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“That’s it. We’re never showering again,” I say as I open our water bill. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American uses 82 gallons of water a day (doing what?!), which adds up to about $1,000 a year per family. Thank you, but no. It’s time to cut back, which led me to investigate how to save on your water bill, too.
As both a very frugal gal and an environmentally friendly one, too, I set out on a mission to lower our water consumption and usage in an effort to ultimately lower our bill (and respect Mother Earth a little more). I chatted with a couple of experts who provided their professional insight, and I’m going to tell you all about what I learned.
Before we get to that, download The Krazy Coupon Lady app for more money-saving tips, deals, and coupons.
How to Save on Your Water Bill: 15 Tips
For context, our household has two adults (we both work from home), two dogs, and a decent amount of landscaping that has to be kept hydrated. We cook almost every day (hello, dishes) and shower nightly. Admittedly, water in Nevada (where I live) is very cheap. You can learn a bit about how they calculate it here.
Not gonna lie, their chart looks complicated, so I simplified as much as possible. I averaged those four costs per 1,000 gallons (right column their chart) to get $3.43 per 1,000 gallons of water.
The savings for me weren’t too impressive, but the cost differs from state to state. Depending on where you live, these tips could save you a nice chunk of change. (The average water bill in Alaska is about $100 a month.) Here are some of the changes I made that you can try, too!
1. I Stopped Washing Dishes by Hand (No Complaints Here).
I’m one of those people who believes she does a better job than the dishwasher (Truth: I don’t.) Finally, I caved, and for a good reason. Some resources say that handwashing your dishes can use 20 gallons of water or more. If you have an energy- and water-efficient dishwasher, and assuming you only run it when it’s full, you could save some cash.
There’s another important part to this: “There is a general understanding that dishwashers use less water to wash your dishes but this is only if you do not rinse them under running water first,” says Cecilia Gunther of The Kitchen’s Garden in an interview with The Krazy Coupon Lady. Her sustainable farming blog has been running since 2011.
“But my dishes always have food caked on!” you’re saying. “I have to rinse them!” Cecilia has the answer: “Instead of rinsing, use a rubber spatula to clean off any food, then pile the dishes in a tub of water and stack the dishwasher from there.” Boom.
Anyway, I have a Whirlpool dishwasher — this one, to be exact.
According to Best Buy, this model uses anywhere from about 3.38 to 7.87 gallons of water per cycle, and I always use the quick cycle. So I can assume that I’m on the lower end of this range.
To give a little cushion, I’m going to say I use about four gallons per cycle. So by using my dishwasher instead of washing my dishes by hand, I’m saving approximately 16 gallons of water. That comes out to savings of around $0.055. (Again, very underwhelming, I know.)
But here’s a helpful tip: when you do run the water, if you’re waiting for it to heat up, don’t let the cold stuff go to waste.
“If I’m waiting for warm water to come to hand-wash dishes or rinse them before the dishwasher, I’ll jar up the cold water that’s running and give it to my dogs, plants, and use it in other places, until the tap has warmed up,” says Virginia James, humanist and CEO of Feminine Sage Wisdom.
2. Bye-Bye, Crusty Showerhead! Hello, Eco-Friendly Showerhead!
Yes, I know. We need to take shorter showers. Research says that the average shower uses about 17 gallons of water and lasts for approximately eight minutes.
I’m sorry, but eight minutes? That’s the average shower? Who are these people? Do they shave? I’m 5’9″. It takes me eight minutes to shave a single leg. Anyway …
It depends on who you ask, but some sources say that many showerheads release about two gallons of water per minute, so 17 gallons in eight minutes makes sense. This also means that if I spend 20 minutes in the shower shaving my unusually long body, I’m sending about 40 gallons of water down the drain.
This is the showerhead that came with our home.
It’s nice and everything, and our house is a new build so it’s probably fairly efficient already, but I thought we could do better. Plus, the hard water buildup was getting pretty disgusting. So I went sifting through the black hole that is Amazon to compare my options and landed on this bad boy:
Showerheads are measured based on the GPM (gallons per minute) of water that they emit. This was the lowest one I could find. Win!
We’ll come back to showers in a minute.
3. I Don’t Have a Pool, but … Keep It Covered!
Latham Pool says that a 400-square foot pool can lose as much as 10,000 gallons of water a year due to evaporation. (That would be $34.30 at my place.) Wind and humidity can also play a role. This can lead to other problems with your pool that’ll cost even more money to fix.
There are special liquids that you can use that form a barrier over the water, and this can prevent evaporation. (You won’t notice it when you’re swimming.) However, Latham’s Jim Eiler recommends a pool cover.
4. I Turned Off the Faucet While Brushing My Teeth and Washing My Face.
This one was fun. I wanted to see how much water I use for these two tasks every morning and night. So I put a bowl in my sink to catch everything. I picked a small bowl because I thought, “Well, there’s no way I waste that much water.”
Then I got to work!
To my utter horror, between washing my face and brushing my teeth, I filled three of these bowls.
Then I weighed it out. One (almost) full bowl holds 2,288 mL.
So three bowls are 6,864 mL. Google tells me this is about 1.8 gallons. In a matter of a few minutes! Um, yikes?
