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How Do You Use Less Water?

2009 September 11

go to Pick 5 for the EnvironmentHave you joined Pick 5 for the Environment, where you can choose 5 actions out of 10 and commit to them? We launched Pick 5 on Earth Day this year, and so far 2,300 people have taken the pledge.

Beyond signing up, though, we want to hear from you: what you’ve done, how you did it, etc.  We’re going to start working our way through the 10 actions.  Please share your stories as comments below.

Let’s start with Pick 5 Action #1: Use less water.

I’ve done several things around my home to achieve this goal: I placed a timer in the bathrooms to shorten showers and replaced my old toilet with water saving toilets.  I also make my laundry loads larger instead of doing several small loads. To use less hot water, which saves energy, I also cold water to wash laundry instead of hot water.  Finally, by placing barrels under my rain spouts, I’ve been able to use the recycled water to water my garden and outdoor plants.

Now it’s your turn:  what do you do to use less water?

Note: to ward off advertisers using our blog as a platform, we don’t allow specific product endorsements.  But feel free to suggest Web sites that review products, suggest types of products, and share your experiences using them!

About the author: Denise Owens has worked at EPA for over twenty years. She is currently working in the Office of Public Affairs in Washington, DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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113 Responses leave one →
  1. Sher Graham permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I use less water when I brush my teeth by using a cup and turning off the water. I limit my showers, washing loads and external use. I recycle water for my flowers and plants. I also don’t run the water when rinsing dishes. I turn it off and on as needed. Saving water is something my grandmother taught me when I was a child.

  2. Patricia Kessler permalink
    September 11, 2009

    On August 20th I posted a blog about conserving water in the kitchen.
    Please go to this link to view:

  3. Kaylee permalink
    September 11, 2009

    Those are some great ways to use less water! I will follow your footsteps and I will do the same. Another way that I will use less water is to not leave the waterhose running while washing my car.

  4. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I live in a condo complex and serve on the Homeowners’ Association Board of Directors. The highest priced utility we have is water so we are trying to reduce its use for things like irrigation while individual owners put water control devises in their condos. I have low flow shower heads, water saving toilets, and make sure there are no leaky fausets. I also don’t use the dishwasher or washing machine unless I have full loads. The condos don’t have yards and the Association takes care of the grounds; but, what we are doing as an Association is we have had placed a thick layer of mulch around all the flowerbeds and trees, we water three days a week at night by automatic SMART controllers and have the sprinkler heads set so the water goes on vegitation and not on walks, roads, or into the storm drain. And we are working with our water district for a recycled water irrigation system. These things also help save on production of more electric power too, as it takes huge sums of power for the pumping stations to pump water from the Colorado River and the Sacramento Delta to southern California and then to pump it on to each individual user. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  5. Michael permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I don’t worry about saving water since Mass doesn’t have a water problem. Maybe you should recommend that people live in areas that require less of a footprint.

    I noticed there’s no information about putting bricks into your toilet tank, using native landscape that doesn’t require watering or using low flow plumbing fixtures.

    In addition, the website on saving water has the term “peak water use” on it, which doesn’t make sense. Water use isn’t like electricity usage, when there are peaking plants that need to be turning on and incur fixed costs when demand is high. The only “peak water” event is when water pressure falls due to demand. Otherwise, peak water is the term that denotes the moment before aquifers fill more slowly than we remove water from them.

  6. Cathy permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I live in central North Carolina, and we had a severe drought a couple of summers ago. I think that made everyone here very conscious of how we use water. My husband installed a couple of rain barrels in our back yard, and we use that water to do laundry. We also replaced our 20+ year old toilets with the more water-efficient models that are currently sold. We keep a bottle of hand sanitizer at every sink to use instead of water. And the whole family takes fewer showers than we used to!

  7. Maria Alonso permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I keep a pitcher in my bathroom and colllect the water that is wasted while Im waiting for the water to heat up and use the water to water my plants. Its something…:) It also helps me recognize how much water is being wasted since the pitcher fills up very quickly.

