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Water is essential. We use it to cook, to clean, and to keep our lawns and gardens green. It's in the products we use and we use it for many different purposes each day. That adds up to a lot of water and it's surprising how much of it is wasted unnecessarily. Thankfully, there are small steps each of us can take to use water more wisely, both inside and outside our home. In fact, by following the three rules of water conservation – reduce, repair, and retrofit – we can cut our water use in half.

Click on the images below for tips to help you reduce your water use in different areas around your home.

Kitchen

10% of the water we use is in the kitchen. By making a few small changes to your cooking, cleaning, washing and drinking habits, you can significantly reduce your water use.

  1. Washing half loads in the dishwasher wastes water. Waiting until it's full before running it will save up to 10,000 litres of water a year. To further cut your water use, choose the short cycle or install a high-efficiency model.
  2. Don't let the water run while you're cleaning fruits and vegetables. Washing them in a partially filled sink instead saves up to 5 litres of water each time.
  3. Installing a low-flow aerator, which adds air to your water stream, on your kitchen tap can reduce your water consumption by as much as 50%.
  4. Always turn taps off tightly so they do not drip and if you find a leak repair it promptly. One leak can waste several thousand litres of water per year.
  5. When washing dishes by hand never run water continuously. Instead, wash dishes in a partially filled sink and then rinse them in a separate sink or bowl, or by using the spray attachment on your tap.
  6. When boiling vegetables, you can save water by using just enough water to cover them and putting a tightly fitting lid on the pot. Using a microwave to cook vegetables uses even less water.
  7. Keep a bottle of drinking water in your refrigerator rather than running your tap until the water gets cool. Remember to rinse the container and renew the water every two to three days.
  8. Don't defrost frozen foods under running water. To save water, use a microwave to thaw things or plan ahead and use the refrigerator instead.
  9. Check your water heater to make sure the thermostat isn't set too high. A lot of water is wasted when you have to add cold water to very hot water to cool it.
  10. Instead of letting water run down the drain while you wait for it to heat up, collect it in a jug or bowl and use it to water plants or wash vegetables and fruits.

Laundry Room

Doing laundry accounts for about 20% of the water we consume at home. There are many easy steps you can take in the laundry room to cut the amount of water you use.

  1. Doing many small loads of laundry wastes water. By washing only full loads, the average family could save 2,000 litres of water a month, as well as a lot of energy.
  2. Adjusting the water level on your washing machine to match the size of your load will save a lot of water that would normally have been wasted.
  3. Installing a high-efficiency washing machine will save almost 96 litres of water per load, making it one of the most effective ways you can reduce your water usage.
  4. Use the suds-saving feature on your washing machine, if you have one, to save water by recycling the rinse water from the last load.
  5. Switching to a concentrated liquid laundry detergent, which has less water in it, conserves water in the manufacturing process, creates less packaging waste for the environment and uses less energy during both the manufacture and transportation of the product.
  6. Locate your master water shut-off valve. That way, if a pipe bursts in your home, you'll be able to shut it off quickly and won't waste water unnecessarily.
  7. Promptly repair any leaks around the taps, hoses and fittings of your washer, and the taps on your laundry sink. Even if you have to pay a plumber to fix a leak you'll still save money (and water) in the long run.
  8. When replacing a washing machine consider purchasing a front-loading model. Front-loading washers use less water than top-loading washers do.
  9. When shopping, try to avoid buying clothes with labels that say "Wash Separately", since extra water and energy is required to maintain these garments.
  10. When washing clothing by hand, put a plug in the drain and use the minimum amount of water necessary, rather than letting the tap run continuously.

Bathroom

About 65% of our total indoor home water use occurs in our bathrooms, and toilets are the single greatest water users. Making small changes in your bathroom habits can reduce your water use substantially.

  1. The average 15-minute shower uses about 300 L of water. Cutting your shower time in half could save up to 300 bathtubs of water a year.
  2. Installing a low-flow showerhead will conserve water by at least 25%. A family of four could save more than an average swimming pool full of water a year.
  3. Promptly repair any leaks in and around taps. One drop per second wastes approximately 10,000 litres a year. Most leaks are simple and inexpensive to fix.
  4. Turning off the tap while you brush your teeth will save up to 8 litres of water a minute. To save even more water, install a low-flow aerator on your tap.
  5. When washing or shaving, partially fill the sink and use that water rather than running the tap continuously. This conserves about 60% of the water normally used. Use short bursts of water to clean razors.
  6. Placing a weighted plastic bottle filled with water in your toilet tank will reduce water usage by about 20%. Toilet tank "inserts", available at most plumbing and hardware stores, are a low-cost alternative.
  7. Why flush something so precious down the drain? Installing low-flush toilets that use 6 litres or less per flush can reduce your water usage by 40% to 50%.
  8. Check for leaks in your toilet tank fittings by putting a small amount of food colouring into the tank. Wait 15 minutes. If the colour has spread to the bowl without flushing you have a leak that needs repairing.
  9. Ensure that the float ball in your toilet tank is properly adjusted so that the water level does not exceed the height of the overflow tube. Also, check the plunge ball and flapper valve to make sure they are properly "seated". If you need help, call a plumber.
  10. If you have a water meter, periodically record your meter reading just before going to bed and then again in the morning before using any water. A difference in the two readings usually means there's a leak that needs repairing.

Outside

When summer arrives and it's time to water the lawn and wash the car, household water use can increase by 50% or more! Watering and washing wisely can save water without comprising your landscape or look.

  1. Lawns and gardens require only 5 millimetres of water per day during warm weather and even less is needed during spring and fall. Don't over-water in anticipation of a shortage. Soil cannot store extra water.
  2. It's more efficient and effective to water your lawn every three to five days, rather than for a short period every day. Most shrubs and young trees need water only once per week, even in warm weather.
  3. Lawn clippings are over 50% water. Leaving them on your lawn enables you to use less water and fertilizer and produces less run-off, which is good for the streams, lakes and rivers.
  4. Do not turn on sprinklers and leave them running continuously for the entire day. Use shut-off timers or on/off timers, if possible, instead. Using a Go Blue water timer is a great way to remember to shut off the sprinkler.
  5. To avoid water loss due to evaporation, water only during the cool part of the day, in the morning or evening. Do not water on windy days.
  6. Keeping your lawns healthy and maintaining them at a height of 6.5 centimetres not only saves water because taller grass holds water better; a healthy lawn also chokes out weeds better.
  7. Wash your vehicle only when absolutely necessary. When you do, don't leave the hose running. Use a bucket of soapy water and a trigger nozzle instead.
  8. Cleaning your sidewalks and driveways with a broom instead of the garden house will help conserve water and help keep you active.
  9. Set your mower blades high – five cm to eight cm. Short lawns not only require more water, they are also harder to maintain and encourage weeds and disease.
  10. If you have a swimming pool, use a cover to reduce water loss due to evaporation and check your system regularly for leaks.
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Tips source: Water Conservation Tips, Environment Canada, 2007. Reproduced with the permission of the Department, 2008.