News of rising prices and growing water shortages may have you thinking about ways to reduce water usage—and shrink your water bill. The average American uses 82 gallons of water daily, costing the average family $1,100 annually, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports. And because the average family wastes 180 gallons of water per week, according to the EPA, there's lots of opportunity to save.
You can lower your water bill by taking shorter showers, installing water-saving fixtures and reducing outdoor watering, among other changes. Here are nine money-saving tips to cut your water bill.
1. Turn Off the Tap
Are you washing money down the drain? Watch out for wasteful water use. Turn off the tap after you lather your hands or while brushing your teeth. Don't wash your driveway with a hose—grab a broom instead.
2. Take Shorter Showers
Do you take showers instead of baths? You're already saving money. A bath uses as much as 70 gallons of water, per the EPA, while a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25. To kick the savings up a notch:
- Time your showers by setting an alarm or singing a five-minute song.
- Make it a game to see how fast you can shower, and try to beat your best time.
- Switch to "sailor's showers." Get wet, turn the water off, soap up and turn the water back on to rinse off.
3. Fix Leaks
Household leaks can waste up to 10,000 gallons per home annually, the EPA reports. Check for leaky taps, toilets and hose connections regularly.
To test for toilet leaks, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank and wait 10 minutes without flushing. Any color appearing in the toilet bowl indicates a leak. Repairing leaks can be as simple as changing a washer, grabbing some pipe tape or replacing a worn toilet valve seal.
Detecting plumbing leaks elsewhere is a bit more complicated. One way is to check your water meter, go two hours without using any water and check the meter again. If the numbers change, there's likely a leak somewhere. Call in a plumber to find and fix it.
4. Install Water-Saving Fixtures
Replacing bathroom faucets, showerheads and toilets with WaterSense-labeled models can save an average household hundreds of dollars a year. Products with the WaterSense label are 20% more water-efficient than standard models, and equally effective.
Not ready to replace your fixtures? To transform them into water-efficient units:
- Install water-efficient faucet aerators on existing faucets. It costs just a few dollars and delivers the same water savings as replacing fixtures.
- Fill two plastic soda bottles with sand or pebbles and put them in your toilet tank to reduce water flow.
5. Replace Inefficient Appliances
Outdated dishwashers and washing machines not only waste water but also eat up energy. Replace them with Energy Star-certified appliances that meet EPA standards for energy efficiency. Switching to an Energy Star-labeled dishwasher can cut water use as much as 65% and energy use by over 10%, according to the EPA.
Rebates on your new appliances can help you offset the cost of the purchase.
6. Start Composting
Instead of putting food scraps down the garbage disposal (and running water in the process), start a compost bin. You'll save water, reduce the risk of clogged pipes and help your garden grow.
7. Change Your Dishwashing Habits
Avoid washing dishes by hand, which can use up to 20 gallons of water. In contrast, Energy Star-certified dishwashers use 3.5 gallons or less. Even dishwashers made in the 1990s use only about 10 to 15 gallons per full load.
If you must hand-wash, fill one side of the sink (or a tub) with hot, soapy water to wash and the other with cool water for rinsing instead of running the faucet. When using the dishwasher, scrape dishes into the compost bin instead of rinsing them; dishwashers are designed to handle dirty dishes but not food particles.
8. Improve Your Irrigation
Outdoor residential irrigation is one of the biggest water-wasters in the country, accounting for as much as 4 billion gallons of water waste per day, the EPA says. To minimize outdoor water waste:
- Water before sunrise or after sunset so water can sink into the soil instead of evaporating in the sun.
- Check sprinklers and adjust them to target the landscape, not the driveway or sidewalk.
- Replace sprinklers with low-flow sprinkler heads or drip irrigation.
- Upgrade to smart irrigation controllers. They let you adjust timing, set watering zones and can automatically adjust watering based on weather. You can reduce water use up to 30 percent by switching from a clock-based irrigation controller to a WaterSense controller.
- If you have a pool, cover it when not in use to reduce evaporation.
9. Use Drought-Tolerant Landscaping
Swapping out water-hungry lawns and plants for landscaping needing minimal irrigation, known as xeriscaping, can mean substantial savings. Xeriscaping uses native or drought-tolerant plants and water-saving irrigation systems. Hiring a landscaper to redo your yard can cost from $10 to $40 per square foot, depending on what's involved. However, many cities, municipalities and water utility companies offer rebates for installing drought-tolerant landscaping, which can offset some of this cost. Be sure to follow all required steps to qualify for a rebate.
The Bottom Line
Cutting your water bill sometimes requires an upfront investment. Start by checking for rebates with your city and water provider and assessing how much you have in your savings. Still need financing for the rest of the cost?
- You could use a credit card with an introductory 0% APR offer to buy new appliances. Pay off the balance before the promotional period ends, and you'll pay no interest on the purchase.
- For pricier changes, such as xeriscaping, a personal loan, home equity loan or home equity line of credit may be options. Carefully compare loan terms, costs and any risks, such as using your home as collateral.
A good credit score (670 or better in the FICO® Score☉ model) improves your odds of qualifying for a credit card or loan with favorable terms. Before applying, check your credit report and credit score. If your score isn't where you'd like it to be, paying down debt and making payments on time can help improve your credit.