Water is arguably the single most important substance in our lives. It’s all too easy to take it for granted, particularly when all we have to do to get it is turn on the faucet. So why should we worry about conserving water – it’s free, right?
Well actually no. Whilst rain and river water is (technically) free, a lot of energy goes into making nature’s water fit to drink and treating our wastewater. Plus, some areas don’t get that much of the free stuff falling from the sky and have to pipe water in.
These costs are reflected in your water rates. Although the cost of water in your area doesn’t always directly relate to how scarce it is, many water providers have adopted conservation-based rate structures to incentivise water efficiency. Put simply: if you use less, you pay less.
Sewerage costs are also based on your household’s water consumption. Sewer rates are set higher than water rates as it costs significantly more to treat wastewater to be returned to the environment than it does to bring water from the environment (e.g. a river) up to drinking standard. How can you reduce your sewer rates? Be more water efficient.
Every water provider calculates their rates slightly differently. If you’re looking to save money on your bills it’s worth checking your provider’s website to see if you get charged more at different times of the year or for going over a certain usage.
When it comes to reducing water use, here are our top tips on being more water efficient at home.
Saving water in the home
Take shorter showers
Sounds simple, right? The average American spends over eight minutes running water each time they take a shower. Cutting this by two minutes saves over four gallons per shower.
Stop those leaks
A leaky or burst pipe can result in expensive repairs to your home as well as pushing up your water bill. Find any problems early with a smart water leak detector.
Use low-flow faucet aerators and showerheads
Installing low-flow faucet aerators and showerheads are a cheap, easy way to reduce your home water consumption by up to fifty percent and save energy. With a modern showerhead, you don’t have to compromise on performance.
Take showers instead of tub baths
Sometimes it’s nice to soak in a nice hot bath. But you’re likely to use around three times as much water as taking a shower, so save it for an occasional treat. Or invite someone to share the tub with you – all in the name of water efficiency!
Install a hot water recirculator
Ever wondered how much water is wasted while you’re waiting for the shower or bathroom tap to get hot? Fitting a hot water pump gives you instant hot water, so you can jump straight in the shower.
Buy an energy efficient washing machine
An average washing machine uses around 25 gallons of water per load. Energy efficient models will not only reduce your energy bill, but also the amount of water you use. A water-efficient machine typically uses under 13 gallons of water per cycle.
Tackle the toilet
One of the largest users of water in the house is the humble toilet. There are a couple of ways you can tackle this:
- If you’re installing a new toilet, choose a high efficiency or dual flush model
- If you have an older model of toilet, you can reduce the water used in each flush by putting a (sealed) bottle of water into your toilet tank
- Many people don’t realize their toilet may be leaking. Follow these simple steps to check yours.
- You may be able to install a simple gray water recycling system to reuse the wastewater from your shower and sink for the toilet.
Look out for the WaterSense label
WaterSense is a partnership program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Products that carry the WaterSense label are at least 20 percent more efficient than average products in their category.
Saving water outside
Buy a barrel
Rain barrels are cheap, easy to install and a great way to capture the free water falling from the sky. If you live in NYC you may be able to get one for free. As a rain barrel captures water that flows over the roof it may pick up some pollutants, so keep it for outdoor use only.
The next step up from a water barrel is a roof-based rainwater harvesting system. These are more expensive and complex to install, but if you’re building a new home in an arid area, it may be worth considering. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a free, comprehensive guide to Harvesting, Storing, and Treating Rainwater for Domestic Indoor Use.
Get smart in the yard
Investing in a smart sprinkler control system such as the Rachio could reduce your water bills by up to 50 percent. Use it to create a customized water program that takes account of local weather conditions.
Cover up your pool
Homes with a swimming pool use around 58 percent more water outdoors than homes without a pool. Cover it up when not in use to reduce water loss from evaporation and save energy.
Ditch the hose
Try washing your car using a bucket instead of a hose, or try out a waterless car washing product. Alternatively, take your car to a local eco-friendly car washer who recycle their wash water and save time and water.
Clean those filters
Manually cleaning your swimming pool filter will do a better job as well as saving water. The average backwash uses between 250 and 1,000 gallons of water. To put that in context, the average American family of four uses 400 gallons a day.
Design a water-efficient garden
Choosing plants that are adapted to the climate you live in can greatly reduce the amount of water needed to keep your yard looking beautiful. Good design, mulching, and watering at the right time of day can all help reduce the amount of water you use outside.
With all of our home designs, we look at how best to optimize water efficiency and performance. All SEED homes are LEED certified, so you have an independent assurance that our homes meet a high water efficiency standard.