sprinklerMy next door neighbor just re-sodded his front lawn. He (unlike me) has so much extra cash he actually paid a guy to sit in a lawn chair by the new sod, holding a hose that was streaming out water…in the middle of the afternoon. If you have ever visited Texas in the summertime, you know why my jaw literally dropped open when I saw this. Nobody replants or re-sods anything in the summer in Texas. And we certainly don’t water—ever—during the hottest part of the day. Unlike my neighbor, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to use less water in summertime. Here are some handy tips I've picked up recently to monitor and reduce summer water bills.

Sometimes I get curious about how my energy and water usage compares to others' usage. Here are some interesting statistics about nationwide water usage.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that each 1,000 gallons of water use costs the average household about $2.
  • The EPA estimates the average household consumes 300 gallons of water per day.
  • Per year, the average household consumes 110,000 gallons of water.
  • Per year, the average household spends $474 on water and sewage, and $230 on water heating.
  • 30-50% of all household water usage annually goes towards watering lawns and gardens.

1. Find and fix fixture leaks ASAP

Many leaks are easy to fix. But it doesn't help us if we don't know that. For instance, a good portion of faucet leaks are caused by a washer that is past its prime. A washer is just a thin ring of rubber—it costs less than a dollar and will last for many years.

  • Potential cost savings: The EPA estimates that each leaking fixture costs $2 per 1,000 gallons—or $8 per year per leak. So if you have three leaking fixtures in your household, you will spend an extra $24 per year on water. For every five years you live in that house, you will spend $120 extra for leaks.

Note: Use this drip calculator for a more exact estimate of what your leaking fixtures may be costing you.

2. Refrain from over-watering your lawn and garden

Where I live, the humidity is high year-round, which actually works out well for lawns and gardens overall. In drier climates, when heat climbs, plants suffer more, so you’ll need to work out the right amount of watering for your climate and plant life.

  • Potential cost savings: Using the EPA average statistics, your potential cost savings after adjusting watering schedules is in the hundreds. For instance, if you cut back halfway on watering, you could save around $70-$100.

Tips to reduce the need to water your lawn/garden:

  • Cut back on fertilizing and mowing.
  • Water only when grass does not spring back under your feet…OR water only the patches that have curling leaves or darker coloration.
  • Use leftover cooking water—and even leftover drinking water and tea that has warmed/cooled—to water plants.
  • Water only late at night or in the early morning.
  • Water half as long, then shut off water to let plants fully absorb the runoff.
  • Plant wisely for your climate.
  • Watch the weather forecast closely (heavy rain = shut off the sprinklers!)

3. Turn off spigots

It’s so tempting to let the water run and run…for instance, when you’re waiting for it to get hot (in winter) or cold (in summer). Other common times include when you are brushing teeth, lathering hair, shaving, or washing dishes by hand. But think of it this way: each drop is like a penny you are letting slide away down into the drain.

  • Potential cost savings: Simply turning off spigots can save you between a quarter and half of your annual water usage—that is in the $200 range.

4. Use cold water whenever possible

In most cases, you can get away with using cold water for most household activities. The detergent or soap bears the brunt of the cleaning responsibility anyway, so unless there’s a need for especially deep cleaning, cold water will do nicely.

  • Potential cost savings: Depending on your current hot water use, you can save up to half the annual cost of heating water—so around $100.

Areas where you can lessen hot water use (or replace with cold):

  • Dishwasher cleaning and rinse cycles
  • Clothes washer cleaning and rinse cycles
  • Brewing tea and coffee (warm in the microwave or on the stove instead)
  • Shower instead of taking a bath.

5. Stop using water where possible

A good example is washing your car. If you regularly rinse the pollen off your car using your garden hose, only to come out the next morning and find your car has been re-pollinated overnight, perhaps just stop washing your car. If you are running a garden water feature that keeps evaporating in the heat, it may be wiser (and cheaper) to wait until fall to use it again. If you can shower at the gym, you can save additionally on water usage. All these little water-saving tactics can really add up!

  • Potential cost savings: At minimum, you can save enough in wasted water each month to treat yourself to a lovely latte at the local coffee shop (brewed with someone else's hot water!)