Water Conservation: Stop Waste In These 5 Areas

Water Conservation: Stop Waste In These 5 Areas

Water faucet with water running
Simple lifestyle changes can conserve water, one of our most precious resources, and save money. (aristotoo, Getty Images Signature)

Water conservation is fast becoming a priority for many homeowners. 

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that leaks account for 9,400 gallons of water wasted each year. That’s about the amount of water needed to wash more than 300 loads of laundry.

Whether your reason for conserving water is mandated because of a drought or to combat high utility bills, adopt these simple water-saving measures to dramatically cut your home’s water usage.

Here are the 5 hot spots to tackle. 

Hands holding foam insulation on a water pipe
Insulating water pipes with foam helps water heat up faster, so you waste less time waiting for hot water. (nsj-images, Getty Images Signature)

1. Home Infrastructure and Appliances

To conserve more water in your home, start at the source. 

First, check for leaks in the pipes.  A visual inspection can quickly reveal any problems that need repairs. 

In addition, read your water meter when no water is being used, then look at it again after a few hours to see if the gauge has changed. 

Fixing the leak could be as simple as replacing a faucet washer, or you may discover a more serious problem such as an unseen leak in a pipe.

Here’s a win-win solution: Installing foam insulation on hot water pipes saves both water and energy by providing hot water faster and keeping it hot longer. This reduces the water wasted from running the tap to heat it up.

Finally, when replacing appliances like dishwashers or washing machines, look for models that have earned the U.S. government’s Energy Star rating, certifying they use less water and energy.

Plumbing fixtures such as faucets and toilets that carry the Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense label use, on average, 20 percent less water than conventional fixtures.

Fluidmaster’s 400H Toilet Fill Valve
Fluidmaster’s 400H Toilet Fill Valve fixes a constantly running, noisy or slow-filling toilet and is one of the quietest fill valves available. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

2. Your Bathrooms

Toilets are the largest users of water in the home — but some of them are more efficient than others. Look on the bottom of the tank lid, or inside the tank wall, to find the date your toilet was manufactured. Toilets made before 1993 use two to three times the water of new ones. 

If you have an older model, consider replacing it with a new low-flush or a dual-flush toilet that can use as little as 1 gallon per flush for maximum water conservation.

If replacing a toilet isn’t in your budget, add a few inches of gravel or sand to a plastic soft drink bottle, fill it with water, screw on the cap, and put it in the tank away from the float and flapper. The increased volume from the bottle reduces the amount of water in the tank, so less is used per flush.

If you notice your toilet refilling periodically when it hasn’t been flushed, it’s a sure sign your toilet has a leak. These leaks can waste thousands of gallons of water if not repaired.

A constantly running toilet, weak or incomplete flushing and a slow-filling tank aren’t just frustrating — they can also increase your water usage. 

You don’t have to create a shopping list for all the parts to fix these problems. Fluidmaster’s Everything Toilet Tank Repair Kit has all the parts you need (including tools!) to repair the toilet

Fluidmaster’s Everything Toilet Tank Repair Kit
Fluidmaster’s Everything Toilet Tank Repair Kit has all the parts and tools you need. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

The DIY-friendly kit comes with a toilet fill valve, flush valve with stainless-steel bolts, Tank-To-Bowl Gasket and color-coded tools for the fastest installation possible and, if necessary, a complete tank rebuild. It eliminates the need for extra trips to the store for an unknown part or tool — and that saves time, money and frustration.

To conserve more water, change up your hygiene routine. Reducing time spent in the shower can save 2 to 5 gallons of water per minute, or GPM. Installing a water-saving showerhead will prevent thousands of gallons a year from going down the drain.

To see if you need a new showerhead, put a 5-gallon bucket in the shower and turn on the water. If it fills in less than two minutes, consider replacing the showerhead with a water-saving model that uses two GPM or less.

Finally, leaving the faucet running while you shave or brush your teeth wastes water. Turn the water off while you brush and fill the sink to rinse your razor.

Dishwasher with clean white dishes
Only running a dishwasher when it’s full can save nearly 320 gallons of water annually. (Irina Drazowa-Fischer, Getty Images)

3. The Kitchen

A few changes in the kitchen can significantly cut down your water usage. For instance, thaw frozen food in the refrigerator overnight instead of using a running tap of hot water — it’s not necessary.

