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CONSERVATION : Cut Water Use at Home and Save Money

August 14, 1993|From Associated Press

Water covers three-fourths of our planet, but less than 1% of it is available for human use. As pressures from population growth and pollution continue to grow, the cost of finding and purifying our water is increasing.

Simple home conservation measures can easily cut your water use in half and save your family hundreds of dollars a year in water bills. Here's how:

* In the bathroom. More than 75% of our water is used in the bathroom. Toilets are the worst guzzlers. Older toilets use 5 to 6 gallons per flush. Models built since the 1970s use about 3.5 gallons.

The best water saver for the bathroom is a low-flow toilet that uses only 1.5 to 1.6 gallons per flush. The low-flowers cost about the same as a regular toilet, but they eventually pay for themselves by reducing water bills. Retrofitting existing toilets with new flappers--the rubber valves that seal the tank--will also help reduce water use.

The biggest consumer of hot water in your home is the shower. Older shower heads deliver up to eight gallons per minute. You should shop for a shower head that puts out three gallons or less per minute. A shower head retrofit can save a family 14,000 gallons of water per year and reduce water-heating costs by up to $80. Prices range from $10 to $50. Water-saving shower heads are preferable to flow restrictors that insert between the shower head and the shower arm. Restrictors may result in a weaker spray.

Don't leave the water running while you brush your teeth, shave or wash your face. Fill the sink rather than use a constant stream. This simple procedure can save a family as much as 2,000 gallons a year.

* Front-load washers use 33% less water than top-load washers. For the average family of four, this adds up to a savings of 3,000 gallons a year. Be mindful of the water-level settings. Don't wash a medium load on a setting intended for more--a mistake manufacturers say people frequently make.

Washing dishes by hand takes about 16 gallons of water. The same dishes can be cleaned in a dishwasher with 7 to 10 gallons. You reduce your savings if you prerinse or wash less than full loads.

A faucet aerator can cut water use in half and save up to 100 gallons a year per faucet. Aerators slow a conventional faucet's flow down to about 2 gallons per minute. Aerators for kitchen and bath faucets can be found in most hardware stores. They cost between $3 and $10 and simply screw onto your faucet nozzle.

* On your next trip away from home, check for leaks in your water system. Write down the numbers on your water meter when you leave and check the meter again upon returning. If it has moved at all, you have a leak. Your first suspect should be the toilet. Add a few drops of a nonstaining dye to the water in the tank. If the color shows up in the bowl, or if it's gone after a few hours, you have a leak. Check the flushball or flapper and replace if necessary. A sheet of paper left under a faucet overnight will indicate a leak there. Also check water supply lines and fittings inside your cabinets for signs of dampness. If you can't find the leak, call a plumber. Undetected leaks can cause structural damage and attract termites and carpenter ants.

* Water your lawn and garden early in the morning. Watering during the day loses water to evaporation, and watering at night may lead to fungus or mildew problems. For efficient and hassle-free watering, install trickle irrigation and timed sprinklers. Ground covers and other drought-tolerant landscaping methods greatly reduce summer water demand.

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