We need to save water every way we can. If we don’t conserve, we’re pouring water — and money — down the drain. It is estimated that each person in our region uses an average of 111 gallons of water each day. You can reduce your water consumption by taking just a few simple steps. So stop the leaks, slow the flow and use water wisely!
Seek the leak
Leaks are the biggest water waster. Even a small faucet leak can waste 300 or more gallons of water per month! Take a few minutes to find out if you have a leak in your home.
Saving Water Indoors
Use your water meter to check for leaks
- Turn off all faucets and water-using appliances and make sure no one uses water during the testing period. Remember to wait for the hot water heater and ice cube makers to refill and for regeneration of water softeners.
- Go to your water meter and record the current reading. Wait 30 minutes. (Remember: no water should be used during this period.)
- Read the meter again. If the reading has changed, you have a leak.
- If you have a well, listen for the pump to kick on and off while the water is not in use. If it does, you have a leak.
- If you cannot find the leak using these tips, you should consult a plumber.
Check for leaks
Water losses caused by dripping faucets can range from several gallons to hundreds of gallons of water per day. Check faucets regularly for leaks at the faucet head and seepage at the base and its connections.
Whether a two-handled or a single-handled faucet, leaks are repaired by replacing washers and by tightening or repacking the faucet stem. Do-it-yourselfers can find a variety of repair kits in local home improvement and hardware stores. Most kits contain detailed instructions and a listing of necessary tools. If preferred, a plumber can make repairs.
If you don’t already have low-flow fixtures, you will want to replace them. To find out if you have low-flow, check the amount of water flowing from each faucet. You can do this by opening the faucet and allowing the water to flow into a container for 10 seconds. Multiply the amount of water in the container by six to determine the per minute flow. If your existing faucet flows above 2.5 gallons per minute, install a low-flow faucet. For a bathroom faucet, a 1.5-gallons-per-minute flow will provide sufficient water for personal hygiene needs. For a kitchen faucet, you may want a 2.5-gallons-per-minute flow to make sure the flow of water is enough to wash and rinse dishes.
If installing low-flow faucets is not practical, install faucet aerators and flow restrictors on all faucets.
Faucet aerators are circular screened disks, usually made of metal, that are screwed onto the head of the faucet to reduce flow. Aerators for kitchen faucets are available with a variety of spray patterns and flow-control features. Faucet aerators require periodic cleaning of grit and scale buildup that may inhibit flow.
Check for leaks
Leaks inside your toilet can waste up to 200 gallons per day. Some leaks are silent, some produce a running water sound and others may be visible as a small trickle running from the rim to the water in the bowl.
To detect silent leaks, remove toilet tank lid and any colored cleaning agents. Flush to clear water in the bowl. Add dye tablets, leak detector fluid or a few drops of food coloring to the tank. If the tank is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 10 to 15 minutes. Flush as soon as the test is complete.
If your toilet is leaking, try the following procedures:
- Water level in the tank should be about one-half inch below the top of the overflow tube in the middle of the tank. To adjust the water level, use a screwdriver to adjust the screw on the end of the ballcock float arm or bend the float arm up or down (very gently) until the correct water level is achieved.
- If you need to jiggle the handle to stop the water running after a flush, you should oil, tighten or replace the flush handle. To tighten, use an adjustable wrench to tighten the nut attached to the handle on the inside of the tank.
- Check for holes and cracks in the float ball. If the ball is filled with water or no longer appears to float, it needs to be replaced. Replace by unscrewing it from its tubing and screwing another on in its place.
- Adjust lift chain so it hangs straight from handle lever with about one-half inch slack.
- Check the rubber flapper or flush valve at the bottom of the tank. If it is worn or corroded, it needs to be cleaned or replaced.
- If the water won’t shut off at all, replace both the flapper and the ballcock.
- If these simple procedures don’t stop the leak, you should call your plumber.
Since the mid-1990s, all new toilets have been redesigned to conserve water, using 1.6 gallons or less of water per flush. Older models use 4 gallons or more per flush. If your toilet is not a newer water-saving fixture, consider purchasing one.
Check for leaks
Dripping showerheads can waste from 70 up to several hundred gallons of water a week, depending on the size of the drip. If the showerhead is leaking, make sure it is screwed tightly. Also, remember to check the washer for wear. If you need a new washer, you can get one at your local hardware store or from your plumber.
