Watersense Program

Small Repairs, Big Savings

By Lina Younes

Recently, I was shocked to see that my monthly water bill had almost doubled. What had caused the unexpected increase in water usage?  There had to be a logical explanation.

I reviewed our daily activities for the past month to find the reason for this alarming increase. Given that it’s still winter, we definitely had not been watering the garden. Nobody was taking more showers than usual.

So, I went on a fact-finding expedition around the house in search of the possible cause. Could it be the kitchen faucet? I thought I had instructed everyone to close it a certain way to prevent it from leaking.  All the toilets seemed to be working well, except the one in the basement.  I found the culprit!  My daughter confessed that sometimes it got “stuck” and kept on flushing. She mentioned it happened usually at night, but she had failed to tell me earlier. So, literally hundreds of gallons of water, and our money, were going down the drain.

My husband and I went to the local hardware store looking for a flapper to repair the toilet.  I saw that there were a variety of flappers and toilet repair kits that cost between anywhere between $4 and $20.  Luckily, he was able to repair the toilet himself. That small repair ended up saving us hundreds of dollars, and was worth every penny.

Did you know that in the U.S. over 1 trillion gallons of water are wasted in household leaks? That’s why EPA and its partners want to remind people to check the plumbing fixtures in their homes during Fix a Leak Week. Do you think you have a toilet leak? Place a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes without flushing, you have a leak. Fixing it will go a long way to save you money and protect the environment.

If you are planning on making some major repairs to your plumbing fixtures, it might be time to invest in faucets, showerheads and toilets with the WaterSense label. These water efficient products have helped consumers save over 487 billion gallons of water and nearly $9 billion in water and energy bills since EPA’s WaterSense Program was created in 2006. You can help save water, too. Every drop counts.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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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Gardening With Water Use In Mind

By Amber Lefstead

This year, for the first time in my life, I purchased a gardening spade and seeds for my garden. I love a beautiful garden, but the task of creating and maintaining one has always been daunting. But from the moment I began, I fell in love with it. There is something so satisfying about gardening—feeling the dirt crumble between your fingers as you loosen the earth, planting a seed and watching it grow into a beautiful flower.

That’s not to say it isn’t hard work. It is. But, seeing your yard transform into something beautiful and beneficial for the environment makes it so rewarding. Before I started my garden, it was barren with a Magnolia tree stump in the middle. Now, it is full of flowers, ground covers, and mulch. The flowers feed the neighborhood bees, butterflies, and birds, while the ground covers and mulch blanket the soil, keeping it moist and cool.

After planting my garden, the real trick has been maintaining it. With this hot, dry summer in Washington D.C. , that has been no easy task. As temperatures rise during the peak water season, it’s a good time for everyone to consider their outdoor water use. Peak water season is usually late July and early August and is the time when residential water use is highest.

Water use was a big concern in creating my landscape. I work for the EPA WaterSense program and, among other things, I create educational materials for consumers on water-efficient landscaping, so I kept water in mind at every step:

  • I purchased low water use plants and seeds that would need minimal supplemental water
  • I amended sandy soil patches with compost to help hold moisture at the root zone
  • I loosened plants’ roots from their potting soil before planting to encourage deep root growth
  • I covered exposed soil with mulch to hold in moisture and minimize evaporation

I also make sure to water at night or in the early morning to minimize evaporation. And I water deeply and infrequently to encourage the plants’ roots to spread into the surrounding soil so they are resourceful and drought tolerant. In the next year or so after their roots establish, they should need minimal supplemental water beyond normal rainfall. I’ll let you know how that goes!

About the author: Amber Lefstead joined EPA in 2009 as the Outdoor Coordinator for the WaterSense program. Her recent low water use garden installation was inspired by her work at the Agency.

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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Simple Steps to Big Savings

fix a leak week-drop of waterDrip. Drip. Drip. Did you know your home could be wasting up to 10,000 gallons each year from easy-to-fix water leaks? Many of these leaks are do-it-yourself fixes that could cost only a few dollars to address. Sponsored by EPA’s WaterSense® program, Fix a Leak Week reminds homeowners of the easy steps we can all take to help save water in our communities now and for future generations.

1. Find Leaks
A good method to check for leaks is to examine your winter water use. If it exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, you probably have leaks. Walk around your home with eyes and ears open to find leaks, and don’t forget to check pipes. You can also reveal a silent toilet leak by adding a few drops of food coloring to the tank and waiting 15 minutes without flushing. If color appears in the bowl, you have a leak. Be sure to flush afterwards so as not to stain the bowl or tank.

2. Fix Leaks
Many times fixing leaks can be done yourself and doesn’t have to cost a cent. Both faucets and showerhead connections can be tightened or sealed with a wrench or pipe tape. For leaky toilets, the rubber flapper inside the tank is often the culprit. Over time the flapper decays, but replacing it only costs a few dollars. If you don’t feel comfortable with these repairs, a licensed plumber can help. Irrigation systems and outdoor spigots can also be the source of water loss. A WaterSense irrigation partner who is certified in water-efficient irrigation technologies and techniques can ensure your outdoor irrigation system works properly.

3. Save Water
Fixing household leaks not only saves water but can reduce water utility bills by more than 10 percent. Dripping faucets can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year, a showerhead leaking 10 drips per minute about 500 gallons per year, and running toilets 200 gallons or more each day!

Fix a leak weektitlte

For more information and tips about how to save water during Fix a Leak Week, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/fixaleak. WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by EPA to help Americans save water. The WaterSense label can be found on toilets, faucets, urinals, and—coming soon—showerheads that use at least 20 percent less water and are independently tested and certified to perform as well as or better than standard plumbing fixtures.

About the author: Stephanie Thornton has worked at EPA for 7½ years and manages marketing and partner relationships for WaterSense’s residential plumbing program.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.