5 Ways to Conserve Water at Little or No Cost

Posted on March 7, 2012 by Courtney

Please welcome today’s guest poster, James Madeiros.

One of the biggest roadblocks to water conservation is the perception that it will cost money, either in actual dollars or as a matter of time invested. The truth, however, is that there are several ways to save water without spending much of either.

Some of the best water-saving ideas are a matter of changing habits and increasing knowledge rather than spending money. Even better, saving water often leads to saving money, making what little effort that is involved doubly worthwhile.

Listed below are five ways you can conserve water at little or no cost to you. 

1. Wash and Rinse Reduction

Everyone has their own methods for washing dishes, but everyone knows there is one way that wastes more water than any other — letting the faucet run while washing and/or rinsing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that it takes an average of 20 gallons of water to wash dishes by hand. You can reduce this by stopping the drains — one side for washing and the other for rinsing — and limiting your water use to what it takes to fill half of each basin.

2. Save on the Shave (or Brush)

Many people may not even realize that they leave the faucet running when they shave or brush their teeth, but doing so can waste countless gallons of clean water.

A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) quiz reveals that brushing your teeth without the water running can save as much as three gallons of water at a time, which can really add up in households with many members — or when 311 million people (the U.S. population) brush their teeth twice a day.

3. Toilet Training

The EPA reports that the biggest water waster in any household is the toilet, accounting for as much as 30% of water use in American homes. Newer toilets do typically use less water per flush and lose less water through leaks, but not everyone can afford a new toilet.

The next best thing to help save water in the bathroom is to craft a homemade displacement device for your toilet tank. Simply fill up an empty soda bottle or milk jug with water and sand (or other weighty substance), cap it, and place it in your toilet tank. The next time you flush, the container will cause less water to run into the tank, thereby saving you water and money.

4. Lawn Lushes

The EPA estimates that more than 15% of total home water use in the U.S. is devoted to watering lawns, and that a significant portion of this use is unneeded.

Lawn watering is regulated in a many dry, water-strapped locations like Arizona and Texas, but a conservative approach to water and landscaping is a good idea no matter where you live. One tip for reducing water use is to turn off auto sprinklers and take control of water so that you only water when your lawn needs it. Test your lawn by stepping on the grass — if it springs right back, it doesn’t need water.

5. Watch What You Eat

Food production requires water, and lots of it. National Geographic has compiled research resources to discover how much water it takes to produce certain food items and the results may be surprising.

For example, it is estimated to take 1,799 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. This is calculated by considering how much water it takes to grow the grain and roughage to feed the cow as well as its own water needs, and divide it by how many pounds of hamburger the typical cow produces.

Using the same method of calculation, it takes 3,170 gallons of water to make one pound of chocolate …

Talk about food for thought that makes water sense!

James Madeiros writes for Seametrics, a manufacturer of water flow meters that help people measure and conserve water used in water treatment, manufacturing, or irrigation.


  1. Do people really leave the faucet running while brushing their teeth? This is always cited in pieces on water conservation, but can that many people really habitually leave the water running while brushing and shaving?

    Then again, my grandmother lets the faucet run while she washes dishes (which seems like hours sometimes.)

    March 7th, 2012 at 12:41 pm
    Comment by mickey
  2. There is no reason to flush the toilet every time you pee. When I had a water softener, I developed the habit of not flushing the toilet at night in case the softener was cycling. Nothing bad happened, so now I routinely do not flush with every pee. Just remember to flush before you go on vacation or your bathroom may be a bit smelly when you return!

    March 11th, 2012 at 8:16 am
    Comment by Abby

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Tip of the Day

If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It


According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.

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