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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. Valerie permalink
    September 13, 2009

    My Grandmother taught me to only fill the tub about less then half way. I fill it up a little more than half way. Also, the website is having a waterways and ocean cleanup on 9-19.Sorry such short notice, but check out the web-site on how to conserve our water.

  2. Valerie permalink
    September 13, 2009

    Thank you. I’ll try it even though I rent I will still be saving.

  3. Valerie permalink
    September 13, 2009

    Actually I didn’t have an empty jug, so I put a brick.

  4. Bob Bowen permalink
    September 13, 2009

    Here in Southern California by San Diego, we are in the fourth year of a real drought and about the 8th year of a “less than normal” rainfall. Water use is now being curtailed. We can water yards only 3 days a week and then for only 15 minutes each time. I took out all the grass, bushes and flowering high water usage plants from the front yard and replaced them with cactus and succulents. I use a lot less water (usually watering only once a week) and it saves me a lot of labor in caretaking. I did not do the back yard as that is my vegtable garden area and fruit trees.

  5. Sa'ed Abutarboush permalink
    September 13, 2009

    My water commitment to save came from many sources, as we all the people need to use water, personally and for work.
    from my Job as an Agricultural Eng. working with farmers and as a farmer i had to face the water shortage for my plants and to solve this problem for the others.
    In our religion ISLAM, our prophet Mohamad -peace be up on him- teach us how to save water and tell us to do so even if we were over a RIVER.
    and many other things you can find in our prophet saying and rules speak about the water rigts and water quality.
    the scarse water resources in Palestine and the great conflict with the israealies over our resources.
    the high water price in Palestine due to use water from the Israeli company MEKEROT, were 1 m3 = 2.5 $.
    an image of water used in africa and ther places of the world, never to be forgotten, where our toilet water is more healthy than the water they use.
    so, our water save comitment i think should be high, some people they do not care, but teh most as i know they realy do care.

  6. Tanya permalink
    September 13, 2009

    I palnted plants in my flower beds that tolerate local weather patterns. I dont have to water them to keep them alive. Some plants are native plants to the area.
    I purchased a reel mower that operates only on humman power. I left the grass clippings on the ground and I have the greenest lawn on the block and I have not had to water at all. I think the mower preserves the grass and dose not scalp it.
    Put a brick in the toilet tank so it uses less water.
    Bought a water conserving washer and energy conserving dryer.
    My family takes shorter showers
    turn off water during brushing teeth, washing face, hands, ect.
    Hand wash dishes
    fill water bottles with tap water or natural spring water from a friends spring house
    Teaching others about water conservation

    Next year plans.
    1. Install 4 rain barrells.
    2.Build a rain garden that holds rain water better for plants.
    3.Install low flow shower head.
    4.Install new low flow toilets so I can get rid of the bricks in the existing toilets tank,

    I have already cut my water bill down by $80.00. Lets see what I can do next year.

  7. Michele Krause permalink
    September 13, 2009

    When gardening, during dry hot months in Wisconsin, (the few we actually have) I use a soaker hose to deliver water to the roots of the plants, rather than a broadcast spinkler, in addition a 3″ layer of mulch keeps that plants moist and slows evaporation.

    My next gardening update is the water barrel system which will be hooked up to my raingutters and soaker hoses. Home Depot sells water barrels for $99.

  8. ChaseR permalink
    September 13, 2009

    Save Water… Shower with a Friend.
    Should put a smile on your face if only just by reading this and, make conservation a creative and pleasant experience.
    During the droughts of the 1960’s this was a catchy slogan. It was part of the initial effort supporting environmental awareness also coinciding with the hippie movement.

  9. Marc Fontana permalink
    September 13, 2009

    I live in Northern California where we get virtually no rain during the Summer – Water is my highest bill. A few things I have done to conserve water:

    1. Insulated the pipes (cold water inlet pipe and hot water outlet pipe) at the water heater – this makes a big difference.

    2. I have stopped watering my lawn and I am letting it turn brown. I will eventually replace it with drought tolerant native plants. Californians should all consider doing this. A lawn is a luxury we can no longer afford as water resources become less abundant.

    3. I don’t wash my car as often – also I avoid washing it where the runoff waste water might reach the storm drain and flow to our rivers and bay.

    4. Installed water saving shower heads and faucet aerators.

    5. I wash my dishes by hand – if you take care not to let the water run, this will save water over using the dishwasher.

    6. I only wash full loads of laundry.

    7. I take ‘military’ showers (turn off the water while lathering up).
    I don’t bathe every day – It’s unnecessary.

    8. For #1 I flush every other or 3rd time only.

    I’m planning to install barrels to collect rain water to water outdoor plants.

