Bathrooms are the biggest household water guzzlers, accounting for more than half of a family’s indoor water use, according to the EPA. All that soaking, showering, flushing, and brushing adds up — and harms the environment by draining aquifers and unloading tons of wastewater into sewer or septic systems.
Cutting Water Waste
The first step to saving water is to fix any faucets or fixtures that leak. A toilet that’s constantly running can waste 200 gallons of water per day, the EPA notes. Toilets, not showers, are a home’s largest water user — flushing away nearly 30 percent of the water in an average home.
After fixing the leaks, make a simple switch: “One of the easiest things to do is change the aerators on your faucets,” says Green Depot’s Scott Fradenburg. An aerating sink faucet costs about $2, can be installed in minutes, and slows the flow without noticeably impacting water pressure. When considering new fixtures, look for the WaterSense label, an EPA consumer confidence designation for those that are 20 percent more efficient — and equal to or better in quality — than average products.
Mind Your Flushes
Older toilets installed before 1980 likely use six gallons of water per flush; models from the ’80s and early ’90s use about 3.5 gallons per flush. Newer, more water-efficient models use about 1.6 gallons (or less). Dual-flush models range from $500 to $800 and are available from Kohler and Caroma. But any toilet can be converted to a dual-flush rather inexpensively using a system like the HydroRight Drop-In Dual Flush Converter ($24.95; www.eartheasy.com), which works with all standard flush valves. The unit replaces your flusher with a two-way up-or-down button. Or, composting toilet systems, which average $1,500 or more, use the least amount of water and biodegrade waste on-site.
Though some people love the blast of high-pressured water or the oversized rain-style showerheads that guzzle by the gallon, the eco-conscious will want to minimize the torrential downpour. New federal regulations mandate that flow rates must remain under 2.5 gallons per minute. Not sure if you’ve got a low-flow showerhead? Place a bucket under your shower. If it takes less than 20 seconds to collect a gallon, you need a low-flow showerhead. Fradenburg adds, “The way these showerheads are designed you still feel like you’re getting the same pressure.”
Much water is wasted when we wait for our shower to warm up. Consider installing a showerhead with ShowerStart technology from Evolve ($69.95 for a rain shower with pulsating spray). After you turn on the shower, the cold water flows out normally until the water reaches bathing temperatures, and then it slows to a trickle. Flip a switch or pull a cord to get the full flow going when you step into the shower.
Saving At The Sink
Reuse grey water from hand washing by replacing the lid of your toilet tank with a sink lid. Sink Positive ($100, by Environmental Designworks) sits on top of the toilet tank and draws the pristine water through the faucet. Then, used water is drained into the tank for flushing. Also, consider a smaller-sized sink. Caroma sells sinks that have smaller capacities. “The bowl size is 2.5 liters and that limits someone filling up a sink with water that they don’t need,” Fradenburg concludes. CARRIE MADREN