You might think of water conservation as a concern most relevant during summer, when you water lawns, fill swimming pools, wash cars and irrigate crops. But while it’s true that your water usage may spike during warmer months, those seasonal activities actually aren’t the biggest consumers of water in an average American household. Everyday activities like flushing toilets, shaving, and washing clothes, dishes and even your hands account for most of the water an average household uses in a year.
Consider these facts from the U.S. Geological Survey, and you can see that water conservation needs to be a year-round goal:
- Flushing the toilet uses between 1.2 to 1.6 gallons per flush for newer toilets, and 3 gallons for older styles, making the toilet the number one way in which Americans use water.
- Washing a single load of clothes consumes about 25 gallons of water if you have a newer machine and 40 gallons if your machine is older.
- Washing your hands or face and shaving your legs takes about 1 gallon of water for each activity.
- Tooth-brushing uses less than a gallon, but only if you turn off the tap while you brush.
- Washing dishes by hand takes 4 gallons per minute. By machine, it’s about 20 gallons per load.
Remember that many of those activities – washing your hands, dishes and clothes, for example – also require energy to heat the water. Conserving water and conserving energy go hand in hand, especially during cold winter months.
So how can you conserve water and energy during the winter? Here are some easy actions you can take:
- Use an online water usage calculator to see how much water your family really uses.
- Use TXU Energy MyEnergy DashboardSMtools to gain a better understanding of how your household uses energy.
- Use less hot water. According to the EPA, heating water can account for a quarter of the electric bill for homes with electric water heaters. Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. Use cold water to brush your teeth, and warm water with soap for hand washing. And remember to turn off the tap while brushing your teeth!
- Use your dishwasher, rather than washing by hand. Remember the USGS numbers for dish washing? If you spend just 10 minutes washing dishes by hand, you’ll use 40 gallons of hot water. Running the dishwasher uses half that amount.
- Install low-flow shower heads. The EPA reports that showering accounts for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use – up to 40 gallons per day for an average family. Switching to a WaterSense labeled shower head could save you 2,900 gallons of water per year! You’ll save even more water and energy if you shorten your shower.
- If you’re remodeling, upgrade old commodes to modern low-flush toilets. Even if you’re not in a position to replace older toilets, you can improve their efficiency with a very simple – and very old – trick. Just place a brick in the tank. The brick displaces about half a gallon of water, reducing the amount needed per flush with minimal – if any – effect on the toilet’s flushing power.
Conserving water and energy is good for the environment – and your wallet – at any time of year. A few simple steps can help your family do both, regardless of the season.