To fix a leaky showerhead, you need an adjustable wrench or pliers and joint sealer or tape. Follow these steps:
- Turn off the water supply.
- Use the adjustable wrench to remove the old showerhead. (Use a cloth between the showerhead and the jaws of the wrench to avoid scratching the fixture.)
- Clean the threads to remove old joint sealer.
- Apply joint sealer or tape, using package instructions.
- Use the adjustable wrench to install the showerhead.
- Turn the water supply on and test the showerhead.
By timing your shower to less than five minutes and installing low-flow showerheads, you can save water. The older the showerhead, the more water it uses. New low-volume showerheads deliver 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Older high-volume fixtures can deliver as much as 4 gallons per minute. Pressures have been adjusted to the low-flow fixtures to deliver as good a shower as the higher flow showerheads. To install a new showerhead, follow the directions above for fixing showerhead leaks.
Here are more tips for conserving water inside your home:
In the bathroom:
- Flush less — remember the toilet is not an ashtray or wastebasket.
- While brushing teeth, shaving, etc., turn off the water.
- When cold water will do, avoid using hot water.
- Take shorter showers — 5 minutes or less.
- In the shower, wet yourself down, turn the water off, lather up, then turn the water on to rinse off soap.
- Use less water for bathing — close the drain first and fill tub only one-third full. That initial burst of cold water will be warmed by the hot water as the tub fills.
In the kitchen:
- Operate the dishwasher only when you have a full load.
- Scrape, don’t rinse, your dishes before loading in the dishwasher.
- When purchasing a dishwasher, consider a water-efficient model.
- Use your garbage disposal sparingly and start composting your kitchen waste.
- Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or microwave, not under running water.
- Store drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the tap run while you wait for cool water to flow.
- When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink or basin with soapy water and fill the rinsing sink to one-third or one-half full — avoid letting the water run continuously in the rinsing sink.
In the laundry:
- For washers with variable settings for water volume, select the minimum amount required per load.
- If load size cannot be set, operate the washer with full loads only.
- Use the shortest wash cycle for lightly soiled loads; normal and permanent press wash cycles use more water.
- Check hoses regularly for leaks.
- Pretreat stains to avoid rewashing.
- Install instant water heaters in bathrooms and in the kitchen so you don’t have to let the water run while it heats up.
- Insulate your water pipes — you’ll get hot water faster, plus avoid wasting water while it heats up.
- Avoid installing a water-to-air heat pump or air-conditioning system — newer air-to-air models are just as efficient and do not waste water.
- Install water-softening systems only when necessary; save water and salt by only running the minimum amount of regenerations necessary to maintain water softness; turn softeners off while on vacation.
- Never put water down the drain when there may be another use for it, such as watering a plant or cleaning.
- Replace leaky drain plugs in sinks and bathtubs.
Saving Water Outdoors
Typically, outdoor water use accounts for up to 50 percent of water consumed by households. You can reduce your outdoor water consumption by taking a few simple steps. So tighten those taps, eliminate those leaks and use water wisely.
Seek the leak
Did you know that even a small leak can waste 300 or more gallons of water per month? Check for the following leaks outdoors:
Water faucets, hoses and connectors
Check all faucets, hoses and connectors periodically for leaks and to make sure they are in good working order. Make sure faucets are closed when not in use. If you do find a leaky faucet, change the washer — after turning off the shutoff valve.
Automatic lawn and sprinkling systems
Soft, wet spots on your lawn around the in-ground sprinkler could indicate a leak that is being absorbed into the ground. Contact your plumber or landscape maintenance specialist if repairs are needed.
Check the pool system’s shutoff valve, which works automatically, to see if it is malfunctioning and causing a continuous cycle of water to be pumped in and then drained out. If the water level stays higher than normal and it overflows when people are using it, call your plumber.
Service connecting line
If you find a soft, wet spot on your lawn or hear the sound of running water outside your house, you may have a leak in the service line to your house. Water soaks into the ground, causing the soft spots. Close the main shutoff valve. If the sound of running water continues, the outside service line could be leaking. Contact your plumber if you detect wet spots.
How often should I water?
Know and follow your local watering restrictions, but don’t water just because it’s your day. The basic principle of lawn and garden watering is not to overwater. The time to irrigate will vary depending on your soil type and your location in the state.
