14 Mistakes That Are Running Up Your Water Bill

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Smiling woman in the kitchen pouring a glass of water from a pitcher
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Water is becoming more expensive across the U.S. For the past decade, monthly water and wastewater bills have averaged about a 4% increase per year.

So, it’s important to make sure you’re not flushing your hard-earned cash down the drain through poor conservation practices.

Following are some of the biggest mistakes that can increase your water bill.

1. Not using low-flow showerheads

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If you have an older showerhead, you may be using 7 to 10 gallons of water per minute each time you shower, according to the Water: Use It Wisely campaign. In contrast, newer, low-flow showerheads use about 2 gallons per minute.

Due to newer technologies used in low-flow showerheads, you won’t notice a difference in the water pressure or flow, the campaign says. Yet you could save hundreds of gallons weekly, just by installing a new showerhead.

So, the purchase of a new showerhead could quickly pay for itself.

As the U.S. Department of Energy notes:

“You can purchase some quality, low-flow fixtures for around $10 to $20 apiece and achieve water savings of 25-60%.”

2. Not using low-flow faucet aerators

Installing a kitchen faucet
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An aerator is the component at the tip of a faucet. It often screws onto the faucet. Low-flow aerators save water by limiting the flow of water through the faucet, so they also save money.

The Department of Energy describes replacing your aerators with lower-flow aerators as “one of the most cost-effective water conservation measures.” The DOE recommends buying aerators with flow rates of 1 gallon per minute or less.

The federal agency also advises taking your current aerator to the store when you buy a new one so you can be sure the new one will fit on your existing faucet.

3. Pre-rinsing your dishes

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Most modern dishwashers work well enough to make pre-rinsing an unnecessary step, as we explain in “9 Common Dishwasher Mistakes You May Be Making.” Simply scrape leftovers into the trash or a compost bucket and put your dishes directly into the dishwasher.

If you feel you need to rinse dishes more thoroughly before putting them in the dishwasher, do it in a bowl, tub or sink to limit water use.

4. Washing dishes by hand

Washing dishes by hand
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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 as little as 3 gallons if you have an energy-efficient dishwasher).

5. Using a garbage disposal

Plumber working on garbage disposal
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An easy way to conserve water is to stop using your garbage disposal. Garbage disposals don’t work well unless you leave your faucet on when the disposal is running. So, you’ll save money if you simply scrape food remnants off your dishes and into the trash or compost.

6. Running partial dishwasher loads

Man loading a dishwasher
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You’ll save water and thus money if you wait until your dishwasher is full before you run it.

Running only full loads also means you will use your dishwasher less often, and that will save energy as well.

7. Ignoring appliance settings

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Before you hit the start button, choose the wash setting that will use the least amount of water necessary to get the dishes clean. If you remove all the food from your dishes before you load them, you likely will be able to use settings for a light load.

Same thing for your laundry washing machine.

8. Washing things that aren’t dirty

Woman with laundry
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Cut down on the amount you use your washer by washing only what really needs cleaned. For example, you can use towels for a few days, and if you wear something for only a few hours, hang it back up rather than tossing it in the laundry basket.

9. Treating your toilet like a wastebasket

Flushing toilet
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Many people flush items like used tissues down the toilet. The problem is that even with modern, low-flush toilets, you’re wasting up to 1.6 gallons with every flush, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If your toilet is older, you could be wasting as many as 6 gallons each time you push the lever. Better to toss that tissue in the trash.

10. Ignoring leaks

Leaky faucet
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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.

If you’ve ever heard your toilet running or flushing on its own, it’s time to replace the little rubber flapper. It’s cheap — $5 to $10 — easy and only takes a couple minutes.

11. Not using rain barrels

A green rain barrel to collect rainwater
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A great way to offset your water bill is to collect rainwater in a rain barrel for later use, such as in your garden.

You can buy rain barrels online or at home improvement stores.

12. Using sprinklers improperly

Water sprinklers on lawn
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If you fail to use lawn and garden sprinklers properly, you could be wasting water. An unmonitored sprinkler may be sending your water into the street and down storm drains.

It’s also important to make sure your sprinklers run at optimal times. Watering in the morning when the air is cooler and there’s less wind means the water won’t evaporate as quickly as it would during the afternoon. Watering at night, however, can encourage lawn diseases.

13. Overwatering your lawn

Old man watering garden with hose
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Grass needs less water than you might think. Although water is the most important factor in the survival of grass, too much water can drown plants or make roots shallow, the EPA says.

Most lawns only need 1 inch of water per week. One way to tell whether your grass needs water is to step on it: If it doesn’t spring back, it’s time to water.

14. Filling your lawn with water guzzlers

gravel landscaping
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Drought-resistant plants like chocolate daisies, English lavender or maiden grass don’t need to be watered as often as other plants. Landscape with these plants and you’ll cut down on your sprinkler use.

Learn how to save water and spend less time on lawn maintenance in “What Is Drought-Tolerant Landscaping?

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