Save Water, Save Money
The average household spends as much as $500 per year
on its water and sewer bill. By making just a few simple changes to use
water more efficiently, you could save about $170 per year. If all U.S.
households installed water-efficient appliances, the country would save
more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion dollars
per year! Also, when we use water more efficiently, we reduce the need
for costly water supply infrastructure investments and new wastewater
Save Water, Save Energy
It takes a considerable amount of energy to deliver
and treat the water you use everyday. American public water supply and
treatment facilities consume about 56 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per
year—enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes for an entire
year. For example, letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about
as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours.
By reducing household water use you can not only help
reduce the energy required to supply and treat public water supplies but
also can help address climate change. In fact:
- If one out of every 100 American homes
retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, we could save about 100
million kWh of electricity per year—avoiding 80,000 tons of
greenhouse gas emissions. That is equivalent to removing nearly
15,000 automobiles from the road for one year!
- If 1 percent of American homes replaced an older
toilet with a high-efficiency toilet (HET), the country would save
more than 38 million kWh of electricity—enough to supply more than
43,000 households electricity for one month.
Water Efficiency, Human Health,
and the Environment
Depleting reservoirs and groundwater aquifers can put
water supplies, human health, and the environment at serious risk. Lower
water levels can lead to higher concentrations of natural contaminants,
such as radon and arsenic, or human pollutants, such as agricultural and
chemical wastes. Using water more efficiently helps maintain supplies at
protecting human health and the environment.
Americans use large quantities of water inside and
outside of their homes. A family of four uses 400 gallons of water every
day. This amount can increase depending on location; for example, the
arid West has some of the highest per capita residential water use
because of landscape irrigation.
WaterSense helps conserve water for future generations by providing
information on products and programs that save water without sacrificing
performance. In fact, the average home, retrofitted with water-efficient
fixtures, can save 30,000 gallons per year. If one out of every ten
homes in the United States upgraded to water-efficient fixtures, it
could save more than 300 billion gallons and nearly 2 billion dollars
By making just a few small changes to your daily
routine, you can save a significant amount of water, which will help you
save money and preserve water supplies for future generations.
Water-efficient plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems provide the
same performance and quality you've come to expect, but with the added
benefit of water savings. The WaterSense label will help you identify
high-efficiency products and programs for certified irrigation
Along with using WaterSense labeled products, adopt
the following water-efficient practices to save money and protect the
Fix That Leak!
Leaky faucets that drip at the rate of one drip per second can waste
more than 3,000 gallons of water each year.
Solution: If you're unsure whether you have a leak,
read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water
is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, you probably
have a leak.
leaky toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water every day.
Solution: To tell if your toilet has a leak, place a
drop of food coloring in the tank; if the color shows in the bowl
without flushing, you have a leak.
full bath tub requires about 70 gallons of water, while taking a
five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons.
Solution: If you take a bath, stopper the drain
immediately and adjust the temperature as you fill the tub.
Turn It Off!
average bathroom faucet flows at a rate of two gallons per minute.
Solution: Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth
in the morning and at bedtime can save up to 8 gallons of water per day,
which equals 240 gallons a month!
It a Full Load
average washing machine about 41 gallons of water per load.
Solution: High-efficiency washing machines use less
than 28 gallons of water per load. To achieve even greater savings, wash
only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate load size selection on
the washing machine.
Don't Flush Your Money Down the
your toilet is from 1992 or earlier, you probably have an inefficient
model that uses between 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush.
Solution: New and improved high-efficiency models use
less than 1.3 gallons per flush—that's at least 60 percent less than
their older, less efficient counterparts. Retrofitting your house with
high-efficiency toilets can save a family of four roughly $1,000 over
the next 10 years without compromising performance.
Faucets account for more than 15 percent of indoor
household water use—more than 1 trillion gallons of water across the
United States each year. Even though federal law requires that new
faucets not exceed 2.2 gallons per minute (gpm), older faucets can flow
at rates as high as 3 to 7 gpm.