  8. Jennifer permalink
    September 11, 2009

    When I’m in the shower I turn off the water when I shave or use a body scrub.

    We have also put timers on all of our outdoor faucets so that we never run the water longer than we intend. We have also landscaped our yard with drought tolerant plants and put them on a drip system. So, even in California where we get no summer rains, we only need to water these plants for a short time twice during the summer.

  9. Kathy B permalink
    September 11, 2009

    1. I do not wash my car – never have (only when it is up for sale).
    2. Don’t leave water on when brushing teeth.
    3. Large laundry loads – rinse always cold.
    4. Large dishwasher loads.

  10. Alexandra Rampy permalink
    September 11, 2009

    It’s one way, and it’s a small way. But, I recall when I was younger learning about water conservation. So, I started to turn the water on and off when I brush my teeth–rather than just have the water run the whole time.

    To this day, I still do it out of habit. Plus, it’s one small step to save water.

  11. The permalink
    September 11, 2009

    Stop using the water closet for toilet flushing . Pails or water buckets can do the job.

    The use of pails or water buckets when taking a bath especially for children maximizes water consumption as opposed to showers and bathtubs.

    Save the water you used during the rinsing cycle of your laundry and use it for cleaning your front or back yards.

  12. Michael B permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I kill my lawn via de-hydration (and sabotage of the sprinkler system) every summer, plus there is no need to mow a brown lawn! At first this was something of a near-divorce experience, but by now my wife believes me when I point out that the grass will be green again in the fall. Nothing ever really dries out up here in Western Washington anyway…

  13. Judy C. permalink
    September 11, 2009

    Good idea. I’m going to try that, too.

  14. Wendy permalink
    September 11, 2009

    Always wash laundry in cold water.
    Installed rain barrels and drip hoses for watering lawn.
    Installed aerators and dual flushers at work.
    Only run dishwasher when it is full.
    Installed two rain gardens.

  15. bgcoffeelover permalink
    September 11, 2009

    1. We purchased an automatic water system for our horses.
    2. We use a front loader washer- large loads, less water.
    3. Water saver toilets.
    4. Water saver shower heads.
    5. I do wash my cars but use a pressure washer to save water.
    6. I try to avoid bottled water – total energy cost per oz is more than gasoline.

  16. Natalie Gardiner permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I work for the White County Government of Georgia. We are blessed with living in the North Georgia Mountains where tourism is a way of life. People come from all over the country to trout fish our streams, tube down our rivers and take in the mountain scenery.

    We take our surroundings seriously by promoting and educating the public on various impacts of environmental friendly living. This includes putting on festivals which help to bring awareness to products, research and programs available to conserve.

    Hopes are high to turn White County Georgia into a regional bicycle destination location for the southeast.

    SORBA and White County are working together to design and implement biking trails and linkage throughout White County Georgia.

    We are hosting The Helen Fat Tire Festival Powered by Duro at Unicoi State Park October 9th through the 11th.

    this festival helps us in promoting:

    Alternative Transportation and Biking Safety Programs
    Positive Impacts on Environment and Public Health
    Green Development and Environmentally Friendly Living
    Conservation of energy, land, water and recycling programs

    The event will include –
    Party with live music from 5-Wide at
    Bike races
    Group Rides
    Demo Bikes and more –

    So while I personally conserve at my home and work place, I am lucky enough to have a job which allows me to educate and promote environmental awareness to the public at large.

  17. Katie S permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I collect water in gallon milk containers while warming bath water, cooling drinking water, rinsing fruits and veggies, and also collect leftover water from glasses and cooking things like veggies and pasta and use these to water my potted plants.

  18. Malakoo, Inc permalink
    September 11, 2009

    Well our son suffers most because he does not get baths any more. I water bill went up so much we all have to shower together. The basic stuff we do as well no running water to brush teeth, full loads of laundry and dishwasher as well. Flush toilet once per week. (kidding) We have shut off’s on our shower heads and Use waterless systems to wash our vehicles. We are Certified Green Consultants and help many with simple resourceful saving tips.

