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Every drop counts! Make sure you are doing your part to save water. | Photos courtesy of Jason Flakes, U.S. Department of Energy
Did you know that as an American you likely use between 80 to 100 gallons of water each day? Every single day. Yes, that's more than 29,000 gallons each year. And the mind-boggling part? The largest household use of water is flushing the toilet. We are literally flushing one of the earth's most precious resources down the toilet.
That's the bad news. The good news is there is much you can do to conserve water. Every drop counts—just ask the thousands of Californians whose wells have gone dry.
First let's figure out your toilet's water use. It should say somewhere on it how many gallons it uses per flush. If it uses 1.6 gallons per flush, it is meeting the federal standard. Bonus points if it says 1.28 gallons per flush and meets the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) WaterSense standards. It'll save 20% over the 1.6-gallon model. If your toilet is an older, much less efficient model it is likely using 6 gallons of water per flush and costing you an extra $100 per year. According to EPA, if all of the inefficient toilets in the country were replaced with WaterSense models, it would equal 640 billion gallons of water savings per year. That's the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls in two weeks.
Whether you already have a low-flow toilet or not, be sure it is functioning properly and not leaking. To do this, open the back of the toilet and drop in a few drops of food coloring. If that color appears in the toilet bowl within the next 15 minutes or so, you have a leak that needs to be fixed as soon as possible. (Tip: Do this test right before you are going to flush it anyway to avoid staining.)
Even though toilets are the biggest household user of water, they aren't the only way you are wasting water in the bathroom. If you turn off the water while brushing your teeth, you can save up to eight gallons of water per day—that's nearly 3,000 gallons per year.
The shower is another place with the potential to save a lot of water. Federal regulations mandate that showerheads can't exceed 2.5 gallons of flow per minute, but the very best use 2 gallons per minute or less. Not only can you conserve water by installing a low-flow showerhead, but you can also save energy (and money) on water heating.
Some people also have their washer and dryer in their bathrooms, leaving yet another way to conserve water in this room of the house. When is it time to do laundry, be sure you are only washing full loads. If you do have to wash a small load, be sure to use the appropriate water level setting. Also, look for ENERGY STAR clothes washers, which clean clothes using 35% less water and 20% less energy than standard appliances.
If you follow all of these tips for water conservation, you are bound to make your bathroom the most water-conscious room in your house. You can then move on to finding ways to conserve in the kitchen and yard!