How to Save Water

Seven Parts:Conserving indoor water in generalConserving water in the bathroomConserving water in the laundry and kitchenConserving water outdoorsConserving water when gardeningConserving Virtual WaterWater Use Table

Water covers 70% of the Earth, but only 3% of it is clean and suitable for human consumption.[1] Even if you live in an area with ample rainfall, using water requires energy to process, pump, heat, re-pump, and reprocess it. Fortunately, there are ways to save water for everyone, from certified germaphobes to compost-toilet-level conservationists. The average family of four uses 450 litres of water a day, which is 164,000 litres a year.

Part 1
Conserving indoor water in general

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    Save water from your taps. Turn the faucet/tap off while you are brushing your teeth, shaving, washing your hands, doing dishes, and so on. Turn the tap off when you shower, too. Get wet, then turn off the water while you soap up. Turn it back on for long enough to rinse. Look for a twist valve that installs behind your shower head to keep the water temperature where you set it while the water is off.
    • Use a bucket or bowl to catch the cold water that comes out of the faucet, tap, or shower while you are waiting for the hot water. Use it to water plants or pour into your toilet reservoir after flushing.
    • Water from a hot water tank may have more sediment or rust than water from the cold water tank, but is otherwise suitable for drinking. If you use a water filter, you can filter the saved water, and put it in bottles in the refrigerator for drinking water.
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    Check your plumbing for leaks, especially leaking toilets and faucets. Fix anything you find leaking. A silent toilet leak could waste from 30 to 500 gallons every day!

Part 2
Conserving water in the bathroom

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    Install low-flow shower heads and faucets or faucet aerators. Low-flow devices are inexpensive ($10-$20 for a shower head and less than $5 for a faucet aerator). Most simply screw into place (you may need an adjustable wrench), and good, current units maintain the pressure and feel of the flow while using as little as half as much water as conventional units.
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    Take shorter showers. Take a timer, clock, or stopwatch into the bathroom with you and challenge yourself to cut down your showering time. You could even play music while in the shower and challenge yourself to cut down the number of songs it takes you. Shave outside the shower, or turn off the shower while you shave.
    • Take showers rather than baths. By taking a bath, you are using up to 100 liters of water! Showering will generally use less than a third of this amount. See the water use table below.
    • Install a valve that fits just behind the shower head. These valves are inexpensive and simply screw into place. Turn the water on for long enough to get wet. Then, use the valve to turn the water off while preserving the temperature of the water while you soap up. Turn the water on again to rinse.
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    Use wastewater or gray water from the bath, washing machines or dish washing on the garden. If possible, hook up a hose to the outlet on your machine to send the water outside onto your garden. To re-use bathwater use a hand-operated Syphon Pump. When hand-washing dishes, rinse the dishes into a container, and empty the container into your garden.
    • Graywater should never be used on edible plants other than mature fruit trees due to a risk of contamination.
    • Graywater should always be "filtered" through some kind of medium. This can be something as simple as pea gravel or woodchips. One thought behind this is that it exposes the water to more surface area allowing naturally occurring bacteria to help clean the water.
    • Collect water for re-use anytime you are running the water waiting for a particular temperature. Simply run it into a bucket, watering can, or pitcher.
    • If you collect clean water (such as while adjusting water temperature), you also can use it to hand wash delicate clothing.
    • Also collect water that you use for rinsing produce and for boiling pasta or eggs.
    • Use garden-compatible soaps and cleaning products if you collect graywater for gardening. Most soaps contain salts that can build up in the soil of your garden, which is not good for plants.
    • If you're not sure whether gray water is suitable for plants, you can use it to flush your toilet. Either pour it directly into the bowl, or (provided there is no sediment) use it to refill the toilet tank when you flush.
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    Convert your toilet to low flush. Place a plastic bottle of water in the tank to displace some of the water used for each flush. Weigh the bottle down with pebbles or sand, if necessary. Or, try ordering a 'save-a-flush' or 'hippo' from your local water board.
    • Not all toilets will be able to flush effectively with a reduced amount of water, so make sure that you check that your toilet does.[2]
    • Make sure there's a lid on the bottle, especially if there are pebbles or sand weighing it down. You don't want any pebbles or sand loose in your toilet tank.
    • Upgrade to a low-flush toilet. Low flush toilets exist that can flush reliably with 1.6 gallons (6 liters) of water and less. Read product reviews to find a good one.
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    Get or create a dual-flush toilet. This is basically a toilet that flushes a smaller amount of water for when you pee and more water for pooping, thereby saving water. Use the half flush button with a dual-flush toilet.
    • You can also buy a dual flush conversion kit to turn your water guzzling toilet into a water saver you can be proud of. Search the web for devices like Selectaflush and Twoflush. They both work well and save money.
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    Make sure to use your toilet appropriately. Don't flush every time. Remember: "If it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down." Also, don't use your toilet as a trash can. Each time you flush you use up to 9 liters of clean water, which is a lot of unnecessary waste!