  19. Bridget permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I recently transformed my 1.6 gpf toilet into a high efficiency toilet by retrofitting the handle with a dual flush dial that flushes up to 1/3 to 1/2 of the tank water. So far it works great. For the behavior modification stuff – I work in the water conservation industry so I’ve been aware of what little changes one can do to save a liitle water and have been doing those things for years. But more recently I took out half of my lawn, which made the neighbors stir quite a bit, and planted native plants that use less water.

  20. David Gaines permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I wash 99% of laundry on cold water. I use the smallest wash load.
    I don’t leave water running. I don’t flush yellow. I capture rain water from my down spout in a rain barrel. I use the water from the rain barrel to water trees and our vegetable garden.

  21. Joseph Mark Jarvis permalink
    September 11, 2009

    Displace some of the water that fills your toilet tank. You’ll flush less down the drain, and your toilet will fill faster. You can reuse a plastic bottle. Fill it with water so it won’t float and slip it in the tank out of the way of the flapper and valve.

  22. Michelle permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I have been limiting the amount of time I spend in the shower. This is difficult for me but I figure every minute I have the water off will save.
    I save water used to cook and (after is cools) use it to water plants.
    Save some rain water to water outdoor plants
    Always wash full loads of laundry

  23. Jen W permalink
    September 11, 2009

    1) I also do not wash my car–ever.
    2) In terms of showering, I do so sparingly (your body learns to adapt to less showers), showering only every three days, and then for only 5 minutes or less (shower timers are cheap and really help encourage you to see how short you can make your showers, it almost becomes a game).
    3) I do not have a dishwasher beyond my own two hands, but I feel that seeing the water actually helps me get a better handle on how much water I am using. Instead of filling the sink with water, I use a pot that was used for cooking and put only a small amount of water in the bottom, letting the rinse-water slowly fill and dilute the water in the pot. This cuts down on a lot of water waste.
    4) I, too, collect water in a bucket/pitcher waiting for water to warm up (though my water heater is very efficient so it doesn’t take long). The water then goes to tea, watering the plants, doing dishes, or cleaning.
    5) Laundry is done only at full loads and in cool water at an amount appropriate for the size.
    6) I make sure leaks are repaired and my shower and toilet are low flow.

    There’s a lot of ways to lessen personal water use at home, and I think I have done an okay job getting to where I should be, but I am noticing that a lot of water use happens outside the home, too. At my workplace, I am advocating for dual-flush toilets (lift up for #1, push down for #2) to try to lessen the usage of the whole workplace. Automatic faucets are something else I am hoping to help advocate for. Any other suggestions?

  24. Jody permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I helped implement a wetlands mitigation bank.

    I win. hehe

  25. Karl permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I don’t water my yard.
    I water my garden and wash shoes, bicycles, and outdoor clothes with collected rainwater.
    I shave (and occasionally pee!) in the shower.
    I sometimes wear the same outfit two days in a row – cuts down on showering and clothes-washing.
    I have filler in my toilet tank.

    And I only drink whiskey. (kidding)

  26. Saran permalink
    September 11, 2009

    Save the water it takes to get hot in our shower, about 2 gallons, and use it to water plants. Have a tub in the kitchen sink where we rinse the dishes etc. before putting them in the dishwasher. Don’t need a lot of water to do this, and then use this water to water the plants.