When used properly, a dishwasher uses less water than hand-washing. Run your dishwasher only when it’s full and use water-saving settings for more efficiency. Doing this saves the average family nearly 320 gallons of water annually.

If you hand-wash, fill one side of a double sink with soapy water for washing and the other with clean water for rinsing. Letting your faucet run for five minutes while washing dishes can waste 10 gallons of water.

Also, install low-flow aerators on faucets — these reduce water flow to one gallon per minute or less.

Finally, do you drink a lot of tap water? If so, don’t keep the water running until it cools off for drinking. Instead, fill a pitcher or bottle and keep it in the fridge.

Towels in a front-loading washer
Don’t do laundry until you have enough clothes for a full load. (Oksana Vejus via Canva)

4. Your Laundry Room

Washing clothes accounts for the second-largest water use in the home. Put off doing laundry for the sake of water conservation.

Only run the washer with a full load of clothes and use the shortest cycle for lightly soiled clothing. And if you really want to reduce water use, avoid the permanent press cycle, which uses up to 5 gallons more water per load. 

While washing clothes in cold water saves energy by reducing water heating, it uses the same amount of water as warm or hot settings.

Adjusting a sprinkler head with a key
Adjust sprinkler heads so streams only waters grass. (3 Echoes Content Studio)

5. The Yard

Every year, we waste billions of gallons of water to keep our lawns and gardens green. Much of this water is lost due to overwatering, evaporation, poor sprinkler design or lack of maintenance.

Use a drip irrigation system or a soaker hose to reduce water use. These methods deliver water slowly and directly to the plant’s roots, and much less water is lost to evaporation.

If you have a programmable irrigation system, install a rain sensor. It will interrupt the program cycle when it rains, so you won’t overwater your lawn. 

Better yet, start at the ground level to keep your water use at a minimum. Choose native and drought-tolerant plants to create a water-smart landscape that’s beautiful and efficient.

Here are some other water conservation options for the yard:

  • Sweep driveways, sidewalks and steps rather than hosing them down.
  • Wash the car with water from a bucket, or consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water.
  • If you have a pool, use a cover to reduce evaporation when it’s not in use.

Following these water-saving tips can reduce household water use by 30 percent or more. 

Start simple by changing wasteful habits and fixing leaks, then move up to installing water-saving fixtures and appliances. 

Not only will it save money, but you’ll also reduce the needless drain on one of our most precious resources.

Water Conservation Resources

PFAS in Drinking Water — Why You Should Be Concerned 

PFAS in Drinking Water — Why You Should Be Concerned 

Water poured into a clear drinking glass
PFAS, or forever chemicals, are being detected in drinking water all over the U.S. (nito100, Getty Images)

Residents across the U.S. are on high alert after the Environment Protection Agency announced new limits for the acceptable amount of PFAS in drinking water.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are “forever chemicals” that don’t break down over time.

The new advisories cut the safe level of PFAS in drinking water down to just four “parts per trillion” — compared to its previous 70 parts per trillion. 

Subsequently, local officials across the U.S. are addressing the presence of these forever chemicals in their water supply.

So, how did these harmful chemicals get into drinking water, and what can you do to limit your exposure? 

Water droplets on water-repellent fabric
Water-repellent fabric contains PFAS. (GROGL, Getty Images)

What Are PFAS?

PFAS is a term for man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s.

These forever chemicals are in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil.

While producing and using products with PFAS, the chemicals can migrate into the soil, water and air. 

Unfortunately, since they don’t break down naturally, they tend to stay in our environment.

In areas with high PFAS exposure in the environment, trace amounts of these substances are in food products, the environment, and even people and animals. 

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that researches toxic chemicals and drinking water pollutants, says 200 million Americans could be drinking PFAS-tainted water and 99 percent of Americans may have some amount of PFAS built up in their bodies.

Non stick cooking pans hanging
Cooking in non-stick pans may expose you to PFAS. (Nordroden, Getty Images)

Risks of PFAS Exposure

Trace amounts of PFAS have been linked to numerous health issues.  

Philippe Grandjean, a Harvard researcher focusing on the long-term impacts of developmental exposure, says PFAS exposure is associated with kidney and testicular cancer, weakened immunity, endocrine disruption, fertility problems, and decreased birth weight.