  10. Andrea Paulinelli permalink
    September 14, 2009

    Toilets account for approx. 30% of water used indoors. By installing a Dual Flush toilet you can save between 40% and 70% of drinking water being flushed down the toilet, depending how old the toilet is you are going to replace.
    If you are serious about saving water, want a toilet that really works and is affordable, I highly recommend installing a Dual Flush toilet. Caroma toilets offer a patented dual flush technology consisting of a 0.8 Gal flush for liquid waste and a 1.6 Gal flush for solids. On an average of 5 uses a day (4 liquid/ 1 solid) a Caroma Dual Flush toilet uses an average of 0.96 gallons per flush. The new Sydney Smart uses only 1.28 and 0.8 gpf, that is an average of 0.89 gallons per flush. This is the lowest water consumption of any toilet available in the US. Caroma, an Australian company set the standard by giving the world its first successful two button dual flush system in the nineteen eighties and has since perfected the technology. Also, with a full 3.5″ trapway, these toilets virtually never clog. All of Caroma’s toilets are on the list of WaterSense labeled HET’s (High Efficiency toilets), published by the EPA and also qualify for several toilet rebate programs available in the US. Please visit my blog
    to learn more or go to to see how we flush potatoes with 0.8 gallons of water, meant for liquids only. Best regards, Andrea Paulinelli

  11. Monica permalink
    September 14, 2009

    Beyond turning off the water while brushing my teeth and taking showers, I limit watering my yard to no more than 10 min per area as I understand that any longer than that is completely unneccesary and wasteful.

  12. Drew Pilant permalink
    September 14, 2009

    1. “If its yellow, let it mellow” (at night, collect multiple liquid deposits before flushing toilet.)
    2. Go #1 out in the forest or in the shower.
    3. Rain barrel for garden, and xeriscaping. Let the lawn go brown with the natural seasonal cycle. (Less noise and air pollution from 2 stroke lawn mowers, too.)
    4. Hand wash dishes.
    5. Adopt various water conservation strategies that I learned backpacking and desert camping.
    Thanks for this nice blog.

  13. neil savage permalink
    September 14, 2009

    Besides using a shut-off valve at my showerhead (making it easy to turn off the water while soaping, shampooing, and shaving) I have repaired faucets to eliminate drips, put a plastic milk jug full of water in my toilet tank, and eliminated watering my lawn (and this year, even my garden!) during the summer. I had used a soaker hose on a timer to water the garden until I shredded the hose accidentally while mowing too close to the garden boxes! I would like to capture rainwater from my gutter downspouts, but have not gotten the necessary rain barrels yet.

  14. Ted Ives permalink
    September 17, 2009

    The EPA should reverse/eliminate whatever regulations they have against greywater usage. If we could dump our washing machine water (perhaps filtering it) into the garden that would be a huge savings, water usage in washing machines is probably the #1 source in most households. I believe some communities in LA are already doing this.

    A wide variety of ideas being brought out on this discussion, here’s some additional sources for ideas:

  15. Maranda permalink
    September 17, 2009

    I have installed an Oxygenics showerhead in my bathroom that helps save water as well as making sure no one leaves the water running while brushing their teeth. Small changes can make big effects!

  16. Gary Iverson permalink
    September 20, 2009

    We are saving much water by cutting off the California farmers. However, it goes into the ocean. And, some 30,000 people are unemployed, and we are losing millions of pounds of food.

    The EPA is out of control and should be abolished ASAP.

  17. Michael permalink
    September 23, 2009

    In order to conserve water, I use approximately 15 gallons of wastewater removed from our family’s 40 gallon fish tank each week (when cleaning the tank) as fertilizer and as a water source for our house plants and gardens. We also used the water from our dehumidifiers in the basement for the same puprose. Every little bit counts! By the way, our gardens at home are lush and beautiful.

  18. Linda permalink
    September 24, 2009

    In the past year or so, we’ve changed over to low-flow toilets, installed two Water Sense faucets, and one low-flow shower head. We also use barrels to capture rain water from the roof so we can water plants for free … of course, this year’s high rainfall hasn’t made it necessary to actually “water” much of anything, but the barrels came in very handy last year, and no doubt will in the future.

  19. Steve Thomas permalink
    September 28, 2009

    I use dual flush toilets. A retrofit kit made for modt toilets. Uses .8 gal for liquids and 1.6 gal for solids.

