Simple Water-Saving Ideas

The tips for saving water from the 1960s and 70s remain applicable today. Read on to learn how to save water and money.

You have many water-saving opportunities at home.
You have many water-saving opportunities at home.

Some things never go out of style

The news is rife with stories of droughts afflicting various parts of the United States. Growing up in the second half of the last Century, I picked up some tips to save water in daily activities. Here are the ones that make as much sense today as they did then, perhaps more so! And, in keeping with Simple-Fixes tradition, they only require a change of habit to implement.

Updated US drought map showing the benefit to CA of recent rains.
Updated US drought map showing the benefit to CA of recent rains.

In no particular order, here we go:

  1. Do not let the water run while brushing your teeth. Wet your brush and toothpaste, then turn the water off. Turn it back on to rinse. Estimated1 water savings per brushing - .5 - 1.0 gallons.
  2. If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down. This obviously refers to the toilet. Depending upon your toilet's capacity, estimated savings run from 2.0 - 5.0 gallons. Pro Tip: Don't let it mellow too much - flush on the second use. Hey, I cleaned a public restroom in high school. Standing urine gets pretty rank!
  3. Put a brick, or half of one, in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water it holds. This wasn't such good advice as many times, it caused damage to the toilet. Better approaches include:
  4. Lower the float so it turns off the fill valve after less water has filled the tank.
  5. Install a low-flow fill valve when the existing one "craps out." Who can resist the chance to use a pun like this? Okay, not me, anyway.
  6. Install a low-flow toilet - this is reserved for significant bathroom restorations.
  7. When doing dishes by hand, don't let the water run. Fill a sink or tub, add soap, and wash from that. Turn on the water only to rinse.
  8. Rinse with cold water and let the dishes drain in a rack or dry with a towel.
  9. Install low-flow showerheads or adapters.
  10. Don't take 30-minute showers! Keep them to 5 - 10 minutes max. Unless you've been a contestant in a mud pit tug-o-war contest and lost.
  11. Fix leaky faucets. Read how here.
  12. Collect rainwater for use in watering outdoor plants. Be careful here, as some jurisdictions are fining people for this simple act because it diverts water from the overall water table.

Start using water-saving habits today.

That just about covers the waterfront (another intended pun) for these bits of wisdom. Keep in mind the cumulative effect of every person taking small actions like this in their daily water use. Saving a couple of gallons of water daily may seem trivial, but the savings become massive when tens of millions do it.

How long will it take you to make these water-saving techniques automatic? Well, that depends upon each person's personality. Here's an excellent article from the Harvard Business Review about creating new habits.