People can be exposed to PFAS by:

  • Working in occupations such as firefighting or chemicals manufacturing and processing.
  • Drinking water contaminated with PFAS.
  • Eating certain foods that may contain PFAS, including fish.
  • Swallowing contaminated soil or dust.
  • Breathing air containing PFAS.
  • Using products made with PFAS or packaged in materials containing PFAS, including coating on paper and cardboard wrappers used in fast food and bakery goods furniture and carpets, stain-proof and water-repellent clothes, and personal care and cosmetic products.

Plaque on the United States Environmental Protection Agency building in Washington, D.C.
The EPA announced a comprehensive strategy in 2021 to limit PFAS exposure. (Skyhobo, Getty Images Signature)

How Are We Combating PFAS in Drinking Water?

New studies, new food packaging, lobbying, and bills aim to limit PFAS exposure.

In October 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency launched the PFAS Roadmap. This comprehensive strategy outlines actions over the next three years, including steps to control PFAS at its sources, hold polluters accountable and address the impacts on communities.

Popcorn bags may contain PFAS. Cook it on the stovetop instead. (Jamesmcq, Getty Images Signature)

How to Limit Your Exposure to PFAS 

According to Clean Water Action, you can do a few things in everyday life to limit your exposure to PFAS.

They include: 

  • Not using non-stick cookware
  • Cooking at lower temperatures if you have to use non-stick pans 
  • Popping your own popcorn rather than microwaving bagged popcorn 
  • Using your own reusable to-go containers 
  • Using PFAS-free floss 
  • Buying untreated carpet 
  • Not using stain-resistant coatings 
  • Checking labels for PFAS 

Further Reading

Amazon Is Running an Early Prime Day Deal on the Collapsible Water Bottle I’m Carrying Everywhere All Summer

Amazon Is Running an Early Prime Day Deal on the Collapsible Water Bottle I’m Carrying Everywhere All Summer

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

Raise your hand if you struggle to drink enough water throughout the day. If your hand is in the air, well, join the club! I’ve been trying to up my hydration game for the past few months, but as a busy college student with a part-time job, it’s simply annoying to lug a huge water bottle as I dash from one corner of the campus to the other. Luckily, the folks at Stojo totally get it, because their water bottles are perfect for anyone (aka me!) who wants to stay hydrated while on the go. Trust me: the Collapsible Bottle is a must-have for those with a more active lifestyle.

For those unfamiliar with Stojo, it’s a sustainable brand that designs incredibly clever, stylish, and affordable collapsible and reusable drinkware and food containers. As for Stojo’s sports bottle, I have been using it for almost two months now, and it’s a total game-changer.

For starters, the 20-oz. collapsible bottle is priced at just $20 and comes in 12 yummy color options. And aside from the fact that it’s so affordable and stylish, what truly makes this water bottle unique is the clever design. You simply put one hand on top of the lid and the other on the bottom of the bottle, squeeze, and voila, it collapses into a tiny disc. Which means that rather than make room for a heavy steel water bottle in my bag that’s already bursting with books and a clunky laptop, I simply loop Stojo’s bottle around my purse strap for hands-free carrying. Once I get to my final destination, I fill it with fresh water. It’s an easy solution that doesn’t weigh me down and has even been saving me so much money on single-use plastic water bottles.

The clever design also extends to the water bottle’s lid. Personally, I’ve been using the sports bottle cap that’s available on Stojo’s website, but the screw-on lid that comes with this bottle works just as well and boasts the same airtight, leak-proof storage. And since it’s made from BPA-free, lead-free, and phthalate-free food-grade silicone, I can easily fill it with ice-cold water or even a piping hot beverage without worrying about anything icky or unsafe getting into my drinks. Back at home, I just remove the cap and toss the water bottle in my dishwasher, and it’s ready to be looped around my bag for another hectic day on campus.

Now that classes are finally over, I can’t wait to take my Stojo water bottle on hikes, to the gym, and even on road trips. I’ll never have to worry about lugging a heavy water bottle while staying on top of my daily hydration goals. The only hitch? Stojo’s products are super popular, so if (like me) you’re planning on getting out and making the most of summer, you’ll want to get your bottle STAT. And when you buy it as part of the “Buy $10, Get $10” deal, you’re not just saving money — you’re supporting small businesses and sustainable brands. And we can all raise a collapsible bottle to that!

Phoebe Sklansky

Editorial Intern, Kitchn Commerce Team

Phoebe is the Editorial Intern for the Kitchn Commerce team. You can usually find her crafting a charcuterie board or making the most out of her tiny apartment kitchen. She is a student at Vanderbilt and is based out of Nashville and New York.