  27. Roberto Mulcuè Cuene permalink
    September 11, 2009

    Muy buenas tardes.
    Es importante para la humanidad en general dar pautas para la optimizaciòn de los recursos natuarales en especial el agua.
    Lo que estoy haciendo respecto al tema es utilizar el agua de la lavadora para el aseo del patio, trapeadores, riego en el jardin, etc.
    Estoy madurando la idea de recoger las agua lluvias que caen en el techo de my vivenda el cual espero fortalecerla con el apoyo de cada uno de ustedes y es la siguiente:
    Reutilizaciòn de los embaces plàticos de gaceosa interconectarlos adecuadamente para almacenamiento el cual ubicados de tal forma que por medio de la gravedad se pueda utilizar el preciado lìquido. Tambien construir una terraza cambiando el farol por latas de cervesa para almacenamiento de las agua s lluvias.

    Soñar no cuesta nada, pero la inmaginaciòn habre las puertas para dar un paso a la esperanza. Atte. Mulcuè

    Mil gracias por escharme y poder compartir las ideas.

    Buena suerte.

  28. Kelcy permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I started using a small 1/2 gallon bucket to catch rinse water when I rinse the dishes. I then use the water on my plants outside. It may sound a little yucky but its really like the equivalent of a liquid compost that returns both water and some nutrients to the earth instead of down the drain. I was surprised at how much water I was wasting actually just rinsing.

    Also had the plumbing lines redone in the basement last winter when doing some remodeling. They took out about 50 extra ft of pipes to the newer extension where my bath was located. That has saved a lot of water in that it takes almost no time for hot water to get there now. Folks with older houses and add-ons might think about looking at how the plumbing was added on. It’s not always the most direct route which can waste both water and energy.

  29. Michael S. permalink
    September 11, 2009

    In Kansas City, there is a gentleman who teaches people the practical importance of rain barrels. He teaches people how to make their own rain barrels for catching roof run-off water for plants, gardens, and cleaning. Another way to collect “grey” water for such purposes: while waiting for warm water before the shower, I put a pail under the faucet; that way it isn’t wasted. I suggest washing clothes in a tub and in glass jars rather than using a machine–think about it, it’s gallons-reducing! I never wash clothes unless they are quite dirty; just use essential oils daily. Hair can go a few days without being washed, too.

    I agree with those above–washing the car is absolutely wasteful!

  30. O'neil Couvillion permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I take an empth milk jug , fill half way with with gravel and put the jug in the toilet bowl . This will reduce water consumtion on each flush . I also try to stop our major industries like Exxon from using fresh water (drinking water) by using river water . This is done in the permiting process . We must do this , or face polluted water or no water at all .

  31. Loni permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I live in Colorado and we don’t have a water problem here either, but all the same, I save water because we ALL should, regardless of where we live. There is no such thing as an area that requires “less of a footprint”, by the way; or was that a joke…?
    I water my plants with the leftover water from the teapot or water glasses sitting on the night tables. This is one of the small things that really add up in the end :) Also, the usual, like quick showers, etc.

  32. Phillip Jutras permalink
    September 11, 2009

    Avoid letting the faucet run when brushing teeth/shaving etc.
    Build a slight downward incline against outsdie home foundations to force rainwater toward plants and lawn. Avoid hot or very warm showers for health and for saving water = cooler often means shorter duration.

  33. Kent Quinnelly permalink
    September 11, 2009

    1. Turn water off while brushing teeth and shaving.
    2. Take shower only once per day
    3. Adjust washing machine according to load.
    4. Supporting a green minded company so in time lots of water will be
    5. Teaching others to duplicate the efforts.

  34. Yamilette permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I use less water by turning off the water when I brush my teeth or do the dishes. Also, if I am in someone house, I remind them to do the same… at least right in front of me they do as I do at home.

  35. Brooke L. permalink
    September 11, 2009

    Washing Dishes: I don’t use my dishwasher and instead hand wash dishes, but refrain from letting the water run between washing except for rinsing.

    Laundry: I wash a full load of laundry in cold water.

    Showering: I use a cooking timer set at 10 minutes to remind me how long my shower is running and I look at the timer to see how much time I have left.

    Shaving: I like to sit on the side of the tub and use the water sparingly to water down my legs and rinse them instead of wasting water while showering or taking a bath.

