Chicago was built in this very location because of its access to water. Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the Earth’s fresh water. One might ask, with so much water nearby why worry about wasting it? As caretakers of this precious resource, it is our duty to care for it responsibly and ensure that it remains a healthy resource for future generations.
Showering is one of the leading ways we use water in the home, accounting for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use—for the average family, that adds up to nearly 40 gallons per day. That’s nearly 1.2 trillion gallons of water used in the United States annually just for showering, or enough to supply the water needs of New York and New Jersey for a year! By retrofitting your shower with a WaterSense labeled shower head, you can save a considerable amount of this water.
Did you know that standard shower heads use 2.5 gallons of water per minute (gpm)? Water–saving shower heads that earn the WaterSense label must demonstrate that they use no more than 2.0 gpm. The WaterSense label also ensures that these products provide a satisfactory shower that is equal to or better than conventional shower heads on the market. EPA worked with a variety of stakeholders—including consumers who tested various shower heads—to develop criteria for water coverage and spray intensity. All products bearing the WaterSense label—including water–efficient shower heads—must be independently certified to ensure they meet EPA water efficiency and performance criteria.
Toilets are by far the main source of water use in the home, accounting for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption. Older, inefficient toilets that use as much as 6 gallons per flush also happen to be a major source of wasted water in many homes.
Recent advancements have allowed toilets to use 1.28 gallons per flush or less while still providing equal or superior performance. This is 20 percent less water than the current federal standard of 1.6 gallons per flush. TheWaterSense label is used on toilets that are independently certified to meet rigorous criteria for both performance and efficiency. Only water–saving toilets that complete the certification process can earn the WaterSense label.
By replacing old, inefficient toilets with WaterSense labeled models, the average family can reduce water used for toilets by 20 to 60 percent—that’s nearly 13,000 gallons of water savings for your home every year! They could also save more than $110 per year in water costs, and $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilets.
Most of us know we can save water if we turn off the tap while brushing our teeth (as much as 3,000 gallons per year!), but did you know that there are products that will help save water when you turn on the tap too? WaterSense labeled faucets and faucet accessories (such as aerators) are high–performing, water–efficient fixtures that will help you reduce water use in your home and save money on water bills. By retrofitting your entire bathroom with WaterSense labeled fixtures, you can save even more.
WaterSense labeled bathroom sink faucets and accessories that use a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute can reduce a sink’s water flow by 30 percent or more from the standard flow of 2.2 gallons per minute without sacrificing performance. We could save billions of gallons nationwide each year by retrofitting bathroom sink faucets with models that have earned the WaterSense label.
All products bearing the WaterSense label complete an independent certification process to ensure they meet EPA criteria. Faucets and faucet accessories—products that can be attached easily to existing faucets to save water—that obtain the WaterSense label have demonstrated both water efficiency and the ability to provide ample flow.
Replacing old, inefficient faucets and aerators with WaterSense labeled models can save the average family 700 gallons of water per year, equal to the amount of water needed to take 40 showers. Also, since these water savings reduce demands on water heaters, households will also save enough energy to run a hairdryer 10 minutes a day for a year. Achieving these savings can be as easy as twisting on a WaterSense labeled aerator, which can cost as little as a few dollars.
When it comes to a home’s irrigation system, a little maintenance goes a long way. Before you ramp up your watering efforts, spruce up your irrigation system by remembering four simple steps—inspect, connect, direct, and select. Homes with clock timer controlled irrigation systems use about 50 percent more water outdoors than homes without irrigation systems. Your system can waste even more if it’s programmed incorrectly, a sprinkler head is pointed in the wrong direction, or you have a leak.
Simple Tips for Sprucing Up Your Sprinkler
|Inspect. Check your system for clogged, broken or missing sprinkler heads.
