Water bills are on the rise. Ongoing infrastructure upgrades and improvements to the drinking water system are a main reason for the increase, with much of this cost passed on to consumers. But don’t fear: saving on your water bill needn’t involve drastic measures like giving up showering or brushing your teeth.
Here are some simple ways to save on water costs, without sacrificing your family’s personal hygiene.
TIP #1: Take showers, not baths. Although it may seem like the opposite, showers typically use less water than filling up the bath tub. The key is to take shorter showers. By reducing your time in the shower by just four minutes, you can save almost 4,000 gallons of water per year. The savings will extend to your gas and electric bills, too since energy is needed to heat the water. It’s also recommended to install a low-flow shower head. This can reduce the amount of water you use while showering by as much as 50 percent. (Low-flow shower heads are not without their drawbacks, however.)
TIP #2: Turn off the faucet. Don’t run water while you’re shaving or brushing your teeth. To rinse off your razor while shaving, keep a cup of hot water next to you and dip it in every so often. Similarly, when brushing your teeth, fill a cup of water and use it to rinse your toothbrush. Teach your children and grandchildren to do the same, and also show them how to properly turn off faucets to avoid drips.
TIP #3: Test your toilet. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that leaky toilets cost consumers $110 a year on average. To see if your toilet is leaking, add blue or green food coloring to the tank. Do not flush. If you see any color in the tank after several hours, your toilet has a leak. The biggest culprit of toilet bowl leaks is a faulty flapper, the rubber stopper at the bottom of the tank. The flapper is easy to replace, and usually costs under $10 at your local hardware store.
While you’re there, adjust the float in the tank to use less water. The lower the float ball is in a full tank, the less water it uses. Put a plastic bottle full of water in the tank to further reduce the amount of water going into the tank with each flush.
TIP #4: Fill up your dishwasher and washing machine. Only wash full loads of dishes and laundry, and avoid washing dishes by hand. You use 1/6 less water by running a full load in the dishwasher. Don’t keep the faucet running when rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Instead, fill a container with water and use it to rinse off food and residue. Avoid using your sink’s garbage disposal feature, and put as much of your food scraps as possible in the trash or compost. Save the water you use to rinse fruits and veggies and water your houseplants with it.
TIP #5: Keep the hose in check. Try to use your outdoor hose as little as possible during the spring and summer months. Instead, put out containers to capture rainwater and use that to water your lawn or plans during dry times. Use the hose to clean your sidewalk, gutters or roof as infrequently as possible. Put mulch around plants to slow water evaporation. Even better: Choose plants, flower, shrubs or trees that don’t require much water.
Use a small pool if your children want to cool off this summer, instead of a constant stream of water from the hose. Wash your dog and your car at a pet or car wash instead of at home. If you must wash Fido in the yard, do it in a part of the lawn that needs watering.
TIP #6: Ask for rebates and freebies. Who doesn’t like cash back? Start by checking out the EPA’s list of rebates to see what products they recommend and what programs might be available in your area. Next, make a list of phone numbers for your water, fuel and sewer companies. Call them and ask about any conservation or rebate programs on the list, or if they offer others that aren’t listed. Ask your fuel company if it provides free audits that include water-heating products, like low-flow faucet aerators, shower heads, water-heater blankets and pipe insulation.
Lastly, speak up if you see a marked increase in your water bill. Contact your water company and ask for a new reading of your water meter. There could be a leak, or the increase could be a computer error or inaccurate meter reading. If there is an error or a leak, get it fixed as soon as possible.
Resources: Balance, The Penny Hoarder, U.S. News & World Report Money, EPA