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Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference in Home Water Use

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

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With the hot summer weather, energy and water conservation are a concern for homeowner. Conserving water can be done in a number of ways.

To conserve water in the home, start with the largest water users. The toilet, shower or bath and washing machine account for two-thirds of the water used in an average household.

About 20 percent of toilets leak. Put a few drops of food dye in the tank. After 15 minutes if color appears in the bowl, there is a leak that should be repaired. Typically, the toilet flapper needs replacement.

A toilet installed prior to 1993 may use up to 7 gallons of water per flush. Newer toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush. Pressure and vacuum assisted and jet action toilets were designed to improve waste removal.

Toilet dams, 1.6 gallon flappers or water-filled plastic containers can be installed in older toilet tanks, but reduced flow can affect flushing. About 3 gallons of water in the tank may be needed to flush properly. Avoid bricks that crumble and affect operation.

Older showers can use as much as 6 to 8 gallons of water per minute fully opened. As of 1994, shower heads use no more than 2.5 GPM. A quick shower usually draws less water than a bath. If using a bath, use lower bathtub levels.

Adjust water level of the washing machine to the laundry load size and soil. Typically, less water will be used to wash fewer full loads than several small loads. Look for the EnergyStar label and amount of water used for washing machine tub capacity.

Other water saving tips:

Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If your faucet drips at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year which will add to the cost of water, sewer utilities or strained septic system.

Store drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting the tap run every time you want a cool glass of water.

Operate automatic dishwashers and clothes washers only when they are fully loaded or properly set the water level for the size of load you are using.

Water lawns during the early morning hours when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces losses from evaporation.

Use hose washers between spigots and water hoses to eliminate leaks.

Set sprinklers to water only the lawn and not the sidewalk, street or house.

Saving water also save on utility bills, so be water wise and save.

Ask Lorene

(This resource was updated July 2007 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
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