High-efficiency bathroom sink faucets and accessories
such as faucet aerators can reduce this standard flow by more than 30
percent without sacrificing performance. We could save billions of
gallons each year by retrofitting the country's 222 million bathroom
Under federal law, toilets must not exceed 1.6 gallons
per flush (gpf ). High-efficiency toilets (HETs) go beyond the standard
and use less than 1.3 gpf. The WaterSense label will be used on HETs
that are certified by independent laboratory testing to meet rigorous
criteria for both performance and efficiency. Only HETs that complete
the third-party certification process can earn the WaterSense label.
How Much Can HETs Save?
Over the course of your lifetime, you will likely
flush the toilet nearly 140,000 times. If you install a WaterSense
labeled HET, you can save 4,000 gallons per year and your children can
save as much as 300,000 gallons during their lifetime.
Additionally, if a family of four replaced a 3.5 gpf
toilet made between 1980 and 1994 with a WaterSense labeled toilet, they
could save more than $90 annually on their water bill, and $2,000 over
the lifetime of the toilet. Savings could be as much as two to three
times that amount if the model being replaced is a leaky toilet or a
pre-1980 model that uses 5.0 gpf or more.
With these savings, a new WaterSense labeled HET can
pay for itself in only a few years. Additionally, many local utilities
offer substantial rebates (ranging from $25 to more than $200) for
replacing old toilets with HETs.
Install Low-Flow Fixtures
Federal regulations mandate that new showerhead
flow rates can't exceed more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) at a
water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch (psi). New faucet flow
rates can't exceed 2.5 gpm at 80 psi or 2.2 gpm at 60 psi. You can
purchase some quality, low-flow fixtures for around $10 to $20 a
piece and achieve water savings of 25–60%.
For maximum water efficiency, select a shower head
with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm. There are two basic types of
low-flow showerheads: aerating and laminar-flow. Aerating
showerheads mix air with water, forming a misty spray. Laminar-flow
showerheads form individual streams of water. If you live in a humid
climate, you might want to use a laminar-flow showerhead because it
won't create as much steam and moisture as an aerating one.
Before 1992, some showerheads had flow rates of
5.5 gpm. Therefore, if you have fixtures that pre-date 1992, you
might want to replace them if you're not sure of their flow rates.
Here's a quick test to determine whether you should replace a
- Place a bucket—marked in gallon
increments—under your shower head.
- Turn on the shower at the normal water
pressure you use.
- Time how many seconds it takes to fill the
bucket to the 1-gallon (3.8 liter) mark.
If it takes less than 20 seconds to reach the
1-gallon mark, you could benefit from a low-flow shower head.
The aerator—the screw-on tip of the
faucet—ultimately determines the maximum flow rate of a faucet.
Typically, new kitchen faucets come equipped with aerators that
restrict flow rates to 2.2 gpm, while new bathroom faucets have ones
that restrict flow rates from 1.5 to 0.5 gpm.
Aerators are inexpensive to replace and they can
be one of the most cost-effective water conservation measures. For
maximum water efficiency, purchase aerators that have flow rates of
no more than 1.0 gpm. Some aerators even come with shut-off valves
that allow you to stop the flow of water without affecting the
temperature. When replacing an aerator, bring the one you're
replacing to the store with you to ensure a proper fit.
Purchase Energy-Efficient Dishwashers and
The biggest cost of washing dishes and clothes
comes from the energy required to heat the water. You'll
significantly reduce your energy costs if you purchase and use
an energy-efficient dishwasher and clothes washer.
It's commonly assumed that washing dishes by
hand saves hot water. However, washing dishes by hand several
time a day can be more expensive than operating an
energy-efficient dishwasher. You can consume less energy with an
energy-efficient dishwasher when properly used and when only
operating it with full loads.
When purchasing a new dishwasher, check the
EnergyGuide label to see how much energy it uses. Dishwashers
fall into one of two categories: compact capacity and standard
capacity. Although compact-capacity dishwashers may appear to be
more energy efficient on the EnergyGuide Label, they hold fewer
dishes, which may force you to use it more frequently. In this
case, your energy costs could be higher than with a
One feature that makes a dishwasher more
energy efficient is a booster heater. A booster heater increases
the temperature of the water entering the dishwasher to the
140ºF recommended for cleaning. Some dishwashers have built-in
boosters, while others require manual selection before the wash
cycle begins. Some also only activate the booster during the
heavy-duty cycle. Dishwashers with booster heaters typically
cost more, but they pay for themselves with energy savings in
about 1 year if you also lower the water
temperature on your water heater.
