Home Water Conservation Guide for Parents with Kids
Water is a precious resource. It is an integral part of survival. Humans, animals, and plants rely on water for hydration and nourishment. However, only 2.5 percent of the planet’s water is potable and safe for living creatures.
In the United States, there are 204 freshwater basins. Research from the journal Earth’s Future notes that half of these basins won’t be able to support the monthly water demand of American homes.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) points out that, on average, an American family wastes 180 gallons of water per week, or 9,600 gallons per year. This water wastage can accommodate 300 loads of laundry.
Indoor Water Wastage
Household water leaks are another major issue, amounting to 900 billion gallons of water wasted every year. Think about it this way: this amount of water provides enough supply for 11 million homes.
Aside from those mentioned above, simple activities that use water also contribute to water wastage. For example, turning off the tap when brushing or shaving saves eight to ten gallons per day. Also, fully loading the dishwasher can save about 320 gallons annually.
Outdoor Water Wastage
The EPA also reports that water usage for outdoor purposes accounts for a sizable portion of water wastage. An average-size American lawn can consume one year’s worth of water usage.
If the lawn is watered 20 minutes per day for seven days, the water consumption is equivalent to a nonstop four-day shower time (estimated to be around 800 showers).
Inefficient and improper irrigation also contribute to water wastage. In fact, 50 percent of outdoor water use is lost due to the weather (e.g., winds, evaporation) and runoffs.
Water Conservation at Home
Households should make an effort in conserving water. The following items must be considered to conserve water at home:
- Awareness of family members about the importance of water
- Participation of family members in water-conservation measures at home
- Maintenance of home water systems through plumbing
- Cost-awareness about trends in monthly water bills
Teaching Kids about Water Conservation
While kids may enjoy soaking in the bathtub, parents should take the initiative in teaching their children about water conservation. The EPA’s WaterSense for Kids is an interactive site where kids can learn about proper water conservation.
It has a game called WaterSense Game, in which kids can play and learn about water conversation. Parents can guide their children as well to help them better understand the learning material.
The WaterSense label is an EPA-sanctioned partnership program that aims to provide water-efficient products for households. Products with the WaterSense label are guaranteed to be water- and cost-efficient for homes.
Indoor Water Conservation
According to the Residential End Uses of Water Executive Report, indoor household use accounts for 138 gallons per household per day (gphd). The report presented the following facts:
Water usage of the toilet, faucet, and shower already accounts for 64 percent of the total household water use. If water conservation at home focuses more on these three household fixtures, families will have less costly water bills and lower water wastage.
Water Conservation in the Kitchen
Kitchen use requires water. From cleaning meat and vegetables to washing kitchenware, water is vital in the kitchen. However, normal kitchen-use practices contribute to water wastage. These practices include the following:
- Using a dishwasher that’s not full
- Letting tap water flow even when not in use
- Ignoring plumbing problems
When using the kitchen, water use must be minimal. Use water only when needed. Below are simple ways to save water in the kitchen.
- Fully loading the dishwasher. A dishwasher is designed in such a way that it can clean a certain number of dishes and utensils per runtime. If families don’t fill the dishwasher, water usage is still equivalent to a full load.
- Washing dishes by hand. Manual washing of dishes can save a lot of water. By soaking dishes in the water before washing, households can use less water. Also, washing by hand is recommended if there are only a few dirty plates.
- Turning off the tap when cleaning vegetables, meat, and other produce. Instead of letting tap water flow, fill a bowl or basin with water instead. This way, there is no water wastage.
- Reusing water. The water used for cleaning leafy vegetables and boiling pasta can be used to water plants instead of dumping it down the drain.
- Replacing pipes and faucets when needed. If a faucet leaks one drop at a time, it’s best to replace it. One drop of water is said to be equivalent to 0.05 mL. If not fixed within the next 24 hours and assuming that the drop rate is one drop every two seconds, water wastage is approximately 2.16 liters of water per day, or roughly 208.3 gallons per year.
Water Conservation in the Bathroom
Toilets and showers account for 44 percent of daily water usage, as stated in the table above. That’s why water-conservation measures must emphasize the bathroom. The following are the common water-wastage situations in the bathroom:
- Excessive flushing
- Water-inefficient toilets and showerheads
- Letting the tap water flow while brushing
- Ignoring plumbing problems
- Using bathtubs
Using water in the bathroom cannot be avoided. However, it can be minimized by following the steps below:
- Minimizing tub baths. While some may find tub baths refreshing and relaxing, they actually use 70 gallons of water, according to the EPA. Use bathtubs sparingly.
