Here’s our guide to on how to save water at home! 27 practical tips for every room, helping you to conserve water use and save money.
There’s no doubt Australia is a land of droughts and flooding rains.
Since I first wrote this article over a decade ago (it’s been extensively updated), we’ve gone through two droughts and two major flooding periods.
Now we’re entering El Nino again, and it’s important to knuckle down and conserve water so it lasts.
The average household daily water usage is between 150 and 350 litres per day, depending on the region. Not surprisingly, we use less water in flood periods, and places with generally higher rainfall use less water, although the varying price per litre between regions plays a significant role as well.
Let’s talk about the cost of water because it’s important. We pay for water, so conserving water saves us money. It’s not just about doing good; we benefit directly from conserving water.
When we save money on a personal level, it helps prevent the ‘tragedy of the commons’ scenario. This is where common resources are depleted because we all become so worried other people will overconsume shared resources that we overconsume to ensure we don’t miss out on our perceived ‘fair share’.
Kinda like the whole toilet paper incident from a couple of years ago.
To be fair, industry and agriculture consume the most water, but we can only work within our sphere of influence, which for most of us is our household consumption.
Below are 27 simple and practical ways to reduce your water usage in the home. It can be amazing how much small changes and little habits can add up to significant savings.
How to Save Water in the Bathroom
1. Install Low-Flow Fixtures: A regular shower head uses between 15 and 20 litres of water per minute, while a water-saving shower head uses around 9 litres per minute.
Assuming you take a five-minute shower, simply switching shower heads could save up to 20,075 litres of water per year per person.
2. Take Shorter Showers: Using a 9-litre shower head, a 10-minute shower consumes 90 litres of water, while a five-minute shower consumes 45 litres, saving 16,425 litres per person a year. The average song goes for around 3-4 minutes, so shower to your favourite tune, and you’ll save money.
3. Collect Shower Warm-Up Water: Collect the cold water that comes out before your shower warms up and use it in the garden, in the washing machine, to clean the shower, clean the car, wash the floor, or flush the toilet.
4. Turn Off the Tap: Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth or lather up for shaving. Add some water to the basin for shaving to rinse the razor (just like in the old days); this will use less water than a running tap.
5. Limit Baths: Opt for showers over baths as they generally use less water.
However, if you’re looking to unwind, it’s better to have a warm bath than a long shower. The average bath holds 95 litres (leaving room for a person) – about the equivalent of a ten-minute shower with a low-flow head.
6. Flush Less: You probably already have a dual-flush toilet; they’ve been mandatory for new homes for a long time. As 20% of water use in the home is from flushing the toilet, it’s important to use the half-flush button whenever practical.
You can even go old school, especially at night: ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.’ That was my dad’s motto.
Also, don’t use the toilet to dispose of items that shouldn’t go down the loo. You’re not only saving water, you’re preventing costly pipe blockages.
Ways to Save Water in the Kitchen
7. Opt for a Water-Efficient Dishwasher: If replacing your dishwasher, choose a high-efficiency model that uses less water.
8. Run Full Dishwasher Loads: Wait until you have a full load of dishes before running the dishwasher.
9. Scrape Dishes: Scrape off food scraps from dishes instead of rinsing them before putting them in the dishwasher or washing them by hand. A silicone spatula is ideal for the job.
10. Tips for Washing Dishes by Hand: When hand-washing dishes, wash them in just an inch or so of water, starting with the smallest, least dirty dishes first. As you rinse, the sink fills further, giving you enough water to wash larger items.
Alternatively, use a little cold water in a bowl or second sink to rinse.
Rather than leaving the water running to pre-rinsing dishes, put a little water in the sink and give everything a pre-wash scrub.
11. Install a Tap Aerator: Install a tap aerator to reduce water flow while maintaining water pressure. They can reduce water usage by around 50%.
12. Use a Bowl for Washing Vegetables: Fill a bowl with water to wash fruits and vegetables instead of letting the tap run.
13. Reuse Pasta Water: After boiling pasta, let the water cool and use it to water plants or use the boiling water to kill weeds.
14. Steam vegetables: Steaming vegetables uses less water and also retains more nutrients in the food.
How to Save Water in the Laundry
15. Use a High-Efficiency Washer: If you’re looking for a new washing machine, consider getting the most water and energy-efficient machine in your budget. The WELS water rating sticker will help you choose a water-efficient machine.
16. Run Full Loads: Wait until you have a full load of laundry before using the washing machine.
16. Adjust Water Levels: If you’re not washing a full load, use the appropriate water level setting for the size of your laundry load. Many modern machines adjust water levels automatically.
How to Save Water in the Garden
17. Collect Rainwater: If you have the space, a water tank or rain barrel will save money when watering the garden. Some councils give rebates for installing a water tank.
18. Water Early or Late: Water your garden early in the morning or late in the evening to reduce water evaporation. Avoid watering the lawn.
19. Use a Broom: Instead of hosing down driveways and sidewalks, use a broom to clean them.
20. Choose Water-Wise Plants: Opt for water-wise plants like many Australian natives or succulents that require less watering.
21. Mulch Garden Beds: Mulch helps retain soil moisture and reduces the need for watering.
22. Wash the Car in the Rain: My father-in-law can be found without fail washing his car in the rain. If practical, wash your car on the grass, and if you don’t have a heavy rain shower to help rinse off the suds, use the warm-up water from the shower.
General Water-Saving Tips
23. Teach the kids: Teach everyone in your household about the importance of water conservation. Our water company did a talk at our kid’s primary school, and my kids became very passionate about conserving water.
24. Fix Leaks: Regularly check for and repair any leaks in taps, toilets, or pipes. We put a bucket under our dripping laundry tap before getting it repaired, and it was shocking how quickly the bucket filled up a single drip at a time. Small leaks add up to big water waste.
25. Monitor Water Bills: Keep an eye on your water bills for any unexpected increases that might indicate leaks. Checking the water meter periodically can nip leaks in the bud before you get a huge water bill shock.
26. Insulate Pipes: Insulate hot water pipes to reduce the time it takes for hot water to reach taps, saving water in the process.
27. Look for government rebates: Some state and local governments offer rebates and incentives for installing water-conserving taps and water tanks. If you plan on investing in water-saving items, check out your local and state government websites for possible subsidies.
By using these water-saving tips to make small changes to your everyday habits, you save water at home and reduce your bills at the same time. Water efficiency will become increasingly important as we head into an El Nino weather pattern, so it’s important we all reduce the amount of water we use.