How to Conserve Water
There are many ways to conserve water indoors and outdoors. Read the guidelines to help make your home more water efficient.
In the Kitchen/Laundry Room
- Equip faucets with aerators. Installing aerators on kitchen and bathroom sinks can reduce indoor water use by about 4%.
- Operate your clothes washer and dish washer with full loads only. By waiting until you have a full load of laundry or dishes, you’ll save on water and energy costs.
- Don’t leave the water running if you hand wash dishes. Fill the sink or a pail to wash and rinse dishes.
- Replace your clothes washer, the second highest water user indoors. New high-efficiency clothes washers can reduce water and energy use by 40%. Rebates for new clothes washers are available.
In the Bathroom
- Fix toilet leaks. Toilet leaks are easy to identify and fix. Check that the water level in your toilet tank is not above the overflow tube; the water level should be about an inch below the top of the tube. Also check your toilet flapper for proper seating and wear. Over time the flapper in your toilet tank becomes worn and does not work effectively to stop leaks into to the toilet bowl. To test for a toilet leak, place a few drops of food coloring or a toilet dye tablet in your tank. Wait a few minutes. If the coloring appears in the bowl, you likely have a leak.
- Shower instead of using the bath tub and take shorter showers. A full bath tub can use 25-70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons. If you take a bath, stopper the drain immediately and adjust the temperature as you fill the tub.
- Replace your old toilet, the largest water user indoors. If your toilet is from 1992 or earlier, you probably have an inefficient model that uses 3.5 gallons per flush or more. Consider replacing it with a new and improved high-efficiency toilet. These new models use 1.3 gallons per flush or less. Rebates are available for high efficiency toilets.
- Install low-flow showerheads. Replace older showerheads with new efficient models that use 2.5 gallons per minute or less. Older models can use up to 7 gallons of water per minute and can waste thousands of gallons per month.
- Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving. Remember that a typical faucet uses 2 gallons per minute!
Before you get started, check out everything you need to know about water smart gardening by visiting our demonstration site here.
Did you know that outdoor water consumption typically accounts for at least 50% of residential water use? Try following these simple steps to conserve water outdoors:
- Water your lawn only when it needs it. Over watering the lawn is a common wasteful practice. Step on your lawn; if the grass springs back up when you remove pressure, it doesn’t need watering.
- Set your irrigation schedule for the season and your local conditions. Watering times will vary by season, climate, soil type, and plant types. Remember to turn off irrigation during the winter rainy season (weather permitting).
- Plant drought tolerant species. Reduce outdoor watering needs by planting species appropriate for the Bay Area’s dry climate. Plants native to the area are already adapted to the soil and weather conditions and will generally require less water and work to thrive.
- Upgrade your irrigation hardware. For example, replace high flow sprinklers with drip irrigation (where appropriate). Santa Clara County residents may be eligible for rebates for irrigation hardware upgrades.
- Hydrozone: when planting, group plants together according to their water needs.
- Water during the cool part of the day. Reduce evaporation by watering lawns and plants only at night or early morning before dawn.
- Use mulch. Place several inches of mulch around trees and plants; a layer of mulch will slow the evaporation of moisture from your landscape and inhibit the growth of weeds.
- Install shut-off nozzles on all garden hoses. Make sure your garden hose has an automatic shut-off.
- Sweep sidewalks and driveways. Hosing down pavement around your home can waste hundreds of gallons. A broom is the proper tool to clean these areas.
- Don’t water the pavement. When your irrigation system is on, check for overspray. Position sprinkler heads to water lawns and gardens, not the pavement surrounding your landscape. Tune sprinkler heads so that the radius of spray is appropriate for the application. Try to keep a planted buffer between the lawn and the sidewalk to minimize runoff.
- Avoid runoff on slopes. Try to avoid planting on slopes (especially lawns); if your lawn or garden is already on a slope you can reduce your watering times so that excess water does not run off. Create basins around plants to catch water and prevent runoff.
- Check your irrigation system often for broken sprinkler heads and irrigation tubing.Broken sprinkler heads waste water and can potentially damage your landscape. Check sprinkler heads, drip system emitters, and drip lines for breaks and cracks.
- Don’t let water run while washing the car. Clean the car with a bucket of soapy water. Use the hose only to rinse it off.