Another dishwasher feature that reduces hot
water use is the availability of cycle selections. Shorter
cycles require less water, thereby reducing energy cost.
If you want to ensure that your new dishwasher
is energy efficient, purchase one with an ENERGY STAR label.
Unlike dishwashers, clothes washers don't
require a minimum temperature for optimum cleaning. Therefore,
to reduce energy costs, you can use either cold or warm water
for most laundry loads. Cold water is always sufficient for
Inefficient clothes washers can cost three
times as much to operate than energy-efficient ones. Select a
new machine that allows you to adjust the water temperature and
levels for different loads. Efficient clothes washers spin-dry
your clothes more effectively too, saving energy when drying as
well. Also, front-loading machines use less water and,
consequently, less energy than top loaders.
Small-capacity clothes washers often have
better EnergyGuide label ratings. However, a reduced capacity
might increase the number of loads you need to run, which could
increase your energy costs.
If you want to ensure that your new clothes
washer is energy efficient, purchase one with an ENERGY STAR
Install Heat Traps on a Water
Heater Tank for Energy Savings
If your storage water heater doesn't have heat
traps, you can save energy by adding them to your water heating
system. They can save you around $15–$30 on your water heating
bill by preventing convective heat losses through the inlet and
Heat traps—valves or loops of pipe—allow water
to flow into the water heater tank but prevent unwanted
hot-water flow out of the tank. The valves have balls inside
that either float or sink into a seat, which stops convection.
These specially designed valves come in pairs. The valves are
designed differently for use in either the hot or cold water
A pair of heat traps costs only around $30.
However, unless you can properly solder a pipe joint, heat traps
require professional installation by a qualified plumbing and
heating contractor. Therefore, heat traps are most cost
effective if they're installed at the same time as the water
heater. Today, many
new storage water heaters have factory-installed heat traps
or have them available as an option.
Lower Water Heating
Temperature for Energy Savings
You can reduce your water heating costs by
simply lowering the thermostat setting on your water heater. For
each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between
3%–5% in energy costs.
Although some manufacturers set water heater
thermostats at 140ºF, most households usually only require them
set at 120ºF or even 115ºF. Water heated at 140ºF also poses a
safety hazard—scalding. However, if you have a dishwasher
without a booster heater, it may require a water temperature
within a range of 130ºF to 140ºF for optimum cleaning.
Reducing your water temperature to 120ºF also
slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and
pipes. This helps your water heater last longer and operate at
its maximum efficiency.
Insulate Your Water
Heater Tank for Energy Savings
Unless your water heater's storage tank
already has a high R-value of insulation (at least R-24),
adding insulation to it can reduce standby heat losses by
25%–45%. This will save you around 4%–9% in water heating
If you don't know your water heater tank's
R-value, touch it. A tank that's warm to the touch needs
Insulating your storage water heater tank
is fairly simple and inexpensive, and it will pay for itself
in about a year. You can find pre-cut jackets or blankets
available from around $10–$20. Choose one with an insulating
value of at least R-8. Some utilities sell them at low
prices, offer rebates, and even install them at a low or no
Insulating an Electric Water Heater
You can probably install an insulating
pre-cut jacket or blanket on your electric water heater tank
yourself. Read and follow the directions carefully. Leave
the thermostat access panel(s) uncovered. Don't set the
thermostat above 130ºF on electric water heater with an
insulating jacket or blanket—the wiring may overheat.
You may want to see instructions for
installing an insulation blanket on an electric water heater.
Insulate Hot Water
Pipes for Energy Savings
Insulating your hot water pipes
reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature
2ºF–4ºF hotter than uninsulated pipes can deliver,
allowing for a
lower water temperature setting. You also won't have
to wait as long for hot water when you turn on a faucet
or showerhead, which helps conserve water.
