8 Things Your Plumber Wishes You Knew About Conserving Water
You’ve heard it before: Conserving water is important. With all the water that Americans use each day—an estimated 322 billion gallons—every action you take, no matter how small, can contribute to saving this natural resource. No, we’re not suggesting you stop flushing the toilet, taking showers, cleaning clothes, washing the dishes, or even watering the lawn. You just need to do them smartly.
When your home’s water system is on the fritz, there’s no one quite as knowledgeable as professional plumbers. So to get the real scoop on how to conserve water inside the home, we polled some experienced plumbers (and plumbing-adjacent experts). Below, they spill the eight facts they wish every homeowner knew about saving water.
1. Study your water bill
Really look at your water bill every month and monitor your usage over time.
“We tell our clients to look at their water bill and compare it to previous months,” says Audrey Monell, president of Glendale, AZ–based Forrest Anderson Plumbing and AC. “Spikes in water usage usually indicate a leak somewhere in your home.”
2. Small leaks can cause big problems
Even if you’re noticing just a few drips from a faucet or pipe, you should address these leaks immediately.
“A small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 20 gallons of water per day, while larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons,” says Don Glovan, franchise consultant for Mr. Rooter.
If “hundreds of gallons” doesn’t move you off the sofa to plug those leaks, Monell explains it another way.
“If your faucet drips once every second, you will waste 3,000 gallons of water every year,” she says. “It is equivalent to 180 showers, which is like having your next-door neighbor come to your house and take a shower every other day because he likes your towels better.” (Gross.)
3. That old toilet is wasting water (and money)
Even if your toilets and faucets don’t leak, they could still be draining money out of your wallet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, toilets account for 30% of an average home’s water consumption.
“Replacing your older toilets with water-saving toilets can reduce a typical home’s water consumption by nearly 13,000 gallons a year,” Monell says.
Gary Findley, CEO of bluefrog Plumbing + Drain, in Phoenix, agrees. “Older toilets can use 3 gallons of clean water with every flush.” However, new toilets use as little as 1 gallon per flush.
Findley recommends products including toilets and low-flow shower heads with the WaterSense label, which means the EPA deems them water-efficient.
4. Reuse your grey water
Did you know that some water can be used twice?
“Gently used water from bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines can be recycled to water your yard,” says Findley. “While you let your shower warm up, you can save the water that comes out to water the yard.”
Some cities even allow residents to install grey water recirculation systems.
However, you should not store grey water for longer than 24 hours. Any longer than this, the nutrients in the water will break down and cause unpleasant odors.
5. Turn off the faucet
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, people use about a gallon of water when brushing their teeth, washing their faces, and shaving. And if you have an older faucet, you’re actually using closer to 2 gallons! However, the solution is quite simple: Turn off the faucet while lathering, and then turn it back on when needed.
6. Be smart when hand-washing dishes
If you wash dishes by hand, Glovan warns against leaving the water running when you’re rinsing dishes.
“If you have a double basin, fill one with soapy water and one with rinse water,” he says. “If you have a single-basin sink, gather washed dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a spray device or a pan full of hot water.”
7. UV rays are bad for your pool
It takes a lot of water to fill a swimming pool, so avoid having to add more water unnecessarily.
“If you use a swimming pool cover, you can avoid water loss due to evaporation,” says Findley. In fact, according to the California Urban Water Conservation Council, using a pool cover can reduce water loss through evaporation by almost 30%.
If your pool is still losing an excessive amount of water, have it checked to ensure you don’t have a leak.
8. Mulch will save water
Evaporation also affects the greenery in your yard. To keep your plants and trees moist, Findley recommends putting mulch around them.
“This will reduce evaporation, promote plant growth, and control weeds,” he says, and it’s true. According to a University of Florida study, mulch reduces soil water loss to evaporation by 33%.
Mulch comes in a variety of materials, including leaves, lawn clippings, bark, straw, stones, and river rock. However, hay and straw may contain weed seeds, so you should purchase mulch that is weed-free.