Irrigate your lawn when it shows signs of stress from lack of water. Pay attention to signs of stressed grass, such as a bluish-gray color, lingering tire tracks or footprints and leaf blades that are folded in half lengthwise. Also, you can determine if your lawn needs water by measuring soil moisture.
Sophisticated soil moisture sensors will turn on your automatic irrigation system when water is needed. The more basic soil moisture sensors turn off your system when water is adequate. Reliable soil moisture sensor technology is currently available in irrigation supply stores.
What time of day should I water?
Evaporation loss can be 60 percent higher during the day, so water during the cool, early morning hours to minimize water loss by evaporation and to discourage disease. Avoid watering on windy days.
How long should I water?
Apply moderate amounts of water to create a healthy, drought- and stress-tolerant lawn. For most Florida soils, an average of one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water per application is enough to replenish the grass. Saturate the root zone, then let soil dry to encourage healthy, deep root growth.
To determine how long you should run your sprinkler, place five to seven empty straightedged cans (about the size of an average tuna can) at different distances away from the sprinkler. Run the sprinkler for 15 minutes and measure the amount of water collected in each can. Calculate an average water depth and determine how long it will take to apply one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water.
If you have an automatic sprinkler system, be sure it is equipped with a working rain shutoff device, which overrides the system when enough rain has fallen. It automatically resets the system when the turf requires more water. Rain shutoff devices are required by Florida law on all automatic sprinkler systems installed since 1991. Check regularly to ensure the device is working properly and that the corresponding switch in the control box is set at “on.”
Drip irrigation is the most efficient method of watering for non-turf areas such as bedded plants, trees or shrubs. Drip systems minimize or eliminate evaporation, impede weed growth, and may help prevent grass diseases caused by under-watering or overwatering.
Soaker hoses are an inexpensive alternative to drip irrigation. Soil moisture should be monitored to determine when enough water has been applied.
If using a hose and sprinkler, place the sprinkler in the area that is driest. Allow the sprinkler to run the proper length of time to apply one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water. When that area is complete, move the sprinkler to another dry area. Place the sprinkler so that its water spray will overlap the area previously watered. Adjust the hose or sprinkler until it waters just the grass or shrubs, not paved areas.
Inground irrigation systems can be automatic or manual, or a combination. The automatic system can provide an efficient method of irrigating lawns because controllers turn the system off after a predetermined amount of time, so a measured amount of water is applied. Learn how to operate your system. Check timing devices regularly to make sure they are operating properly. Watch for broken or misdirected sprinklers.
Use the appropriate sprinkler head for the irrigated area. Install sprinklers that are the most water-efficient for each use. Rotors or spray heads are good for turf areas, but shouldn’t be used in the same zone. For even distribution, flow rates must be consistent throughout the zone.
Cut your grass at the highest recommended height for your turf species, or the highest setting on your lawn mower. Mow regularly, cutting no more than one-third of the grass length to encourage grass roots to grow deeper and grass blades to hold moisture.
Keep mower blades sharp. Dull blades tear grass, opening it to disease, and cause it to appear tan and ragged. Leave short grass clippings where they fall, reducing the lawn’s need for water and fertilizer. Remove thick patches of clippings so that the clippings will not kill the grass underneath.
- Do not leave sprinklers unattended. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn off sprinklers.
- Water slowly to reduce runoff and to allow deep penetration.
- Observe the watering schedule for your address.
- Dig out water-loving weeds and cultivate soil often.
- Use a rain barrel to collect rainwater. Rainwater is free and is better for your plants because it doesn’t contain hard minerals.
- Do not hose down your driveway or sidewalk. Use a broom to clean leaves and other debris from these areas.
- Use a shutoff nozzle on your hose that can be adjusted down to a fine spray so that water flows only as needed. When finished, turn it off at the spigot instead of at the nozzle to avoid leaks. A garden hose without a shutoff nozzle can pour out 540 gallons of water in an hour.
- Avoid purchasing recreational water toys that require a constant stream of water.
- Consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water. If you wash your own car, park on the grass, use a bucket of soapy water and use a hose with a shutoff nozzle.
- Avoid the installation of ornamental water features (such as fountains) unless the water is recycled.
- If you have a swimming pool, consider a new water-saving pool filter.
- Cover your spa or pool to reduce evaporation.
Information courtesy of : SouthWest Florida Water Management District