The average American uses approximately 100 gallons of water a day! And that's not counting the leaky faucet or extra minute in the shower that can have a dramatic impact on not just your water bill, but the efficiency of your home, your health, and the well-being of the planet at large. Consider these small tweaks to your everyday routine, and you'll be tapping into a more efficient, less costly, water-conscious home.
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Water is a limited resource we take for granted: Even though about 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by water, less than 1 percent is available for human use.
As a first step, find out how much water you use on a day-to-day basis -- both directly and indirectly -- with the Water Footprint Calculator, or download the Waterprint iPhone app (itunes.com). This alone can really put your water consumption into perspective.
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Turn Off the Tap
Did you know that you'll save 2.5 gallons of water simply by shaving just one minute off your shower time? For extra points, consider a more conservative approach: Wet your face and body, shut off the water as you shampoo and lather up, and then finish it all off with a quick rinse.
Then, think beyond the shower: How can you shave off some time when you brush your teeth, or while rubbing soap on your hands or scrubbing a dish?
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Refresh Your Laundry Routine
Your washing machine accounts for 22 percent of your household's total indoor water use, according to the AWWA. Run full loads only, and in cold water, when possible.
If you're in the market for a new one, consider buying an Energy Star model with a low water factor, which can save up to 18 gallons of water per load. The water factor is the number of gallons per cycle per cubic foot that the machine uses. And the lower the water factor, the more efficient the washer is.
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Swap Your Showerhead
In the shower, low flow doesn't have to mean a weak trickle. The average U.S. household could save 2,300 gallons a year with EPA WaterSense-labeled showerheads, which limit flow to at least 2 gallons per minute. As you save water, you'll also save the electricity required to heat it.
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Fix Your Faucet
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Tweak Your Toilet
Toilets are among the biggest water guzzlers in any given household. For instance, a running toilet wastes up to 200 gallons a day, which is equal to 40 flushes. When purchasing a toilet, look for a model with the EPA WaterSense label, which certifies that it uses 20 percent less water. (A $250 model can save a family of four 16,000 gallons a year.) Or place a filled water bottle in the tank to conserve 4,000 gallons per year.
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Check the Toilet for Leaks
While you're at it, check it for leaks. Put a few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank and check the bowl after 15 minutes; if the color has seeped in -- without flushing -- you have a leak. Fixing it can save up to 1,000 gallons (about 200 flushes) a month. Often, what’s needed is a new flapper, or "valve seal," which you can find in just about any hardware store.
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Grow Your Garden Wisely
Watering the lawn or garden accounts for 40 percent of total household water use. If you're expanding your garden, make it water-wise. Choose native flora to your local area that are more likely to thrive under the natural conditions (no extra watering required), or better yet, consider plants that require minimal watering (such as succulents). It's worth mentioning that annuals (such as petunias and impatiens) typically require more water than most perennials.
Here's an extra tip: Insert a trowel into your lawn; if there's moisture two inches below the surface, it doesn't need water.
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Collect Your Own Rainwater
Put a rain barrel below your gutter downspout and you’ll capture at least a half a gallon of water for every square foot of roof during a one-inch rainfall -- that means a 90-square-foot roof would completely fill a 55-gallon barrel! You can use that to water your garden.
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Prep Produce More Efficiently
Instead of cleaning your fruits and vegetables by rinsing them under a constantly running tap, swish them around in a bowl of water. You can then reuse that water for houseplants.
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Save Pasta Water
Place your colander over a bowl in the sink when draining to save the starchy water. You can use it in the sauce or as a base for soup.
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Adjust Your Dish Washing
First, skip the prerinse cycle by scraping the dishes manually. If you have the option, use your machine's eco water-saving mode. (While you’re at it, turn off the dryer setting to save energy.) Run fewer, fuller loads.
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Don’t Dump Kettle Water
Only want one cup of tea? Then heat exactly that amount of water. This goes for brewing a pot of coffee too.
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Ditch the Hose-Down
Using a hose to clean your outdoor spaces might seem efficient, but this practice is anything but waterwise. Instead, use a broom to clean sidewalks, porches, and driveways.
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Insulate Your Water Pipes
Running the water before you hop in the shower, waiting for it to warm up is a common habit. But this leads to wasted time, wasted water, and wasted energy -- therefore wasted money on your bill! For this reason, consider insulating your water pipes.
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