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Reducing Your Water Bill

Last updated 2009.02.18



General | Outdoors | Toilets | Clothes Washing | Showers | Leaks | Other


By popular demand, we have gathered together our various residential water conservation tips here in one place.

Please note: for purposes of illustration, some calculations are presented on this page. Of necessity, these calculations are based on assumptions and are approximations, and may not match your specific situation. As they say, your mileage may vary.


General

Where to Start

The first step is to determine where you use your water. For most residential users, the information in this table (courtesy the American Water Works Association Research Foundation) is likely a reasonable average for North Americans.

In order of per capita usage, the biggest water uses are:

  • Outdoor use (pools, lawn and garden watering, washing and cleaning, etc.)
  • Toilets
  • Clothes Washing
  • Showers
  • Leaks
  • Other (including drinking water, hand washing, dish washing, bathing and more)

    Turn it off

    The easiest, cheapest and fastest way to save money on your water bill is still conservation. This applies to all facets (if not faucets) of your water consumption. Turn the taps off. For example, when brushing your teeth, fill up a cup, then turn off the tap. Wet your brush in the cup. Brush your teeth. Rinse your mouth with some of the water from the cup. Rinse your brush in the rest of the water from the cup, then use that water from the cup to rinse out the sink. Leaving the water running while burshing can easily waste several litres of water. You can reduce that to a small fraction of a litre.

    The following table shows some of the most common investments consumers can make to reduce their water consumption.

    Device

    Cost (retail)

    Install time (in seconds)

    Waste?

    Water savings (household

    litres/day)

    Payback time ($0.002/litre)

    Payback (daily litres /$)

    Shower head

    $25

    600

    Yes

    110

    114 days

    4.4

    Faucet aerator

    $5

    300

    Yes

    20

    100 days

    5

    Toilet tank displacement

    $9

    1800

    No

    32

    141 days

    3.6

    "6-litre" toilet (from "13-litre")

    $200

    14400

    Yes

    128

    782 days

    0.64

    "6-litre" toilet (from "20-litre")

    $250

    18000

    Yes

    160

    780 days

    0.64

    Water Saver

    $5

    60

    No

    43

    60 days

    8.6

    Outdoor Residential Water Use

    Stop watering the street - it's not going to grow

    Many people water their lawns to excess. Monitor your watering to ensure that water is not simply running off your lawn and garden and out to the drains in the street.

    Collect and use rainwater

    It's free, and it's better for your lawn and garden than the chlorinated water that typically comes from the municipal supply. Also, the collected rainwater is likely closer to air temperature than city supply water, and will provide less thermal shock to your plants.

    Use compost and mulch

    Adding compost to your soil will add to its ability to absorb and retain water from rainfall and irrigation, reducing the number of times watering is required. Mulch blocks the evaporation of water, helping retain water in the soil.

    Drought resistant plants

    If you are in an area that typically required watering/irrigation, try switching to plants that tolerate drought better and need less water.

    Toilets

    Toilets use anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 of all the water used inside a typical North American home. There are some things you can do to help reduce that water usage.

    Texas Water Rules

    The poem goes as follows:
    If it's yellow, let it mellow.
    If it's brown, flush it down.

    Composting Toilets

    These use zero or almost zero water. Some do require an energy supply (typically electricity or propane) to help speed the composting process. Not permitted in all jurisdictions. Some maintenance required. Old toilet will require disposal.

    ULF and Dual Flush Toilets

    These are the water-efficient toilets that have come onto the market in the past 15 and 5 years respectively. They take up less floor and wall space than older conventional toilets, so in some cases, some remodeling may be required to make it look like it fits. Can be a bit spendy. You will have to dispose of the old toilet.

    Toilet Tank Dams and Displacement Devices

    These reduce the amount of water available for the flush. They will save water, but on occasion will affect the effectiveness of the flush so that a second flush is required, which negatively impacts the savings desired. Devices have to be installed so they don't interfere with toilet operation, or float around in the tank. My personal experience with these has been disappointing overall. You may have a better experience.

    Toilet Fill Diverter

    These devices reduce the amount of water sent to the bowl during the fill cycle, much of which is wasted by going over the trap after the bowl is full. Try this test for yourself. When you flush your toilet, note when the bowl has refilled to its normal 'full' level. Then, count out how much longer the tank continues filling after that. During this period, water is still flowing into the bowl, and over the trap into the sewage system. The toilet fill diverter saves some of that water that would be wasted and diverts it into the toilet tank. This allows the tank to fill faster, reducing the amount of time that water is flowing into the bowl and over the trap, as well as diverting water from the bowl fill tube directly into the tank. Double win. (Disclosure: we're biased toward this one because we think it's a great idea, and because we're a distributor for the Water Saver toilet fill diverter.)

    Clothes Washing

    Most of us use washing machines to wash our clothes now.

    Do your laundry in full loads to reduce the amount of water used for the amount of laundry done.

    If you can't do a full load, adjust the water level setting to match the size of load being done.

    Investigate the newer washing machines that use less water than previous models.

    Showers

    Just spend less time in the shower.

    Install water-saver shower-heads and aerator faucets on your taps. They really do reduce the amount of water you use. For the shower, look for the type with the sliding shut-off. This allows you to shut-off the flow completely while lathering up, without affecting the temperature of the water when you re-start it.

    Leaks

    How to check for a leak

    Turn off every water using device associated with your home: taps, washing machine, dishwasher, tape off toilet flush handles, pool and spa intakes, etc. Check your water meter reading, and read it again five minutes later to see that it has not advanced. If it has, check all your water control points again. If you can't find any issues, you may have a significant leak that needs immediate attention. If the meter has not changed significantly in the five minute period, wait three hours and read the meter again. If it has not moved in three hours, you are in good shape. If it has moved, you need to find out where the water is going and correct the problem.

    Other

    Don't run the dishwasher until you have a full load. Reducing the number of loads is the easiest way to reduce the amount of water used.

    Wash your hands in cold water. You move a lot of hot water into the hot water pipes just to get a couple of seconds worth at the sink. How long do you wait for hot water to arrive? 10, 20, 30 seconds? Well, hot water is leaving the hot water tank the whole time you are waiting. And cold water is replacing that water in the tank, which you will pay to heat. Are you using 30 seconds worth of hot water from the tank to get 5 seconds worth for your hands? Saves time too. The value of hand washing in sanitation comes from the soap. The heat of the water has little effect; any germs or bacteria that are successful human parasites have adapted to any temperature that we can stand without scalding our hands.

    Keep a pitcher or bottle of tap water in the refrigerator, so when you want a glass of cold water, you can get it without running additional water to wait for the cold water to arrive at the tap.

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    Other Water Bill Tips Sites

    Use the tips on the pages below at your own risk. In particular, we do not recommend using bricks for water displacement in toilet tanks, and in our experience, toilet dams and other in-tank displacement devices can negatively affect toilet flush performance or interfere with proper operation.

    31 articles on reducing human water consumption
    10 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Water Bill
    The Money Pit - Saving on your summer water bill
    Government of Canada Water Conservation Guide
    Oshkosk, Wisconsin Water Conservation Tips
    McPherson, Kansas Water Bill Reduction Tips
    Spokane, Washington - Conserving water can save you money
    Five Simple Ways to Reduce Your Water Bill
    Debt Reduction Formula's Water Saving Tips


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