    Brushing Teeth: I don’t keep the water running while brushing or rinsing.

    Toilet Flushing: I go up to three times in the toilet bowl without flushing (except for a BM). No need to flush after every toilet trip!

    Drinking Water: I drink tap water that is filtered.

    Car Washing: I don’t wash my own car, but instead go to a professional car wash facility. It uses much less water! I usually look at the weather report to see if there is a chance of rain and plan accordingly. No need to wash the car Tuesday when a storm is going to hit on Friday.

  36. Rose permalink
    September 11, 2009

    When me dehumidifier is full, I empty it into the washing maching. It’s clean water! No harm, no foul!

  37. Lisa permalink
    September 11, 2009

    I think you all have covered most of the bases in your write ups.

    A couple more things:
    – We belong to a community pool so we don’t have to use water to fill a pool of our own.
    – We replaced a large portion of our front lawn with mulch and are planting native plants that don’t require as much water as the lawn does. Our shaded property seems to make its own micro-climate that is less thirsty for water. Now, if we can only get neighbors and businesses to stop their automatic watering during rainstorms :-)
    – When washing dishes, I don’t let the water run, but turn it off an only use it when I really need it. Now, if I can only get my dad who lives in CA to do the same!
    – Does not washing the dog count? We rinse her feet in her water bucket, water the garden with that and then get her fresh water. I think her coat appreciates not being shampooed – it’s so shiny.

    BTW, I tried the shower timer in the kids bathroom, but they just ignored it. Hopefully, the low-flow shower head is helping instead

    We’re also looking to replace the old toilets in our church to reduce the amount of water they use. Some are so old it is hard to find replacement parts for them !

  38. Todd Kneeland permalink
    September 12, 2009

    I do RECYCLING at sporting events and use all the left over water in the water bottles to water my yard, and wash my van sometimes.

  39. Amy Brown permalink
    September 12, 2009

    We have stopped using water except for morning showers and brushing teeth. We moved to a motel when our house was totally destroyed by stachybotrus, aspergillus, penicillium and cladisporum.

    The Builders plumbed all the waste water in our new house to the basement so the water would not be sent to the water treatment facility. Within a few months, the house maintained a moisture content of 75% and enough mold spores to populate Venus.

    In Washington state, this is not considered to be a crime even though the house is not up to CODE, does not follow the Uniform Building Code as called for by state law plus the city and the builders withheld information regarding the underground stream that floods our basement every few months bringing lots of bacteria from the stream.

    The foundation was not waterproofed, and so we get all the run-off from those who live above and all their run-off includes pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. What a great country!

    We save water by not even living in our house.

    I might add how proud I am to give lots of money in the form of taxes while we do not get any government help or protection whatsoever. The government agencies are glad to help the poor or the rich, and glad to give $40,000 for each man, woman and child plus two years welfare – all money coming from our tax dollars – yet there is not any help for us. We were cheated. The city insepector simply did not inspect. The state rescinded the electrical inspection a few weeks ago.

    Who wants to use water? I just want to live like a normal person.
    Looks like we will have to go to a different planet to find honest people with decent morals. Sure cannot find them here.

    The attorney general told me this entire mess is a private affair. Our daughter has been sick for an entire year – only after finding the serious problems in our house was she diagnosed properly. Jennifer has pulmonary damage from the mold that should never have been.

  40. Prabhat Misra permalink
    September 12, 2009

    Respected Owens, small savings of water will save our future. I save water in the following ways:
    1. i close my tap water when i brush my teaths and wash my hands; i use only that amount of water which is needed.
    2. when i wash my clothes or bath, then the dirty water is not go to waste; it is used in my garden for watering the plants.
    3. i used less detergent powder to wash my clothes.
    In this way i save water. [ Prabhat Misra, District Savings Officer, Etawah, U.P., India, blog: ]

  41. sarah permalink
    September 12, 2009

    Massachusetts actually does have a water problem, although it may not be apparent after this summer when it rained almost every day. If we don’t conserve water we will eventually run out of potable water, even in Massachusetts. I recently worked on a project to come up with a plan for water conservation in Rhode Island, and the Ipswich River Watershed was one of our case studies. This river, which is a main source for water in several towns of Mass, is drying up.