  20. BeWaterWise Rep permalink
    September 29, 2009

    Simple steps like turning off the faucet when brushing teeth, taking shorter showers, installing a smart sprinkler controller, fixing leaky faucets, and washing only full loads of laundry help in minimizing water usage. Water is a precious element for life on earth and these inexpensive tips will help save gallons of water. has more such tips!

  21. Rudi permalink
    October 9, 2009

    With the H1N1 flu on everyone’s mind the washing of hands is important. I made a sign for the bathroom that describes the wet your hands, turn the water off, apply the liquid soap, rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds and let the soap losen the dirt, turn the water back on and rinse the dirty soap off then shut off the water. It helps to have a single handle on the water supply so that you can just hit the handle and the water turns off or on. I make my grandchildren follow the same routine at home, wet, shut off, soapup, turn on, rinse and shut off, with a flow restricter installed we use about a quart of water to wash our hands.

  22. Blesslei permalink
    October 15, 2009

    Our water came from a well. During the hot summer season, its pressure is very low or it is running out of water. I hardly take a shower anymore after having my kids. I took bubble bath with my daughter. Then my son can jump in the tub after we done or he can jump in the tub first and we go after he is done. Sometimes, my husband jumps in after working out the yard. Then we cut of half of the gallon milk plastic container and use it to scoop the water to the bucket and transfer it to a big tall narrow bucket next to the toilet tank. Each time we flush, we use scoop the water from the tall narrow bucket into the toilet tank. It only takes 2 full scoops of water from the cut out plastic milk container.
    Water from the kitchen sink, we scoop it out to a bucket, which we use to carry the water to the lawn outside the house. This not only save the water for the lawn and electric usage to pump the waste water after it is treated from our sewage system.

    Also, we install the gutter to collect water from our roof to a huge bucket close to our garden. We use this water to water our lawn or our garden during hot season.

    Our cars probably looked dusty, because we have not washed our cars in the past 10 years. We just wait for the rain to help wash them:> They still running great with 150 miles each day each of us have to commute to work.

    One of our neighbors had their washing machine’s drainage pipe drain to the outside wall to the lawn. Her lawn always looks green even in the drought season. I don’t have money to install or modify anything around my house. If I do, I would like to have my roof all solar panels and have my well used the solar power instead of electricity.

  23. anna permalink
    November 4, 2009

    That’s a very,very good way of using water & saving water good that you use water that way.

  24. Martine Giangioppi permalink
    November 5, 2009

    I save water in a lot of ways……….

    I don’t flush the toilet often
    I don’t wash my car nor water my lawn
    I don’t let the tap running, never use more water than I need
    I collect rainwater to water my garden

  25. Shadows of Pikes Peak permalink
    November 22, 2009

    We conserve water by turning off the water when soaping while taking a shower besides a lot of the things already mentioned. Ever since I’ve lived in Colorado, 1952, we’ve had water restructions in most populated areas. Some summers we don’t have them. And the Reservoirs water levels are OK.
    My Dad used to sipon the water from the bath tub onto the lawn, but that’s now illegal in most areas any more. Same for catching rain water from the roof, having it go into a large container and then using the rainwater when the ground is dry. Cities are in it for the money, not to save money and let us save money!

  26. Ken Hightower permalink
    November 28, 2009

    I think this is one of the easiest things to implement in our daily lives. When you have to have water trucked in because the water table has lowered so much your well doesn’t work any more, things like this become second nature. We also use BPA reusable plastic bottles which doesn’t necessarily reduce water consumption but does reduce the amount of plastic bottles ending up in our landfills.

  27. Allison MacArthur-Ruesink permalink
    January 7, 2010

    I use less water when I brush my teeth by turning off the water while I am brushing. I limit water use by not pre-heating the whole bathroom by steam prior to hopping in. In toilet usage I follow the “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”. I also conserve by not running the rinse water continuously while doing dishes and only running full loads of laundry. Water is plentiful here in Michigan, but I believe in the old adage “waste not, want not”.

  28. Gideon permalink
    January 20, 2010

    The best water savings in garden irrigation is achieved by matching the water discharge rate to the plant uptake rate. Drain below the root zone is therefore prevented and the water/air balance in the soil is better for the plant. The method was developed in Israel and called “Micro-Drip Irrigation” and “Gravity Drip Irrigation” enables a discharge as low as one glass of water (250CC) per hour.
    Rain-Tal Ltd specializes in Low Volume and Micro-Drip Irrigation methods.

