Household water use is an opportunity for huge savings within reach of most Americans. According to the Drawdown book, the average American uses 98 gallons of water per day. Of that amount, 60% is used indoors (toilets, washing machines, showers and faucets), 30% is used outdoors (watering lawns, gardens and plants), and 10% is lost to leaks. Since hot water requires energy for heating, reducing our water usage for hot water (showers, faucets, dishwashers and washing machines) can save water and energy – a double whammy.

Avoid Decorative Water Features in Landscaping

Here are some ways to reduce your water usage at home:

Low-Flush Toilets

Low-flush toilets have come a long way in terms of water savings and effectiveness at removing solids. Our household uses 1.28 gallon per flush (GPF) toilets, compared to the off-the-shelf 1.6 GPF toilets in newer homes. Older homes may have toilets using upwards of 3.5 gallons for each flush! By upgrading to a 1.28 GPF toilet, you can cut your flush water usage by 2/3! These low-flush models are available at Home Depot and online.

Save Water for the Firefighters!

Low-Flow Showers

The technology in low-flow showers is incredible – showerheads that use 40% less than traditional counterparts can still feel as luxurious, thanks to aerator technology. Our household uses 1.5 gallon per minute showers, compared to the 2.5 GPM versions installed in newer homes. We also installed a quick shut-off valve on the showerhead (available at the hardware store) that allows us to turn off the tap while lathering, shaving, cleaning, etc. and turn it back on at the same temperature. This has been tremendously successful in trimming our shower usage while not compromising the luxury of a hot shower.

Low-Flow Showers Will Wash the Sand Off

Low-Flow Faucets

Low-flow faucets can be installed in your bathrooms for extra savings. Just think about this when you’re brushing your teeth or washing your hands next time – traditional bathroom sinks use 2.5 gallons per minute, while low-flow aerators can be installed to reduce the flow down to 0.5 gallons per minute. That’s an 80% savings with one tiny piece of hardware available at any hardware store!

Low-Flow Faucets for Hand Washing

Water-Efficient Appliances

ENERGY STAR rated washing machines use 25% less energy and 33% less water than standard models. ENERGY STAR rated dishwashers use 12% less energy than standard models. When purchasing your next major appliance, look for the ENERGY STAR label!

Only Water What Is Needed

Irrigation

Irrigation accounts for more water usage than any other household use (including washing dishes, washing clothes, bathing and flushing). This non-essential usage is one of the first things addressed on the west coast of the US during a drought. When California is in a drought, you can drive through Beverly Hills and see brown lawns in front of multi-million dollar mansions. However, you do not need to wait for a drought in your area to begin using irrigation water responsibly. Here are the ways our household saves water for irrigation:

  • Xeriscaping: the plants in our front yard and perimeter are drought-tolerant, wildfire-friendly species that do not require watering every day. Instead of lawn in the front and back yard, we installed gravel for the front yard and half of the back yard (playground area), with the lawn only covering about 25% of the property.
  • Drip Irrigation: the plants in the gravel landscape beds use drip irrigation instead of sprinklers to avoid water lost to evaporation. The sprinklers for the lawn in the back yard are pointed about four inches off the ground to reduce evaporation, and are pointed towards the lawn to spray only where needed. Careful planning with your irrigation system can eliminate watering the sidewalks and driveways even if you do use turf in your front lawn.
  • Irrigation Timer: our irrigation system is programmed on a schedule based on the time of year to account for the expected rainy season in Oregon.
  • Weather Controller: we also use a weather controller (Rain Bird) to shut off the irrigation if it is raining or snowing.
  • Non-potable Water: our irrigation water comes from a mountain snow-melt reservoir first, with a city water backup.

Xeriscaping

Actions You Can Take Today:

  • Look up the flow rate of your household toilets, faucets and showers and see how much you could save by upgrading to low-flow fixtures
  • See if your city offers rebates for installing low-flow fixtures (many cities give away free low-flow showerheads!)
  • When replacing existing fixtures, opt for low-flow models (including washing machines and dishwashers)
  • Install and program an irrigation timer and weather controller if you have landscaping that uses irrigation

Related LEED® v4 Credits:

  • LEED BD+C, WEp Outdoor Water Use Reduction (required)
  • LEED BD+C, WEc Outdoor Water Use Reduction (1-2 pts)
  • LEED BD+C, WEp Indoor Water Use Reduction (required)
  • LEED BD+C, WEp Indoor Water Use Reduction (1-6 pts)