Part 3
Conserving water in the laundry and kitchen

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    Replace your clothes washing machine with a high-efficiency washer. Old-style top-loading washers use 40 to 45 gallons per load, and the average family of four runs 300 loads per year. High-efficiency washers, typically front-loading, use only 15 to 30 gallons per load. This works out to a savings of 11,400 to 34,000 liters (3000 to 9000 gallons) per year.
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    Wash full laundry or dish loads. Wait until you have a full load of clothes before you wash a load. Don't wash a load of clothes just because you want to wear the same pair of pants the next day! When washing your clothes be sure to use the economy mode and this will save you both water and electricity! This goes for dishwashers, too. Load the dishwasher full but not overly full.
    • Don't wash your dishes before you wash your dishes. Do scrape larger pieces of food waste into the trash or compost. If your dishes don't get clean without pre-rinsing, make sure you're loading properly, that your dishwasher is in good repair, and that you're using an effective dishwasher detergent.
    • Dishwashers, especially modern, efficient ones, can actually save water compared to washing by hand, since they pump the same water around inside the tub. If you're ready for a new dishwasher, check both energy and water usage before you buy.
    • Choose your next washing machine wisely, too. Front loaders use far less water than top loaders.
    • Choose laundry detergents that rinse cleanly and don't require an extra rinse.
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    Do less laundry. For this, you and your family will have to produce less laundry, but you will save time and wear and tear on your fabrics, as well. Unless your clothes are obviously dirty or smell bad there is really no point in washing them.
    • Hang towels on a rack to air dry after you shower. Use them multiple times between washings. It will help if each family member has his or her own towel. Get several coordinating colors, if need be.
    • Wear clothing more than once. You can also wear the same pajamas for a few nights in a row, especially if you shower before bed. Do change socks and underwear daily, but wear slacks, jeans, and skirts more than once between washings. Wear sweatshirts and sweaters over a t-shirt or tank top and just change only the innermost layer.
    • Don't change clothes midday. If you have something especially messy to do, such as painting, gardening, or working out, set aside one set of old clothes for that purpose and wear it multiple times between washing, too. If possible, time such activities so they happen just before your regular shower so you don't use additional clothing or take additional showers.
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    Use your garbage disposal sparingly. Garbage disposals use a lot of water to get rid of the garbage, and are completely unnecessary. Collect solids in the trash can or a homemade compost bin rather than washing them down the sink.[3]

Part 4
Conserving water outdoors

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    Install a water meter. You might be very surprised to find out how much water you are actually using. By installing a water meter you can raise your awareness and consequently reduce your water intake.
    • If you already have a water meter, learn how to read it. Among other things, it can be very helpful in detecting leaks. Read the meter once, wait an hour or two without running any water, and read it again. If it has moved, something is leaking.
    • Many water meters have a small wheel or gear that turns fairly rapidly if any water at all is flowing. If you are sure all your water is turned off and you see this wheel moving at all, you have a leak.
    • If your water meter is underground, you may need to remove debris from the face to read it. Squirt it with a bit of water from a spray bottle to clear the surface.
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    Cover your swimming pool. This helps to prevent evaporation. In some places, emptying and refilling a pool is under severe restrictions, or even banned, so preserving this precious resource is crucial.
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    Time your water usage. Put a timer on your sprinkler and outdoor faucets/taps. Look for inexpensive, automatic timers that screw between the hose and the hose bib, or install a programmable timer on your sprinkler or drip system. An automatic timer can also help you water at times of day when the water can best be absorbed.
    • If you water something manually, set a kitchen timer before you turn the water on, or stay with the hose the whole time.
    • Know how to adjust your sprinkler and irrigation timer settings for the seasons. Water less or not at all during wetter, cooler weather.
    • Don't over-water, and don't water any faster than the soil can absorb the water. If water is running off the lawn onto the sidewalk, cut the watering time or divide it into two smaller segments to allow time for the water to absorb.
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    Maintain your sprinklers and irrigation. If you have irrigation on timers, watch it run. Fix broken sprinkler heads and pipes and make sure that spray patterns are directed where they are intended.]
    • Consider using a drip irrigation system or something similar to save even more water. Explore using native plants that can survive with minimal irrigation (once established).
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    Wash the car on the lawn. Use a trigger nozzle hose and/or bucket. There are even waterless spray-and-wipe car wash products, but they tend to be costly.
    • Wash the car less often. Everyday dust and dirt won't harm anything if it collects for a little while.
    • Wash the car at a car wash. Car washes may use less water than you can use at home. Car washes also collect and filter the wastewater appropriately.
    • Use environmentally friendly cleansers. This will enable you to reuse wastewater from washing to water the lawn or garden.
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    Don't wash the driveway or sidewalk with a hose. Use a broom or rake, or leaf blower to remove dry matter and let the rain do the rest. Using a hose will only wastewater and it won't hydrate anything.