- Replace sprinklers with drip irrigation when possible. Use drip irrigation for trees, shrubs, and flowerbeds. Drip systems use less water and direct water where it is required by the plant. Santa Clara County residents may be eligible for rebates replacing inefficient irrigation equipment with new efficient equipment.
- Use a pool cover. Pool covers will prevent evaporation and decrease heat loss, saving water and energy.
Irrigation and Lawn Care
- Step on your lawn; if the grass springs back, it doesn't need water
- Let your grass grow - Longer grass absorbs more sunlight making it stronger, thicker, more resistant to weeds and less prone to water loss from evaporation
- Use a rain gauge. Put a rain gauge in your yard. If you get 1 inch of rain in a week, you can skip your next lawn watering.
- Check your garden hose for leaks. If your hose leaks at the connection to the spigot, replace the hose washer and wrap the threads with pipe tape.
- Aerate your lawn: Lawn aeration helps strengthen and lengthen roots, so that your lawn will require less water in the future.
- Water your lawn early in the morning. Watering before 8:00am helps prevent water lost to evaporation.
- Keep track of how long you water - it's easy to forget that you've turned on the sprinkler. Set a timer in the kitchen or on your phone.
- Water only when the lawn needs it. Lawns rarely need water more than 2-3 times a week, and some weeks may not require any at all.
- Position sprinklers to prevent watering the pavement - driveways and sidewalks don't need water to grow!
- Consider a soaker hoseto avoid runoff and allow the water to absorb slowly: Watering at a slower rate uses the water more efficiently and makes for a happier plants.
Car Washing and General Outdoors
- Don't hose down the driveway, garage or sidewalk; use a broom instead.
- Install porous walkways and patios, they keep water in your yard and prevent wasteful runoff.
- Consider investing in a rain barrel. Rain barrels collect and store rain water runoff. Water collected can be used to water outdoor plants when needed instead of turning on your hose or sprinklers.
Swimming Pool Tips
- Use your pool cover. It reduces evaporation, saving you up to 1,000 gallons of water each month.
- Turn down the pool heater; hotter water evaporates more quickly.
- Keep filters clean, you'll prevent backwash and put less stress on the filter pumps.
- Plant a windbreak - small trees and shrubs around the perimeter of your pool can help block wind and reduce evaporation.
- Is your pool leaking? A leaking pool can waste more than 100,000 gallons of water per year. If you think you have a leak, check at the filter, pump, heater and valves and check the ground for moisture. Turn the pump on and off to look for spraying water when the pump is turned off.
- Toilets are typically the largest indoor water user in a residential home. A low-flow toilet uses about 2.4 fewer gallons per flush than a traditional toilet.
- Find toilet leaks: Drop a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and wait about 5 minutes. Check the toilet bowl; if the water is colored, you have a leak. Finding and repairing leaks can save 73,000 gallons of water a year!
- Consider a fill-cycle diverter, which is easy to install and can save up to half a gallon per flush.
- Consider an energy efficient dishwasher, they use 10 fewer gallons per cycle than a traditional dishwasher.
- Skip the pre-rinse. Modern dishwashers are designed to sense debris and can work even better when you do not pre-rinse, and you’ll save about 24 gallons of water per load.
- Run full loads in the dishwasher for water AND energy savings.
- Use the dishwasher instead of washing by hand. Your dishwasher may use as little as 3 gallons per load- washing by hand uses about 27 gallons!
At the Faucet
- Running water while brushing teeth, shaving and dish washing all adds up; turn off the tap when you don't need the water. Turning off the tap while brushing teeth alone saves 3,000 gallons of water per year!
- Replace your faucet aerator with a WaterSense model - just one low-flow aerator can save 700 gallons of water each year, that's the same as 45 showers worth of water!
- Turn the tap off during your shave. A five-minute shave with running water uses 10 gallons of water. For a daily shaver, that’s 3,650 gallons a year!
- Find leaks – at just one drip per second, your faucet is wasting 5 gallons of water per day – that’s over 2,000 gallons a year!
- Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth and save 3,000 gallons of water a year. That would almost fill an above-ground pool!
- Shave one minute off your shower and you can save 900 gallons of water a year. That’s about what it would take to fill two hot tubs!