Cut down on your water bill and you're really a double winner. You will not only save yourself some cash; you'll be conserving one of our planet's most precious resources -- clean, potable water. Going green in this area is actually pretty simple. In fact, you can start today, using some (or all) of the tips below.
Plumbing leaks are a water waster's best friend. If you let them go, you are basically throwing money -- and unused clean H2O -- down the drain, since a leak can potentially waste 20 gallons a day. Monitor your water bills and your meter for any unusual increase. This may be your first clue that there's a leak somewhere in your home.
Faucet leaks are usually easy to detect … and easy to remedy. Take care of them right away.
Toilet leaks are a little trickier to spot. If you suspect you have one, add several drops of food coloring to the toilet tank, let stand a few minutes without flushing, and see whether the color shows up in the bowl. Kids love this "experiment," adults not so much, because it usually ends up meaning you've got a leaky toilet to fix.
Install water-efficient fixtures. These include faucet aerators for kitchen and bath, which use 17-27 fewer gallons per day. WaterSense low-flow showerheads can reduce the amount of H2O your daily ablutions consume by 50 percent or more. Standard toilets take 5-7 gallons per flush; multiply that by 5 flushes per household member per day and you've got a case of major water wastage. Replace with a low-flow or dual flush toilet or put a water-saving insert (not a brick, which can harm your plumbing) into the tank of an older model.
When you have a large load of dirty dishes, which method is better for conserving water -- running them through the dishwasher or washing them by hand? You might be surprised to find that machine dishwashing uses less water, as long as you run only full loads; Energy Star-certified dishwashers are even more efficient.
Fill up your clothes washer as well, but don't overload or your socks, shirts, and undies won't get as clean as you would like. Many washing machines come with an adjustable water level feature, which may be operated automatically, manually, or both.
Lawn and Garden
Replacing your grassy lawn with a less thirsty groundcover is a fantastic way to save water. If you're not ready to go quite that far, then be sure to water smart. Sprinkle the grass early in the morning (before 9:00 AM), when the moisture will be most efficiently absorbed. Rather than mowing super-short, keep the grass long enough to shade its roots and slow the rate of water evaporation. When installing a sprinkler system, include a timer that will adjust the water flow according to real-time weather conditions, such as an unexpected rainstorm. Check with a gardening expert to find out how much water your flowers and vegetables really need, so you don't overwater. Apply mulch to garden beds to help retain moisture.
Wean yourself away from water-hogging habits. Running the water when you're not actually using it is a prime water waster, rivaled only by letting leaks go unrepaired. Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth or scrub your hands. In the shower, cut the flow of water while lathering up or shaving; if you've been relying on a constant stream of hot water to keep you warm, install a bathroom-safe wall- or ceiling-mounted electric heater. True, it uses electricity, but it is still greener than leaving the shower on (besides wasting water, the latter takes fuel to heat the water).
And about the water that goes down the drain while you're waiting for it to heat up? Catch it in a bucket and use it for watering houseplants. Or come up with your own imaginative ideas. I take my trusty Crocs into the shower occasionally, to rinse them in that initial cold-water flow. (Don't try this if they are crusty with dirt from gardening -- it's really not kind to your drain!)
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.