- Showering quickly. Some people take an hour-long bath. It’s best to reduce shower time to five to ten minutes. The EPA said that a five-minute shower uses about 10 to 15 gallons of water.
- Throwing toilet paper and other types of trash at appropriate bins. Using the toilet as a trash bin is a terrible practice. Flushing out the trash is wasting clean water.
- Use water-efficient showerheads. The EPA recommends the use of low-flow showerheads, pointing out that this can reduce US water consumption by 250 billion gallons or earn about $1.5 billion savings in water bills.
Water Conservation for Sinks
Kitchens, powder rooms, and bathrooms use sinks, and sometimes, water usage in sinks can lead to wastage. To reduce water usage from these fixtures, families must do the following:
- Turn off the tap. When brushing, shaving, or washing, always turn off the tap when not in use.
- Install low-flow faucet aerators. The flow rate of a conventional faucet is around 3 gallons per minute. Changing to low-flow faucets reduces this to 50 percent, or 1.5 gallons per minute.
- Fix leaks as soon as possible. Leaks are the biggest and most elusive reason for the rise of monthly water bills. Always have the plumber check the pipes if water bills are way above the average amount.
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Outdoor Water Conservation
According to the Residential End Uses of Water Executive Report, improper landscaping, irrigation, and evaporation are the main issues concerning outdoor-water wastage. Thus, the following measures in watering lawns and gardens must be followed:
- Water early in the morning. In the morning, water evaporation slows down because of the cooler temperature, which means the roots will be able to absorb more water.
- Reduce lawn watering time. Cutting watering time by 50 percent can help you save gallons. If you water your plants in the morning when it’s still cold and less windy, the water absorption rate is faster than the evaporation rate is.
- Use recycled water for watering plants. Water used for cleaning vegetables and other produce can be used to water plants. Just make sure that it doesn’t contain dishwashing liquid, detergent, or any cleaning agent.
- Take time to learn your plants. Not all plants need water every day. Some plant species can survive for days without water. Knowing the properties of your plants can help reduce water usage.
Installation of Water Efficient Fixtures
The WaterSense label is a signal for customers that the product uses less water. The following are some facts about water-efficient fixtures that comply with WaterSense requirements:
- Toilet. Flushometer valve toilets with WaterSense labels save up to 20 percent water if compared to federal standards. If all toilets have this label, 39 billion gallons of water can be saved each year.
- Showerheads. WaterSense showerheads use only 2 gallons of water per minute. The ordinary showerhead uses 2.5 gallons. Aside from reduced water consumption, electricity costs will also decrease because of reduced water heating from heaters.
- Faucets. Ordinary faucets use 2.2 gallons of water. WaterSense faucets use only 1.5 gallons. If all faucets in the US were WaterSense-labeled, they can save 700 gallons of water per year, equivalent to 45 showers.
- Automatic clothes washers. For clothes washers, look for the Energy Star label. They use only 14 gallons of water per load. On a per-year basis, that’s equivalent to 2,000 gallons of water savings.
- Automatic dishwashers. Just like clothes washers, dishwashers with the Energy Star label are preferred. They reduce utility bills by $35 per year because of less electricity and lower water-usage costs. Over their lifetime, they can save 3,870 gallons per year.
Assuming an American home will retrofit the house with water-efficient fixtures, it can reduce water usage and water bills by tremendous amounts. And more importantly, it can help the government and the environment conserve this scarce resource.
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DeOreo, W. B., Mayer, P., Dziegielewski, B., & Kiefer, J. (2016, April). Residential End Uses of Water (No. 2). Water Research Foundation.
Energy Star. (n.d.). Make Laundry Better.
Han, E. (2016, February 4). 10 Simple Ways to Conserve Water in the Kitchen. KCET.
Jen, T. (2011, March). Shower or Bath?: Essential Answer. Stanford Magazine.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2019a, October 29). Statistics and Facts. US EPA.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2019b, December 31). About WaterSense. US EPA.
Water Utility Authority. (n.d.). Save Water in the Bathroom.