Insulate all accessible hot water
pipes, especially within 3 feet of the water heater.
It's also a good idea to insulate the cold water inlet
pipes for the first 3 feet.
Use quality pipe insulation wrap, or
neatly tape strips of fiberglass insulation around the
pipes. Pipe sleeves made with polyethylene or
neoprene foam are the most commonly used insulation.
Match the pipe sleeve's inside diameter to the pipe's
outside diameter for a snug fit. Place the pipe sleeve
so the seam will be face down on the pipe. Tape, wire,
or clamp (with a cable tie ) it every foot or two to
secure it to the pipe. If you use tape, some recommend
using acrylic tape instead of duct tape.
On gas water heaters, keep insulation
at least 6 inches from the flue. If pipes are within 8
inches of the flue, your safest choice is to use
fiberglass pipe-wrap (at least 1-inch thick) without a
facing. You can use either wire or aluminum foil tape to
secure it to the pipe.
Drain-Water Heat Recovery
Any hot water that goes down the drain
carries away energy with it. That's typically 80–90% of the
energy used to heat water in a home. Drain-water (or
greywater) heat recovery systems capture this energy to
preheat cold water entering the water heater or going to
other water fixtures.
How It Works
Drain-water heat recovery technology works
well with all types of water heaters, especially with
solar water heaters. Also, drain-water heat exchangers
can recover heat from the hot water used in showers,
bathtubs, sinks, dishwashers, and clothes washers. They
generally have the ability to store recovered heat for later
use. You'll need a unit with storage capacity for use with a
dishwasher or clothes washer. Without storage capacity,
you'll only have useful energy during the simultaneous flow
of cold water and heated drain water, like while showering.
Some storage-type systems have tanks
containing a reservoir of clean water. Drain water flows
through a spiral tube at the bottom of the heat storage
tank. This warms the tank water, which rises to the top.
Water heater intake water is preheated by circulation
through a coil at the top of the tank.
Non-storage systems usually have a copper
heat exchanger that replaces a vertical section of a main
waste drain. As warm water flows down the waste drain,
incoming cold water flows through a spiral copper tube
wrapped tightly around the copper section of the waste
drain. This preheats the incoming cold water that goes to
the water heater or a fixture, such as a shower.
By preheating cold water, drain-water heat
recovery systems help increase water heating capacity. This
increased capacity really helps if you have an undersized
water heater. You can also lower your
water heating temperature without affecting the
Cost and Installation
Prices for drain-water heat recovery
systems range from $300 to $500. You'll need a qualified
plumbing and heating contractor to install the system.
Installation will usually be less expensive in new home
construction. Paybacks range from 2.5 to 7 years, depending
on how often the system is used.
Install a Timer and
Use Off-Peak Power for Electric Water Heaters
If you have an electric water heater,
you can save an additional 5%–12% of energy by
installing a timer that turns it off at night when you
don't use hot water and/or during your utility's peak
You can install a timer yourself. They
can cost $60 or more, but they can pay for themselves in
about 1 year. Timers are most cost effective if you
don't want to install a heat trap
and insulate your water heater
tank and pipes.
Timers aren't as cost effective or useful on gas water
heaters because of their pilot lights.
Contact your utility to see if it
offers a demand management program. Some utilities offer
"time of use" electricity rates that vary according to
the demand on their system. They charge higher rates
during "on-peak"< times and lower rates during
"off-peak" times. Some even offer incentives to
customers who allow them to install control devices that
shut off electric water heaters during peak demand
periods. These control devices may use radio signals
that allow a utility to shut off a water heater remotely
anytime demand is high. Shut-off periods are generally
brief so customers experience no reduction in service.
In Your Backyard
typical single-family suburban household uses at least 30 percent of
their water outdoors for irrigation. Some experts estimate that more
than 50 percent of landscape water use goes to waste due to evaporation
or runoff caused by overwatering!
