Water bills are likely to increase across the U.S. in coming years, in some places by a lot. Now's the time to develop water-saving habits to reduce future costs.
More than a million miles of water pipes in the U.S. will be in need of repair between now and 2035, says the American Waterworks Association. The cost of those repairs will top $1 trillion, and will largely be funded by your water bill.
Depending on where you live, your water bill could increase a lot. The American Waterworks Association says rural customers might pay $550 more a year, while residents of major cities are looking at a $75- to $100-per-year hike.
While there isn’t much you can do about the increase, you can curb your water usage and save money. Here are 17 ways:
In the kitchen
1. Stop washing dishes by hand. If you have a dishwasher, use it. The National Resource Defense Council says hand washing your dishes takes up to 27 gallons of water, but regular dishwashers use only 15 gallons (or 3 to 5 gallons if you have an energy-efficient dishwasher).
2. Don’t pre-rinse. In fact, skip the sink altogether. Most modern dishwashers work well enough to make pre-rinsing an unnecessary step. Just scrape the leftovers into the trash and place directly in the dishwasher.
3. Fully load your dishwasher. Never run your dishwasher unless both shelves are completely full. The more you can fit in each load, the less you’ll use the appliance overall.
4. Run on lower settings. Modern dishwashers have several wash settings, from “quick” or “light wash” to “heavy soil.” Unless your dishes are covered in stuck-on food and grime, you can get away with a quick wash.
5. Skip the disposal. You have to run the water every time you use the garbage disposal. Save the water and dump food in the trash or, if it’s a fruit or vegetable, into a compost pile.
6. Install an aerator. Aerators restrict the flow of water out of your faucets, lowering your water waste. For maximum efficiency, the U.S. Department of Energy says to purchase aerators with a flow rate of no higher than 1 gallon per minute.
7. Check for leaks. Check your kitchen faucet (and every other faucet and toilet in your home) for leaks. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, leaks account for an average of 10,000 gallons of water wasted per home every year — enough to fill a backyard swimming pool.
In the bathroom
8. Install a low-flow shower head. According to the EPA, a standard shower head uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Upgrading to a shower head with the WaterSense label will save you at least a half gallon per minute.
9. Don’t flush so much. The average toilet uses about 3 gallons of water per flush, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Don’t flush anything unnecessary like facial tissues, eye makeup remover pads or cotton balls. Using your toilet as a garbage can is a huge waste of water.
10. Take shorter showers. Put a timer in your bathroom and try to keep your showers under five minutes. When you’re racing the clock, you’ll save time and money.
11. Turn the faucet off. Leaving the faucet on when you’re using the sink is just wasting water. Turn it off while you brush your teeth, shave, or take off your makeup. If you need some water to work with, fill the sink a little bit and dip your razor instead of running it under the faucet.
In the laundry room
12. Upgrade to high efficiency. If you’re considering an appliance upgrade, look for an Energy Star-certified washing machine. According to the EPA, Energy Star machines use 8 fewer gallons of water per load than non-Energy Star machines. Considering the EPA says the average family does 300 loads of laundry annually, you’d save 2,400 gallons of water the first year.
13. Use the right amount of water. Running the washing machine only when you have a full load of dirty clothes will keep you from wasting water, but if you must wash a partial load, lower the water level on your washing machine.
14. Don’t wash what isn’t dirty. Cut down on the amount you use your washer by washing only what really needs cleaned. For example, you can use towels for several days, and if you wear something for only a few hours, hang it back up rather than tossing it in the laundry basket.
15. Plant drought-resistant plants. Drought-resistant plants like chocolate daisies, English lavender or maiden grass don’t need watered as often as other plants. Landscape with these plants and you’ll cut down on your sprinkler use.
16. Check your sprinkler’s position. Before watering your lawn, check which direction your sprinkler head faces. If the stream reaches the driveway or street, you’re wasting water.
17. Install a rain barrel. Place a barrel under your rain spouts to collect rainfall. The water isn’t drinkable but you can use it to water your plants or wash your car, free of charge.