While much of the country is being inundated with snow and ice, large portions of the West Coast are facing the opposite problem — not enough water. The effect has been widespread water conservation, with new routines for businesses and residents alike. Just last night, for example, I was out to dinner in San Francisco and noticed that water wasn’t offered unless guests specifically requested it. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg (or cactus, in our case).
But water conservation isn’t strictly a regional issue. No matter where you live, there are a few things you can easily do to lower that water bill.
5 tips to help you save on your water bill
1. Replace your showerhead
The simplest thing you can do is replace your showerhead with one that has a lower flow rate. In the U.S., new showerheads can’t exceed a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm). But imagine you live with 3 people and each of you takes a 10-minute shower. That’s 75 gallons of water used … each day! By dropping your gpm a tiny bit to 2, you could decrease your daily water output by 15 gallons. And that’d save 105 gallons per week.
If you have an older showerhead (pre-1992), simply replacing it with a new one could also make a big difference. Plus, when you have less water to heat, you not only lower your water bill but your energy bill as well.
Ask your local hardware store for a recommendation. Just make sure to follow all the installation instructions exactly — a leak would be counterproductive!
2. Buy a bucket
While you’re at the hardware store, consider buying yourself a brand-new bucket. Then, while you’re waiting for the shower to warm up, stick this bucket under the showerhead.
The water you capture can be used to water your plants, fill your pets’ drinking bowls, or wash your dishes. You could even transfer it to a large container in your fridge for drinking.
As long as you clean the bucket first and take it out of the shower before the soap suds start flying, this otherwise-wasted water has dozens of uses.
3. Turn your faucets off
Many people keep the water running while they wash their hands or brush their teeth. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal until you think about the number of times you do these things each day. All that unused water adds up.
Next time you wash up for dinner, try wetting your hands and then turning the water off before soaping and scrubbing. Then, just turn it back on to rinse. Same with brushing your teeth — you only need the water to rinse your minty-fresh mouth when you’re done.
4. Soak your dishes
If, like me, you don’t have a dishwasher, you know how much water it can take to clean up after a big meal. But if you can tolerate a few more hours of dirty dishes, try letting them soak in soapy water overnight (here’s another use for that bucket of reclaimed water from the shower!).
When you wash them the next day, you’ll use far less water than if you’d done it immediately after dinner. Just remember: don’t let that sink run while you’re scrubbing!
5. Go pro
If you really want to save some water, there are always more extreme measures you can take. Have a dog and a yard? Wash Fido while he stands on a dry patch of your lawn. When it rains, set up some containers to catch rainwater for later use. And if it’s time to replace your houseplants, do so with succulents, which require far less water.
Saving water is something we Californians have to do to mitigate the setbacks of an unusually dry season. But no matter where you live (or how much rain you might be getting) these tricks could help you save a few bucks. And who doesn’t want that?