Solution: Drip irrigation systems use between 20 to 50
percent less water than conventional in-ground sprinkler systems. They
are also much more efficient than conventional sprinklers because no
water is lost to wind, runoff, and evaporation. If your in-ground system
uses 100,000 gallons annually, you could potentially save more than
200,000 gallons over the lifetime of a drip irrigation system if
installed-that's a savings of at least $1,150!
All too often, landscape irrigation wastes water—up to
1.5 billion gallons every day across the country. If homeowners
with irrigation systems hire WaterSense irrigation partners to perform
regular maintenance, they could reduce water used for irrigation by 15
percent, or about 9,000 gallons annually-that's the amount of water that
would flow from a garden hose nonstop for nearly a whole day.
The EPA has more information on
Wise use of water for garden and lawn waterings not
only helps protect the environment, but saves money and provides for
optimum growing conditions. Simple ways of reducing the amount of water
used for irrigation include growing xeriphytic species (plants that are
adapted to dry conditions), mulching, adding water retaining organic
matter to the soil, and installing windbreaks and fences to slow winds
and reduce evapotranspiration.
Watering in the early morning before the sun is
intense helps reduce the water lost from evaporation. Installing rain
gutters and collecting water from downspouts also helps reduce water
U. S. Department of Agriculture
Plant Needs for Water
Water is a critical component of photosynthesis, the
process by which plants manufacture their own food from carbon dioxide
and water in the presence of light. Water is one of the many factors
that can limit plant growth. Other important factors include nutrients,
temperature, and amount and duration light.
Plants take in carbon dioxide through their
stomata--microscopic openings on the undersides of leaves. Water is also
lost through the stomata in the process called transpiration.
Transpiration, along with evaporation from the soil surface, accounts
for the moisture lost from the soil.
When there is a lack of water in the plant tissue, the
stomata close to try to limit water loss. Wilting occurs when the
tissues lose too much water. Plants adapted to dry conditions have
developed numerous mechanisms for reducing water loss, including narrow
leaves, hairy leaves, and thick fleshy stems and leaves. Pines,
hemlocks, and junipers are also well adapted to survive extended periods
of dry conditions which they encounter each winter when the frozen soil
prevents the uptake of water. Cacti, with leaves reduced to spines and
having thick stems, are the best example of plants well adapted to
extremely dry environments.
U. S. Department of Agriculture
Choosing Plants for Low Water Use
You are not limited to cacti, succulents, or narrow
leafed evergreens when selecting plants adapted to low moisture
requirements. Many plants growing in humid environments are well adapted
to low levels of soil moisture. Numerous plants found growing in coastal
or mountainous regions have developed mechanisms for dealing with
extremely sandy, excessively well-drained soils, or rocky cold soils in
which moisture is limited for months at a time.
Plants Adapted to Sunny, Dry
- Yucca gloriosa
- Broom (Cytisus spp.)
- Yarrow (Achillea spp.)
- Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
- California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
- Blanket flower (Gailardia spp.)
- Sedum spp.
- Gold dust (Alyssum saxatile)
- Moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora)
- Juniper (Juniperus spp.)
- Artemisia spp.
- Lavender (Lavendula spp.)
- Sage (Salvia spp.)
- Iris spp.
- Thyme spp.
- Crocus spp.
- Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)
Indigenous plants -- plants that occur naturally in
the local environment -- will likely need less supplemental moisture
most years than non-native species. These species have evolved under the
local conditions and usually have well-developed mechanisms for
surviving extremes in the weather.
U. S. Department of Agriculture
Efficient Watering Methods
Trickle irrigation and drip irrigation systems help
reduce water use and meet the needs of plants. With these methods, very
small amounts of water are supplied to the base of the plants. Since the
water is applied directly to the soil, rather than onto the plant,
evaporation from leaf surfaces is reduced. The water is also placed
where it will do the most good, rather than sprayed over the entire
U. S. Department of Agriculture
Installing Irrigation Systems
An irrigation system can be easy to install. Numerous
products are readily available for home use. The simplest system
consists of a soaker hose that is laid out around the plants and
connected to an outdoor spigot. No installation is required and the hose
can be moved as needed to water the entire garden. A slightly more
sophisticated system is a slotted pipe system.