By turning the water off during my teeth-brushing and face-washing activities, I was able to get this down to about one bowl. It was tough with the face-washing, that definitely took a little extra water, and even a bowl was tough to manage. But … worth it!
5. I Started Taking “Military Showers.”
Full disclosure: they suck, but they do save water. With military showers — also referred to as Navy showers, combat showers, and sea showers — you turn the water off during. So while you’re scrubbing down, washing your hair, shaving, and so on, you have no running water.
I mentioned earlier that the average shower is eight minutes. I definitely take longer than that but wanted to see how much water the average human could save. So I hurried up but also paced myself to attempt to take an 8-minute shower.
During this I had my husband time how long the water was running compared to how long I was actually standing in the shower. I spent a total of eight minutes and 43 seconds in the shower doing my thang, and the water was running for about two minutes and 41 seconds total.
If the average shower uses two gallons of water per minute, an 8-minute shower would’ve used about 16 gallons of water. My military shower, which meant the water ran for not even three minutes, used about six gallons of water. So 10 gallons saved, which means I shaved off about $0.034.
Cecilia has another great idea for saving even more water: “Place a clean bucket in the shower to collect water as the shower warms up — use this water for the dog bowl, watering the plants, mopping the floors, rinsing dishes, etc.”
Related: Check out these genius tips that make cleaning the bathroom easier.
6. Opt for Low-Maintenance Landscaping.
I live in Las Vegas — a desert — so it’s in our best interest to only plant things that need as little water as possible to survive. Even if you live in a more humid climate with rainfall, you can save valuable sprinkler water by planting strategically. According to Balcony Garden Web, moss roses, blanket flowers, and verbena are all smart choices.
7. Reduce the Water Pressure in Your Home.
Water pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). The appropriate PSI for home pipe systems is 30 to 80 PSI. But how do you know what yours is?
Head to your local hardware store and purchase a pressure gauge. You can hook this up to any indoor or outdoor faucet and then run the water. If you learn that your water pressure is toward the top of that range or over it, you’ll need to purchase and install a water pressure regulator, also called pressure-reducing valves (PRVs). Or you can talk to a plumber. These normally go on the outside of the house, downstream of the water meter.
8. Water Your Lawn in the Morning, Evening, or Night.
You might’ve heard about this thing called evaporation. It happens when you water your lawn, too. To make the most of it, stick to watering your lawn at cooler times of the day or night when the sun isn’t so powerful or it has set completely.
“The best time to water anything is early evening,” agrees Cecilia.
9. Collect Rainwater for Yard Use
Despite rumors, collecting rainwater looks to be legal in all states. It’s just that some states place restrictions on what you can do with it. For instance, here in Nevada, you cannot collect it for consumption, and it must be for domestic use, like gardening.
Keep this simple! Put a bin, bucket, or barrel at the opening of your gutter and let it catch the rainwater. Cecilia offers more expert information.
“Use a really large barrel with a lid made of a fine screen to keep out the mosquitos,” she says. “Raise it up on blocks with the gutter downpipe above it and a tap at the bottom to drain off water for the garden. I place pond plants in the water barrel and even fish!”
10. Put Bottles in Your Toilet Tank
Have you ever peeked inside your toilet tank? It’s filled with water. Here’s a little ninja trick to save some of that. Take a plastic bottle, put a few pebbles in it, and then fill it with water. Place that in your toilet tank, and less water will be needed to refill the tank every time you flush.
Whatever size bottle you use, just make sure it isn’t touching any of the inside working parts of your toilet.
11. If It’s Yellow, Let It Mellow.
I know. It sounds gross. Don’t come at me. But be honest: you’re not going to forget this now! Current toilet models often use over a gallon of water per flush. (Older toilets use much more — possibly seven gallons.) So if it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.
12. Use Your Garbage Disposal Less.
This is a smaller one but every detail matters when you’re trying to learn how save on your water bill. Every time you run the disposal, you’re supposed to run the water along with it. Instead of cramming all your food scraps down the drain (which can clog the pipes), pitch it, or even better, compost it! Your garden and Mother Earth will thank you for it.
13. Keep Your Grass a Little Longer
If you keep your grass too short, then the sun hits the roots more. This means the grass will burn on those extra hot days and will need to be watered even more. You need to leave it a little longer so that the grass essentially provides shade for its own roots.
“For local pollinators, the perfect mowing routine is every three weeks,” says Cecelia. “Put a little sign up saying, ‘I love bees so I am letting my grass grow.'”
14. Use Mulch in the Garden
If you’re using straight soil for gardening and you’re not incorporating mulch, reconsider it! Mulch helps conserve water in numerous ways. It reduces evaporation and also protects the soil from wind, which can increase water loss further. Plus, it helps keep the soil cooler during the hot months.
Try adding a thin layer of mulch on top of the dirt.
“Keeping the moisture in the soil is great,” says Cecilia. “Not watering your plants too frequently encourages deeper roots and more drought tolerance.”
15. Change Your Laundry Mentality
“But that’s supposed to be washed in hot water!” Yeah, no.
“One thing that I’ve done over the years is washing 90 – 95% of my laundry in cool water (even if it doesn’t say to — I know, a cardinal sin probably),” says Virginia.
If you’re worried about the colors mixing, she suggests trying color-bleed laundry sheets.