11 Clever Ways to Conserve Water at Home

Dripping kitchen tap

Nick Dolding / Getty Images

From the bucket flush to reusing pasta water, these novel tricks are a good addition to the tried-and-true tips.

California drought or no California drought, we should all treat our water as the precious resource that it is. It’s not infinite and those of it who have it in abundance often waste it heedlessly. The World Health Organization recommends two gallons per person daily to meet the requirements of most people under most conditions – and around 5 gallons per person daily to cover basic hygiene and food hygiene needs.

On average, an American resident uses about 100 gallons of water per day; while those in Europe use about 50 gallons of water daily. A resident of sub-Saharan Africa uses two to five gallons of water per day.

While reducing your water usage to five gallons a day would prove prohibitive for those of us accustomed to using more, there are plenty of smart ways to reduce your usage prodigiously. This is not a new topic for TreeHugger, we’ve offered these 10 tips in addition to these 5 swaps – but wait, there’s more! Consider the following:

1. Embrace the bucket flush

Well, not literally ... but emotionally. Use a gallon of water, pour it into your toilet in one fell swoop, and behold the miracle of your toilet flushing on its own (depending on your toilet, it may take more than a gallon). And while it may not sound very First World, who cares? It's an awesome trick to know and will come in handy for several of the following tips.

2. Take a bucket to the shower

When waiting for the shower water to warm up, collect the cold water that precedes the hot in a large bucket or waste can. That is valuable water! Depending on how quickly your water heats up, the collected water can be used for a number of bucket toilet flushes.

3. And while we’re at it: shower or bath?

A bath uses up to 70 gallons of water; a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons. That said, if you don’t drain your bath after, you can use that water to flush the toilet and water plants. Don't be indulgent with your baths, but if you do, don't let that good water go to waste.

4. Don’t pre-rinse your dishes

Many modern dishwashers do not require pre-rinsing of dishes – a good scrape should suffice. Read your manual and see if yours suggests the same.

5. Load your dishwasher properly

There are right ways and wrong ways to load your dishwasher; doing it incorrectly can lead to still-dirty dishes that require extra water for washing. For more, see: 7 common dishwasher-loading mistakes that may surprise you.

6. Compost rather than feeding the garbage disposal

In-sink garbage disposal contraptions require a lot of water to do their thing, and they also add solids to a septic tank which can lead to problems. Instead, use up your food scraps or add them to the compost bin.

7. Wash your produce in a tub

Place a basin or large pot in your sink, fill it, and wash your produce in it. Then place it in a colander to drain over the basin. Not only does it save a lot of water, but you can then use that water to flush the toilet or water plants. If you feel compelled, you can, alternatively, rinse produce in a colander as long as you do it over a bucket and collect the water.

8. Don’t dump the pot

After cooking pasta or anything else that requires boiling or steaming, save the water, allow it to cool, and use it for bucket flushing or watering the plants.

9. Beware the permanent press cycle

The permanent press cycle on most washing machines uses an extra five gallons of water for the additional rinse.

10. Turn off the tap

You’ve heard it before, turn off the water when brushing your teeth, but do you know just how much this saves? The average faucet releases two gallons of water per minute, you can save up to eight gallons of water every days by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth – if you brush for the recommended two minutes, that is. Likewise, for the gents, rinse your razor in a pool of water in a stoppered sink rather than under running water.

11. Fix leaky sinks and running toilets

Another obvious one, yet, also another one that is really important: A running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day. At one drip per second, a faucet can leak 3,000 gallons in a year. Call the plumber already!