Slotted pipe system installation
- Sketch the layout you will need. If you intend to
water a vegetable garden, you may want one pipe next to every row or
one pipe between every two rows.
- Depending on your layout, purchase the required
lengths of pipe. You will need a length of solid pipe the width of
your garden. You will need lengths of perforated pipe the length of
your rows (the laterals) times the number of rows.
- Measure the distances between laterals and cut
the solid pipe to the proper lengths.
- Place t-connectors between the pieces of solid
- Approximately in the center of the solid pipe,
place a t-connector to which a hose connector will be fitted.
- Cut perforated pipe to the length of the rows.
- Attach perforated pipe to the t-connectors.
Attach so that the perforations are facing downward. Cap the end of
- Connect garden hose to hose connector on solid
pipe. Adjust water from the spigot until water slowly emerges from
each of the laterals.
U. S. Department of Agriculture
Drip or Trickle Irrigation
The basic elements of a drip or trickle system consist
of the head, the tubing, and the emitters.
The head is the part of the system that connects to
your water supply. The major components of this may include a pressure
regulator, a filter, an anti-siphon valve, and an automatic timer. While
this may sound complicated and expensive, it is not. Installation of
these components will create a better operating system.
Consideration for the Head
- Many drip systems are designed to be used with
low water pressure, under 25 pounds per square inch (psi). Normal
city water pressure is about 55 psi. Therefore, a pressure regulator
should be installed.
- Because of the small size of the openings in the
emitters, they easily can become clogged by sediment in the water. A
filter should be installed to keep openers operating freely.
- Consider installing a back flow preventer. This
is a valve that prevents the accidental backflow of water in the
system getting into the water line. This may be required by city
ordinance in some municipalities. Considering the minor cost, it is
probably a wise investment for anyone considering a system.
- A timing device can be added to automatically
turn the system on and off. This can be as simple as a battery
operated attachment or a more permanent timer that is wired into
your electrical system.
Plastic tubing is used to get the water from the
source to the garden. This comes in many sizes. A variety of fittings
are available to go around corners and to connect pieces.
Plastic Tubing Considerations
- Check with the supplier for the maximum length of
tubing that can be run in any one direction. A general
recommendation is that 400 feet is the maximum for 1/2 inch tubing.
- Consider what you intend to water with the drip
system. You may need several different systems to best meet the
needs of various plants. Not all plants have the same water
requirements, and soil conditions in various parts of your yard may
vary. Trees, because of their large size and deep root systems,
probably will require less frequent but longer waterings. Well
mulched vegetable gardens high in organic matter or shady flower
gardens probably will require shorter watering times than gardens
with sandy soils or those in full sun.
Emitters deliver the small amounts of water to the
plants. Depending on the design, emitters can either be attached
directly to the pipe or attached to "spaghetti tube," a very small
flexible tube that can be placed next to plants or in pots. Emitters can
let water drip out very slowly, or small sprinkler emitters can be
installed to provide a spray pattern similar to a lawn sprinkler.
Sprinkler emitters may be appropriate for watering groundcover and
The size of the emitter will influence the amount of
water delivered. Drippers vary in the amount of water delivered per
hour. Some deliver as little as one half gallon of water per hour while
others deliver up to 10 gallons per hour. Some emitters are adjustable
to deliver different rates of water. Sprinkler emitters also are
available in various flow rates as well as with different spray patterns
and coverage areas.
While these systems need more planning, they are
neither expensive or difficult to install. In most cases, no special
tools or skills are needed. Plastic pipe is punched with an inexpensive
tube punch that assures the proper hole size. Emitters or spaghetti
tubes snap into the hole. No gluing or soldering is required. Because
the holes are small, they can easily be plugged if you put one in the
wrong place. Some systems come with pre-assembled emitters at regular
intervals. Drip systems require periodic maintenance. You will also need
to check emitters to make sure they are working properly as they can
Once you have thought about your watering needs,
discuss your ideas with a supplier. Most trickle irrigation suppliers
will help you design a system to best meet your gardening needs.
U. S. Department of Agriculture
Harvest rain water for irrigation
For healthier flowers, shrubs and plants, save rain
water for your plants