How to save on your water bill
Wanting to conserve water may feel trendy, but it isn't exactly a new thing. In a 1954 article, The Washington Post advised readers to consider installing "the modern shower head which provides a zestful shower with only a small fraction of water utilized by older and larger shower heads."
Still, as the years have passed, there are more reasons than ever to try to reduce your water bill. For one thing, the environmental concerns aren't going away. According to CircleofBlue.org, a website founded by journalists and scientists to call attention to the world's dwindling resources, "global demand for fresh water – mainly from agriculture, industry and expanding cities – is growing so fast that, by 2030, supplies will be scarce enough to threaten economic development, political stability, and public health."
And last year, a study from NASA, Cornell University and Columbia University predicted that a mega-drought will hammer the Southwest and Central Plains later this century.
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Even if you think the environmental concerns are overblown or that society will come up with a fix and so why worry, water bills in general are rising, which may be reason enough to try to use less of the resource. According to CircleofBlue.org, the price of residential water service in 30 major U.S. cities has been rising faster than the cost of nearly every other household staple.
So if you're looking for strategies to lower your water bill, beyond the obvious ideas of taking shorter showers and not letting the water run when you brush your teeth, consider this your water bill-reducing battle plan.
Know your home's most expensive water spots. You could technically save money by drinking less water, but that would be foolish – and it wouldn't save you that much cash.
Out of the water a typical household uses inside the home, "drinking and cooking accounts for 5 percent," according to Mark LeChevallier, vice president and chief environmental officer for American Water, the largest publicly traded American water and wastewater utility company, headquartered in Voorhees, New Jersey.
You're likely using most of your water in the bathroom. "An average person uses up to 50 gallons of water indoors each day," LeChevallier says. "Out of those internal 50 gallons, toilets generally account for 45 percent. Bathing or showering accounts for about 30 percent."
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After that, you could work on preventing water waste in the kitchen and laundry room. Twenty percent of your household's water is likely going to laundry and dishes.
And do you water your lawn? Watering less could save you a lot.
"It takes 660 gallons of water to supply 1,000 square feet of lawn – the same amount of water you use inside the house in an entire week," LeChevallier says.
Consider spending money to save money. You could invest in products designed to reduce your water bill in the long run. Kristi Mailloux is the chief marketing officer of AM Conservation Group, a Charleston, South Carolina-based company that specializes in conversation products. While it is a company that sells products to consumers, it has made a name for itself by working with utilities, electric co-ops and municipalities on energy and water solutions. To date, the company has worked with over 2,000 utilities and cities.
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So regardless where you get these products, Mailloux suggests you consider looking into buying:
A Toilet Tank Bank. This is a plastic bag you fill with water and then clip onto the side of the tank. These are cheap – generally a few bucks. With less space in the tank, less water goes into the tank, which ultimately will save you money.
"Toilets can use up to 7 gallons of water per flush," Mailloux says. So if you can reduce any of the water involving your toilet, eventually, you'll start to see some savings. Maybe a lot of savings.
Lower-flow showerheads. If you live in an older house and haven't replaced your showerheads for a long time, you probably should look into finding something more energy-efficient.
"Before 1992, some showerheads had flow rates of 5.5 gallons per minute," Mailloux says.
Typically, you can find showerheads that offer flow rates of 2.5 to 1.5 GPM, and it makes a difference.
"A 1.5 GPM showerhead can save $73 in water use annually in one household," Mailloux says.
Faucet aerators. These are devices you can attach to the end of your faucets so that less water comes out. They generally cost several dollars per aerator.
"A typical sink faucet will use between 2 to 2.5 gallons of water per minute," Mailloux says. She adds that if you use an aerator that lets the water flow at 1 gallon per minute instead of using one that has 2.2. GPM, you could save $104 in water usage annually.
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Look for trouble spots around the house. If you've installed some new water-reducing products, you're on your way to a smaller water bill, but there's still more you could do. LeChevallier suggests the following:
Check for leaks. There could be a leak somewhere. "Together, a leaky faucet and a leaky toilet can waste up to 120 extra gallons of water a day," LeChevallier says.
He has a fun tip for finding leaks. You can even do it with the kids. Just get some food coloring and put it in the toilet tank. "If, without flushing, color appears in the bowl, you have a leaky toilet," LeChevallier says.
Go to the garage. Do you have a lawn mower? If you like your grass cut short, put the blades up another notch higher. Longer grass will make your lawn more drought-tolerant, which means, at least in theory, you'll water your lawn less.
Go to the garden. Instead of spraying everything with a garden hose, try a drip irrigation hose. And water in the morning. Definitely don't water in the afternoon.
"As much as 30 percent of water can be lost to evaporation by watering during midday," LeChevallier says.
Go to the refrigerator. Do you have bottled water? Stop buying it, LeChevallier says.
"Clearly there are times where bottled water is the right or only choice, such as in emergency situations where tap water is unavailable or when you are choosing between bottled soft drinks or bottled water and want to make the healthier choice," LeChevallier says.
But for the most part, spending money on bottled water is giving you a shadowy second water bill that may end up being as frighteningly expensive as the first.
For starters, LeChevallier says, "More than 25 percent of bottled water being sold is simply tap water in a bottle with a branded label."
And what's really crazy is that your bottled water bill can be more expensive than your water bill. Thankfully, people haven't decided to make showering or washing clothes with bottled water a trend.
"The price of bottled water is 300 times more expensive than tap water," LeChevallier says.
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