Part 5
Conserving water when gardening

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    Care for your lawn in a more water-efficient manner. Only water the areas that need it, and only when there has not been enough rain. Use a trigger nozzle on your house or use a watering can to save water. You can also, catch the rain and use it for watering your plants, lawn or garden.
    • Water the garden and lawn at night. Watering at night gives water more time to soak in without added evaporation from the day's heat.
    • Water deeply but less often. This will encourage plants to grow deeper roots, so that they need water less frequently. The roots of grass don't grow as deep as those of other plants, but they can still be encouraged by deeper, less-frequent watering.
    • One way to water deeply with a minimum of water is to water slowly using drip irrigation or micro sprinklers. The simplest form is a soaker hose; other options include drip tape or hoses with emitters. These systems do not lose water to evaporation like overhead irrigation and keep plant foliage dry to help lessen disease. Buried tape applies the water to the root zone for even greater efficiency. These systems may need to have acid added to the water to keep calcium or iron from plugging the tiny emitters.
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    Grow grass appropriately. Don't mow your lawn too short. Raise the height of your mower blade, or simply let it grow a bit longer between mowing. This way you won't have to use as much water.
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    Plant appropriately. Plant small trees under big trees. This will help prevent evaporation and provides some shade for your plants. You can also plant a shade garden under trees.
    • Native species will be adapted to local water supplies, and therefore need less supplemental water.
    • Consult with your local nursery on xeriscaping (landscaping that minimizes or eliminates the need for irrigation, such as using native plants) designs.
    • Know how much water plants need to thrive, and don't apply more water than that.
    • Grow plants with like water needs together. Sometimes called "hydro-zoning," this method simply means that plants are grouped together by water use, so that they can all be watered appropriately.
    • Use furrows and basins. Dig low areas to water only the root zones of your plants, not bare areas around them.
    • Use sub-irrigated raised bed gardens (for example wicking beds, global buckets, Olla irrigation, and Earthbox planters).
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    Use mulch on your garden to retain moisture. Ideal mulch candidates include composted manure, leaves, wood chips, bark, cardboard and newspaper (but not any glossy printed pages, such as pull-out ads). Many mulches are available for free or very low cost. The right organic mulch can also help improve your soil as it breaks down and keep weeds in check.[4]

Part 6
Conserving Virtual Water

  1. 1
    Understand what is meant by "virtual water." It may not be something you think about, but everything you eat used varying amounts of water to produce — that's virtual water. In fact, this doesn't just apply to your food — the clothes you wear, the furniture you buy, the notebook you write in — it takes water to produce all of those things. Here are some ways to pick things that used the least amount.[5]
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    Explore your virtual water use. There are many different sites that can help you with this, such as this one. You can even download an app to your smartphone that can serve as a quick reference guide.[6]
  3. 3
    Eat proteins that save water. Beef is one of the most "costly" proteins, and goat or chicken is one of the least. [7]
  4. 4
    Drink water. All of those other beverages —wine, tea, soda, juice — they all took water to produce, too. [8] Instead of drinking coconut water — it takes 550 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of coconut — just hydrate with plain water.[9]
  5. 5
    Cut down on the amount of processed foods you eat. The steps it takes to process things use water, too. By eating food closer to how it came from the source, you cut down on those steps. [10]
  6. 6
    Cut down on what you buy. That t-shirt? 713 gallons of water. 500 sheets of paper? 1,320 gallons. Reduce, reuse, recycle is usually the best policy when it comes to the environment, and trying to save water is no exception. [11]
    • This means reusable products, such as dishes instead of paper plates, or reusable as opposed to plastic bags, are better.

Water Use Table

Sample Personal Water Use Table


  • Find out if there are any rebates for water-saving devices, depending on where you live. Some municipalities encourage water saving by offering rebates for things like low flow toilets. Others provide free or reduced cost low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators.
  • If there is a water shortage in your area, make sure you understand any restrictions or water rationing.
  • Dispose properly of hazardous materials, including cleaning supplies, motor oil, fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, pesticides, and fertilizers. While proper waste disposal does not directly conserve water, it is critical to preserving the safety and quality of the water supply that is available.
  • Educate your family members and housemates and enlist their assistance saving water, too.
  • Water coming out from the washing machine can be used for washing vehicle. The leftover water from fruits and vegetables can be used for gardening.
  • For simpler water collection, spray the shower water into a plastic milk or other jug while the shower is warming up. Use a minimum of a 1/2 gallon bottle.
  • Fill a small cup of water while you brushing your teeth so you can use that cup of water to rinse your mouth and toothbrush without turning on the water.
  • Use rainwater for secondary consumption. Make arrangements for a rain harvesting system. Preserve rainwater in a systematic manner to use for another season.


  • If you choose to reclaim gray water for garden use, make sure that any soaps or detergents you use are safe for that purpose. Don't use gray water for food plants.
  • If you're collecting rainwater, be sure to mosquito-proof your collection system.
  • Due to water rights laws, collecting rainwater may be illegal in your area, so check with your community or county first.

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