    Maybe your town doesn’t have any watering restrictions (yet), but water is not an unlimited resource, and we will all eventually have to be careful with how we use it if we want it to be available for future generations.

  42. sarah permalink
    September 12, 2009

    Also, about peak water use – that is usually in the summer when water demand is higher for irrigation, and it is a serious issue. Some water suppliers in Rhode Island have had so much demand from people irrigating their lawns or gardens that at times they wouldn’t have enough water available in the event of a fire. We don’t want to ever be that low and not be able to provide the water needed to fight fires. But i guess as long as the lawns are green it’s okay if the houses burn down…

  43. sarah permalink
    September 12, 2009

    i don’t shower every day, unless i really need to–and i only wash my hair once or twice a week which cuts back on my shower time. i turn the water off when soaping up, both in the shower or when just washing my face or brushing teeth.

    i can’t seem to keep plants alive so i don’t have any to water!

    i do not water the lawn or use the hose to clean my driveway/sidewalk (surprisingly, a lot of people do this!)

    I never wait for my water to warm up when washing dishes or showering. i use cold water to wash my hands. unfortunately i do not have a dishwasher so i have to wash my hand.

    i only do full loads of laundry.

  44. L M Ellis permalink
    September 12, 2009

    Wrap the hot water tank, pipes leading to and from. this will accomplish using less hot water!

  45. Jill permalink
    September 12, 2009

    You might try a simple recirculation pump, a little known simple retrofit. It allows you to have the water recirculate until you have hot water and then it comes out the tap. Very interesting. I don’t have the problem here so haven’t tried this but here is a site that compares the different options:

  46. Johnny R. permalink
    September 12, 2009

    There would be plenty of fresh water for everyone if the human race were PEACEFULLY reduced to half its present number through PEACEFUL family planning, while safely recycling 100% of all waste and garbage. This slowly shrinking planet cannot support a growing population and its growing economy.

  47. Marty Ross permalink
    September 12, 2009

    1. our yard has no vegetation that requires watering.
    2. water-saver shower head.
    3. rarely wash car.
    4. do not leave water running when brushing teeth or washing dishes.
    5. flush less frequently.
    6. water-efficient washing machine.
    7. shower instead of tub bath.
    8. I teach college students about water conservation, pollution.

  48. gail permalink
    September 12, 2009

    As a teacher of preschoolers we frequently use water. Our hand washing regs alone require multiple daily usage. We are experimenting to see how much water we really use by collecting and timing our washings! We use our left over water bottle water for giving our box garden plants a drink. Hopefully, our new classrooms will have dual flush toilets.

    This past summer I had the opportunity to tour local water authorities and other areas of water needs and usage. Education is a key. I’m sharing as I can through green tips with my college family community.

  49. gail permalink
    September 12, 2009

    post as printed

  50. Jackenson Durand permalink
    September 12, 2009

    The Nature is so beautiful. Let think about spending one day in an Equatorial or Venezuelan forest, we would discover this beauty environmental climatic, waterfall and many reveres along jungles.
    I am studying Genetic Chromosomal and taste.
    – At home, we were trying to use less dish.
    – I am using public transportation to commute without polluting but my fellows Environmentalist, this idea is causing for some, says that we do not okay.
    – Tried to save energy, in the house where I lived 2 years ago bring me to a ……………..
    – Trying to spread the word to youngness as me, even in dating, they are afraid of flowers and trees, I ask myself where this new generation came from high school, what they doing in a society and what they doing for environment in 20 years coming up.

     The job is hard but we can not be selfish in other that future generation will find a piece in the cake.

    1) Use less water
    2) Commute without polluting
    3) Save electricity
    4) Use chemicals safely
    5) Spread the word

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