  29. Amy Cameron permalink
    April 15, 2010

    I have 2 barrels that gather rainwater. I use this water to clean the garage or to water my indoor plants. I don’t leave the faucet open while brushing my teeth. I leave the lawn as it is. I don’t use the hose when cleaning my car.

    Amy Cameron

  30. sam permalink
    April 28, 2010

    I have install hot tub cover. it keep hot tub water clean for long time. I use chemical to rinse the water in my hot tub. so, I replace hot tub water rarely.

  31. Zach Smith permalink
    May 2, 2010

    Consider using front load washers. These washing machines might be more expensive than top loaders but they generally consume up to 80% less water. You don’t have to fill up the whole washer drum because its tumbling action will clean and rinse clothes easily. Also pre-treat heavily stained clothes. Other than not using the hot water cycle, it will also help you conserve water by not running an extra rinse cycle.

  32. Eddy Harris permalink
    June 6, 2010

    No matter what state or country you live, you should all be concerned on your water consumption, regardless wether you currently have a shortage or not. Being a new home builder we design and build all our new homes Green. Building green simply means making smart choices in the design and construction of a home, which also includes water usage, and all plumbing fixtures and fittings.

  33. nike shox shose permalink
    June 21, 2010

    I have install hot tub cover.

  34. syam permalink
    June 23, 2010

    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.
    Simple steps like turning off the faucet when brushing teeth, taking shorter showers, installing a smart sprinkler controller, fixing leaky faucets, and washing only full loads of laundry help in minimizing water usage.
    I install a hottub-cover

  35. Rick Nischalke permalink
    June 28, 2010

    My wife and I used to leave the water running while we brushed our teeth. Now we rinse the toothbrush before brushing and after we are done.

  36. prozestra permalink
    July 6, 2010

    I am really enjoying reading your well written articles. It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog.

  37. Anonymous permalink
    July 8, 2010

    Thanks For providing such a good information.I like Your ideas and i will imply this idea in my website

  38. Billy Conrad permalink
    September 4, 2010

    The bathroom is a great place to start with eco-friendliness. Along with the lower flush systems they even have compostable toilet systems too. I read a review on one recently.

  39. Tom permalink
    September 21, 2010

    Great article. I really noticed how much water i wasted when i lived in Honduras for a year. I used to shower with 3 bowlfulls of water, brush my teeth with one mug of water – the only thing i did more was drink it! Im now much more careful when using it at home as i’m aware of how hard to come by it is in other parts of the world

  40. Keith Harris permalink
    October 2, 2010

    I’m a former U.S. Navy submariner. Being on subs, water conservation was always an objective. One thing I learned their, that I try to do now as a civilian is this. Get in shower, turn water on and drench your body then turn water off. Lather up with soap, turn water on and rinse, turn water off and exit. Thats a submariners shower routine, takes all of 3 mins.

    Keith Harris

  41. Michael permalink
    October 5, 2010

    Reduce the number of showers and baths taken.

  42. nency permalink
    October 8, 2010

    Excellent effort.It’s a very mandatory point to keep in consideration.A great awareness has to be done for that.If we all save some water it can make a huge difference.

  43. Auto Transport permalink
    October 13, 2010

    By placing barrels under my rain spouts, I’ve been able to use the recycled water to water my garden and outdoor plants.

  44. frank permalink
    October 17, 2010

    Great information for a eco-friendly world.

    Sarah, Seattle

  45. Jerome permalink
    October 20, 2010

    one should bear in mind saving water in every activity. for example, when brushing your teeth with oral b 9400 toothbrush, always use a glass for taking water and not just leaving the tap on. even in taking a shower, you dont have to continously let water out.

  46. lincoln permalink
    October 22, 2010

    Instead of dumping out ice melting in the bottom of glasses, I use it to water indoor plants. I water outdoor plants with excess rainwater gathered in my dogs’ water bowls.

    Lincoln Kern

  47. Scott permalink
    December 21, 2010

    Same her in both bathrooms and one in the kitchen.

  48. Innocent permalink
    February 15, 2011

    I put a bucket underneath the shower, so if the water is cold I try to let it run in the bucket until its warm, then I start taking shower but I still leave the bucket there so it collects water. then instead of flushing the toilet I use the water from the bucket. That’s how I save water. And you should try it too if you live in cold areas.

  49. Memmo permalink
    February 28, 2011

    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

  50. Sruiti permalink
    March 21, 2011

    Saving water also saves energy. Conserving water can also extend the life of septic system by reducing soil saturation, and reducing any pollution due to leaks. The smaller the amount of water flowing through these systems, the lower the likelihood of pollution. Some hotels in Gangtok are adopting various ways to conserve water.

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