Talkin' Green: Conserving Water Makes $ense

Conserving Water Makes $ense

This article was original published for the Talkin’ Green column in the Lake Geneva Regional News Real Estate Guide. Download a copy of the column from the Lake Geneva Regional News Real Estate Guide.


Oceans cover almost 70% of the Earth’s surface and account for 97% of its water. But only 3% of all the water on the planet is fresh water. The continental United States contains the largest fresh water lake system in the world, but fresh water is not evenly distributed throughout the rest of the US or the planet. In fact 85% of the world’s population lives in the driest part of the world. The largest consumer of freshwater in the Unites States is the electric generation industry followed by agricultural irrigation. Household water usage in the home only amounts to a fraction of these two uses – but every drop counts. Conserving water at home is relatively easy and it will not only save you money but will save you energy too. The first place to start is taking stock of how we use water every day at home. The average home uses about 400 gallons per day. The biggest user is the toilet (26%) followed by the washing machine (21%). The shower and faucets and any uncorrected leaks make up the balance. By the way, studies have found that fixing leaks can cut 13% of the water usage in the average home. A small drip at your faucet can waste 20 gallons per day and a leaky toilet can run through 200 gallons per day.

Invest in the newest technology toilets.

They are more expensive, but you’ll end up saving money. Standard toilets, the older model ones, can use as much as 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush. Newer toilets can use 1.28 to 1.6 gallons per flush. The best choice: a dual flush toilet. It uses only .8 gallon for #1 and 1.6 gallons for #2.

Replace your old shower head.

A nice long relaxing shower feels great but it contributes to your water bill and the hot water increases your energy bill. The new showerheads use only 2.5 gallons per minute which can save 2,900 gallons of water a month and $70 in your monthly utility bill.

New bathroom faucets should be 1.5 to 2 gallons per minute. This is going to sound pretty simplistic, but additional savings can be achieved by turning off the water while brushing your teeth – believe it or not, most people don’t do this. A family can save about 200 gallons per month by this simple action.

Upgrade that old washing machine.

It’s worth the trouble and the savings. Older washing machines are big users at between 35 to 54 gallons per load. New front load machines only use about 27 gallons per load.

Before you run out and buy new WaterSense rated toilets and appliances, make sure you check to see if there are any rebates available to help cover the costs. Your appliance dealer should have the information or at least be able to steer you in the right direction in order to find out.

Here are a few more tips to save water:

  1. Reuse your pasta water after cooking. It’s clean water with a little starch in it.
  2. Buy a rain barrel. Better check local laws because it is illegal in some states.
  3. Don’t shower as often. Americans tend to over-do it.
  4. Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine unless it’s full.
  5. Power plants are the biggest user of water so reduce your electric use with LED bulbs.
  6. Catch your water in a container while you run the water to get hot. Water your plants or use it for cooking.
  7. Look into installing an instant hot water heater.
  8. Shower with a friend.
  9. Plant drought resistant plants and shrubs.
  10. Use mulch around plants to reduce evaporation.
  11. Water in the early parts of the day to reduce evaporation.
  12. Reuse greywater, check local ordinances though.

If you’ve been alive during the last 20 years, you’ve probably heard about, or done, most of the things in this article. But if anything mentioned above sounds intriguing or worthwhile, go for it. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention? The day is quickly coming when the scarcity of water will be on everyone’s mind. Do whatever you can to post-pone it.

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Fritz Kreiss

Fritz has been involved in energy procurement and the field of sustainability for close to twenty years, with expertise in alternative energy development including geothermal, wind and solar farm developments.

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