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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Water Sense: Savvy Practices for Your Home

Did you know that the average American household uses 260 gallons of water per day? With only 1% of water on Earth being fit for consumption, this is a startling revelation. By being more informed about your own water use and tweaking some personal habits, you can cut down on your usage and save money on a monthly and yearly basis. The following facts and tips will provide you with a smart start. So turn off the faucet and let the revolution begin!

Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth … … and save 3,000 gallons of water/yr. This habit alone will help you save a hefty amount of water, but by investing in water-efficient and high-performance appliances, you will save even more water (not to mention money). EPA-sponsored programs such as WaterSense and EnergyStar point out which products on the market are the best in cutting down on water consumption while offering superb performance when it comes to water systems, fixtures, and accessories. WaterSense is labeled only on programs and products that meet or surpass water performance and efficiency criteria. More information is provided on this at

Invest in high-efficiency toilets for a household of four … … and save $2,000 in water bills on average over the lifetime of said toilets. Since toilets account for almost 30% of inside residential water usage, it is exceedingly important to replace old toilets and properly maintain existing ones. If you’re in the market for a new toilet, WaterSense labeled toilets and compost toilets make for excellent choices. WaterSense toilets could conserve about two billion gallons of water/day across the country if everyone used one. Likewise, compost toilets use very little water for flushing and have come a long way in the thirty years since they first came on the scene. Today, compost toilets are similar to other toilets in both look and feel. Areas that benefit most from them include suburban, rural, and unsewered ones. Another low-flush toilet is the dual flush. The dual flush operates on the principle that the amount of water used is in proportion to the amount of matter needed to be flushed. It uses a full flush for solid waste while using a smaller flush for liquid waste. For more information on these wonderful alternatives, take a look at

Switch over to high-efficiency shower heads … … and gain a water savings of 25-60%. Faucets and showerheads are necessary to maintain and replace for water conservation. Since water faucets use over one trillion gallons of water/yr. in the U.S. and make up for more than 15% of indoor residential water use, it is imperative to keep them in tiptop order. WaterSense labeled faucets and accessories can decrease a sink’s water flow by 30% (if not more) without hurting its performance. Just think: If WaterSense labeled faucets and accessories were in place in every American house, over 60 billion gallons of water and more than $350 million in water utility bills would be saved per year!

Compared to faucets, showerheads take up just a little more of water use in the U.S., making for 17% of total indoor residential use. Additionally, they account for over 1.2 trillion gallons of water consumed each year. To cut down on personal water use, older showerhead models should be replaced, as models prior to 1992 have flow rates of 5.5 gpm (gallons per minute). In contrast, today’s high-efficiency models have flow rates that are under 2.4 gpm. Besides installing high-efficiency faucets and showerheads, another savvy practice to always keep in mind is repairing leaks in faucets, showerheads, toilets, and pipes. For more tips, visit

Install a high-efficiency washing machine … … and expect to use 30-50% less water and 50% less energy per load when washing clothes. In contrast, the average washing machine uses approximately 41 gallons of water/load and is the next-to-largest water user within the home. If each and every American household used water-efficient appliances, the U.S. would save over $18 billion/yr. and more than three trillion gallons of water/yr. If you’re looking to update your washer, EnergyStar models make for some great water-savers. But an even better buy for a washer is one that boasts a low water factor. A water factor is the rate used to measure a washer’s efficiency; it stands for the number of gal/cycle/cubic feet that a washer uses. For example, if a washer uses 24 gallons of water with a 3 cubic ft. capacity of laundry, it will then have a water factor of 8 (# of gallons divided by cubic ft.). Thus the logic goes that the lower the factor is, the more efficient the washer will be. For additional information, check out

National Gives Us Some Good Pointers When Being Water Savvy… • According to recent reports, nearly 5% of all U.S. water withdrawals are used to fuel industry and the production of many of the material goods we stock up on weekly, monthly and yearly. • It takes about 100 gallons of water to grow and process a single pound of cotton, and the average American goes through about 35 pounds of new cotton material each year. Do you really need that additional T-shirt? • The water required to create your laptop could wash nearly 70 loads of laundry in a standard machine. • Recycling a pound of paper, less than the weight of your average newspaper, saves about 3.5 gallons of water. Buying recycled paper products saves water too, as it takes about six gallons of water to produce a dollar’s worth of paper. • All of those flushes can add up to nearly 20 gallons a day down the toilet. If you still have a standard toilet, which uses close to 3.5 gallons a flush, you can save by retrofitting or filling your tank with something that will displace some of that water, such as a brick. • Most front-loading machines are energy- and water-efficient, using just over 20 gallons a load, while most top-loading machines, unless they are energy-efficient, use 40 gallons per load. • Nearly 22% of indoor home water use comes from doing laundry. Save water by making sure to adjust the settings on your machine to the proper load size. • Energy Star dishwashers use about 4 gallons of water per load, and even standard machines use only about 6 gallons. Hand washing generally uses about 20 gallons of water each time.
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