5 Easy Ways You Can Save on Your Water Bill from AlterNet

Water is quickly becoming rare and expensive in much of the U.S., so try to get the most out of every drop.

Photo Credit: Lipskiy / Shutterstock

When it comes to conserving water, it’s amazing how small adjustments to your lifestyle can have a big impact. Water rates have surged across the nation in the past 15 years as communities deal with aquifer depletion, drought and water-utility privatization. Consumers in some 30 communities are paying double what they were in 2000, with the rates in Atlanta, San Diego and San Francisco tripling. As water continues to become a more precious commodity, finding better ways to save it becomes more important all the time.

While there are hundreds of small ways we can all save water, here are five tips that can go a long way to help the local ecology, cut your water bill in half or more, and maybe make life around the house a little more enjoyable.

1. Install low-flow shower heads. If you take a five-minute shower each morning, you can save enough water to fill a 15-foot swimming pool each year by switching to a low-flow shower head. That’s 4,550 gallons per person. Not only are you saving water, you’re saving on heating, too, as your water heater only has to put out half the hot water it would otherwise.

If the 115 million households in the United States converted from a conventional shower head to a low-flow model, we would lower water consumption by 945 billion gallons. Yes, we checked the math…twice.

Low-flow shower heads typically cost $18-$50 and they’re easy to install. Look for shower heads that have a pause feature, which stops the flow of water while you’re soaping up. And when you resume, they’re designed so you don’t have to wait for the water to warm again.

2. Invest in dual-flush toilets. A dual-flush toilet is basically a more dignified approach to the old “if it’s mellow, let it yellow” toilet flushing practice common with household conservationists. This type of toilet uses two handles to flush different levels of water. One handle disposes of liquid waste quite well, using only about 0.75 gallons. Solid waste is flushed by another handle, which flushes down about 1.5 gallons. By comparison traditional toilets (before the advent of low-flush toilets a decade ago) use about 7 gallons and modern low-flush toilets use around 1.6 gallons for each flush.

Although dual-flush toilets use a gravity-assist flush system, there’s very little water in the bowl and most of it cascades down from the tank through the bowl’s rim. However, they are considered plenty powerful overall compared to their conventional rivals.

When used properly, a dual-flush toilet should cut water usage by a third over low-flush toilets.

The top toilet brands (Koehler, American Standard and Gerber) now market dual-flush systems. At about $300, the typical dual-flush toilet costs nearly twice as much as a conventional toilet, but the households that switch to them can expect to save about $100 or more on water costs.

Click here to read 3 more ways to save on your water bill at AlterNet.

Cliff Weathers is a senior editor at AlterNet, covering environmental and consumer issues. He is a former deputy editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Salon, Car and Driver, Playboy, and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers.

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