Better yet, go with a pro—find an irrigation professional certified by a WaterSense labeled program to do the work for you.
|Connect. Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes or hoses. If water pools in your landscape or you have large wet areas, you could have a leak in your system. A leak about as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen (or 1/32nd of an inch) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month!|
|Direct. Are you watering the driveway, house, or sidewalk instead of your yard? Redirect sprinklers to apply water only to the landscape.|
|Select. An improperly scheduled irrigation controller can waste water and money. Update your system’s watering schedule to align with the seasons, or select a WaterSense labeled weather based irrigation controller to take the guesswork out of scheduling.|
Timing is Everything
No matter what kind of yard or landscape you have, it’s important to know exactly how much water your plants need before you turn on the sprinkler. Smart watering practices reduce runoff and may decrease the need for pesticides and fertilizers. Keeping the following questions in mind when you do water can help you maintain a beautiful and healthy yard without wasting water or money.
- When? Avoid watering in the middle of the day when the hot sun will evaporate much of the water before it can get to thirsty plants.
- How often? The answer depends on several factors, including where you live, recent weather conditions, and the type of plants in your landscape. A rule of thumb for many areas of the country is that lawns only need up to one inch of water a week, including rainfall. Shrubs, trees, and other perennials generally will need even less because of their deeper root structure. Check with your area’s Cooperative Extension Service or local water utility for expert advice on watering needs in your area.
- How long? If water begins to pool, turn off your sprinkler to prevent overwatering and runoff. Watering plants, including turfgrass, too much or too frequently can drown plants or result in shallow roots. Overwatering can lead to a host of other problems including weed growth, disease, fungus, and stormwater runoff that pollutes local waterways with fertilizers and pesticides. Remember, most of your plants will need less water than your turfgrass.
- What else? When the rain does come, saving water from storms is a great way to supplement your efficiency measures. Rain barrels or cisterns can be used to harvest rain water for irrigation and other outdoor water uses. Check with your local water utility for possible product rebates.
If you’re designing a new landscape or rethinking your current one, the WaterSense Water Budget Tool can help you plan your landscape for water-efficiency. With two simple inputs, such as zip code and yard size, the water budget tool can tell you if you have designed a landscape that will use an appropriate amount of water for your climate.
Once established, these plants require little water beyond normal rainfall. Also, because native plants are adapted to local soils and climatic conditions, they rarely require the addition of fertilizer and are more resistant to pests and diseases than are other species. Be careful when selecting exotic species, as some may be invasive, which may require more water and could displace native plants. For more information on appropriate plant choice, visit these listings of native or regionally-appropriate plants.
Grouping vegetation with similar watering needs into specific “hydrozones” reduces water use and protects the plants from both underwatering and overwatering by allowing you to water to each zone’s specific needs. For example, turf areas and shrub areas should always be separated into different hydrozones because of their differing water needs.
Areas of the same site may vary significantly in soil type or exposure to sun and wind, as well as evaporation rates and moisture levels. Be mindful of a site’s exposure to the elements and choose plants that will thrive in the site’s conditions.
Turfgrass receives the highest percentage of irrigation water in traditional landscaping. The most commonly used varieties of turfgrass require more water than many landscape plants, such as groundcovers, shrubs, and trees. In addition, homeowners tend to overwater turfgrass. As a result, landscapes with large expanses of turfgrass generally use more water than those with a mixture of other plants. To reduce outdoor water use, plant turfgrass only where it has a practical function, such as a play area. Choose turfgrass types that don’t use a lot of water, such as low water-using or native grasses and those that can withstand drought. For more information on turfgrass and water use, see EPA’s Research Report on Turfgrass Allowance
Slopes can be challenging because of the potential for erosion and runoff. If slopes cannot be avoided in your landscape design, install plantings with deeper root zones such as native groundcovers and shrubs to provide stabilization and prevent erosion.
Flo’s Kids Zone!
Do you know how much water a family of four uses every day in the United States? Not 50 gallons, not 100 gallons, but 400 gallons! You could take up to 10 baths with that much water—but who would want to do that? Fortunately, there are many things we can do to save. Kids aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow, they’re the dreamers and do-ers of today. “Test Your WaterSense” and try other fun activities at Flo’s Kids Zone!