Water Saving Tips

Water conservation is mostly a matter of common sense. Water can be saved throughout the house by changing both plumbing fixtures and personal habits. You can lower your water bill and help conserve your community's most precious natural resource. Below is a list of various ideas you can try to reduce water use. This list doesn’t have every idea out there and not every idea applies to every person, but it’s a place to start.

  • Repair dripping faucets quickly. If your faucet is dripping at a rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year. This adds to the cost of water and sewer or can strain your septic system.
  • Do not let the faucet continuously run while washing hands & face, or shaving.
  • Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. If everyone in a family of four leaves the water on while brushing their teeth, as much as 600 gallons can be wasted each month.
  • Install faucet aerators, which reduce wastewater by mixing water and air.
  • Do not use the toilet as a wastebasket.
  • For older, high water use toilets, place an item such as a plastic bottle filled with water inside your toilet tank. This acts to displace water and can save gallons each day. Caution: Keep the bottle away from the operating mechanisms and don't use brick - it will decompose and ruin the operating mechanisms. Be sure not to displace too much water causing a need to double-flush. Double flushing will waste more than is saved.
  • Replace or adjust a toilet handle that sticks and allows water to run constantly.
  • To detect toilet leaks, use dye strips or food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color shows in the bowl, your flapper is leaking. Most replacement parts are inexpensive, readily available and easily installed (flush as soon as your test is done, since food coloring may stain the tank).
  • Replace your toilet flapper on a regular basis, as this component is the most likely to leak. Reminder: If you have a low flow toilet you may need to purchase a special flapper to keep your conservation benefit.
  • Replace older, inefficient toilets. Toilets generally account for 30% of your indoor water use and replacement can save the average family of 4 over 20,000 gallons of water per year.
  • Replace your showerhead with a low-flow version.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Keep a container of water in the refrigerator rather than letting water run to obtain a cold drink.
  • Consider replacing older dishwashers. While most conventional dishwashers use anywhere between 7 to 14 gallons per load (gpl), a water-efficient dishwasher only uses 4.5 to 7 gpl.
  • Fill the dishwasher completely before turning it on. Washing a partial load of dishes uses the same amount of water as a full load.
  • If you must rinse dishes prior to washing, use the sprayer.
  • Soak heavily soiled dishes and pans in soapy sink water instead of scraping under running water.
  • If washing dishes by hand, rinse them in a half-full basin or pan instead of under running water.
  • Turn on garbage disposals when pulling the plug on dirty dishwater. This allows the disposal to be cleaned out without using more water from the faucet.
  • Dispose of paper and excess food in the garbage can rather than the garbage disposal. Garbage disposals can add 50 percent to the volume of solids in a septic tank, which can lead to malfunctions and maintenance problems.
  • If you have a garden or flowerbeds, consider composting rather than using the garbage disposal.
  • Thaw frozen foods in advance in the refrigerator or use the microwave instead of running water.
  • Consider replacing older washing machines. Washers purchased before 1999 use 4 times the energy of a newer model and waste 30 gallons of water per load. Remember that due to long-term utility bill savings, a more expensive model may pay for itself in just a few years.
  • Cover swimming pools. In the summertime, an uncovered pool can lose about an inch of water per week. Covering your pool when not in use can reduce that substantially and also provides added safety.
  • Use a broom to clean leaves and other debris from sidewalks or driveways instead of a hose.
  • Use ornamental water features that recycle water.
  • Use a shut-off nozzle on your hose, which can be adjusted down to a fine spray so that water flows only as needed. When finished, turn it off at the faucet instead of at the nozzle to avoid leaks.
  • Check hose connectors to make sure plastic or rubber washers are in place. Washers prevent leaks.
  • If you must water lawns, do so at night or in the early morning. The plants absorb the water more efficiently when heat from the sun is at its weakest. In addition, less water evaporates during these times.
  • Don't over-water landscaping. Wilting can be a sign of excess water. As a general rule, lawns only need one inch of water per week in the summer. Use a rain gauge to determine how much water your yard receives each week from rain and irrigation.
  • Don't allow sprinklers to water streets, driveway or sidewalk. Position them so water lands on the lawn and shrubs and not on these areas.
  • Install irrigation devices that are the most water efficient for each use. Soaker hoses and micro or drip irrigation are examples.
  • Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly.
  • Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended. A garden hose can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn off sprinklers.
  • Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system and holds soil moisture better than a closely clipped lawn.
  • Avoid over fertilizing lawns. Fertilizer applications increase the need for water. Apply fertilizers that contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.
  • Place rain barrels under gutter downspouts. They can collect rainwater for plants, car washing or general cleaning projects. Water from rain barrels is also exempt from drought restrictions.
  • Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. Once established, these plants will require less water, fertilizer, and maintenance than non-native or water dependent species. For more information, visit the Virginia Cooperative Extension website.
  • Use mulch on landscaping to retain moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps control weeds that compete with landscape plants for water.
  • Use a bucket to wash your car instead of a hose, or consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water.
  • Verify that your home is leak free. Many homes have hidden water leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak. Modern water meters come with leak detection indicators that show water movement. For information on how to read these, contact the Authority staff and ask how to read your meter’s leak detector. If you want to narrow it down further, close the main water shut-off valve in your home; if the leak indicator is still turning, the leak is between your meter and the shut-off valve; if it stops, the leak is somewhere in your home.
  • Repair all leaks as soon as possible; a little drip can waste a lot of water. Many leaks are simple fixes. Instructions can be found on many websites, or by checking out a home plumbing guide.
  • Pay attention to your water bill. Does your usage spike during certain times of the year, like the summer? If so, look at the tips related to outdoor conservation. Is your overall usage increasing over time? That could indicate a leak.
  • Make sure you know where your water shut-off valve is located. This could save gallons of water and damage to your home if a pipe were to burst.