the home, both indoors and outdoors,” said Bonnie Lee, vice president of property claims at Mercury Insurance. “Updating fixtures is an important first step on stopping water loss, as not repairing or replacing aging pipes could lead to more serious complications.”
Installing a water leak detection device can help curb water waste. These systems can notify you when a leak is detected and can shut off the water system if a major problem is found. Many insurers, including Mercury, offer a water leak detection discount to qualifying homes that are equipped with these systems.
Curbing water waste can also be done by replacing old appliances with newer models that are not only more efficient, but can help save utility costs.
In the kitchen
Upgrade your old dishwasher. A normal cycle in an energy-efficient dishwasher will use approximately 6 gallons of water compared to older models that use around 10 to 15 gallons. Not only do old dishwashers use more water, they use more energy too. If you are looking to replace your dishwasher, look for models with an Energy Star for energy efficiency.
Replace standard sink faucet aerators with low-flow ones. Low-flow faucet aerators save water by mixing air with the water stream, reducing the amount of water that will flow from the faucet. Limiting the amount of water flowing from the tap also lowers the amount of energy used for water heating, which lowers utility costs.
In the laundry room
Update old washers with a front-loading washing machine. Front loading machines are more water efficient. Higher-efficiency washing machines use 25% less energy and 33% less water. They also spin faster than standard ones, meaning clothes need less drying time.
In the bathroom
Replace older-model toilets. While many people may be more conscientious about conserving water in the bathroom by taking shorter showers, they may not be aware that toilets are the main source of water use in the home, and can use up to 30% of the home’s water supply.
According to the EPA, toilets manufactured before 1982 can use up to 7 gallons of water with every flush, compared to modern toilets, which use only 1.6 gallons. Toilet manufacturers stamp the underside or back wall of the tank with a gallons per flush (gpf) rating. This will let you know how many gallons of water are being used per flush. The higher the GPF number, the more water is being used.
Saving water outside the home
Outdoor watering accounts for almost 30% of overall residential water use. While lawns tend to absorb more water than plants, many homeowners may not be aware that irrigation controls may need to be adjusted or of the different water needs for the variety of plants in their gardens.
Consider reducing or eliminating ornamental lawns by incorporating native or drought-resistant plants around your home’s yard. These plants require less maintenance, less water, and will help lower water costs. Consult a local nursery or landscaping professional to ensure that you choose the best plants for your area.
Adjust your automatic sprinkler system. Set watering times for early in the morning, when there is less of a chance for evaporation. Check sprinkler heads to make sure they are not clogged or broken as that can lead to additional water loss.
Preventing unnecessary water loss begins with a thorough inspection of the home. Inspecting plumbing fixtures and properly maintaining and upgrading appliances when needed will not only save water and energy, it could end up saving you more money as well.