Water feels boundless to the majority of Americans. Most of us do not make the connection between the amount of water running out of our tap and the amount of water existing out in “the world.” They feel like separate entities.
Spoiler alert – they’re not. Scientists have warned that within 50 years, nearly half of the freshwater basins we draw on for water supply in this country will be unable to meet demand. Combine this with the fact that America uses twice as much water annually as any other developed nation, and you can see we have a real problem.
Fortunately, there are tangible, practicable solutions for water conservation and recycling. And they start in our homes.
Understanding Water Usage at Home
It is estimated that, on average, an American uses 82 gallons of water a day. Research shows that percentages of highest water usage in the home come from toilet flushes which top at 24%, showers at 20%, and running faucets at 19%. 
It can be difficult to understand where you’re utilizing the most water on a day-to-day basis. A useful practice is to break down your water bill and understand how much you are spending each month – this fluctuates household to household based on types of fixtures, how your water’s heated, etc. Understanding your household water usage is the first step to being inspired to create changes.
5 Tips for Conserving Water
After gaining some awareness on how you utilize water at home, you can be inspired to help both the earth and your wallet by approaching day-to-day activities with a more conservationist mindset. No need to go crazy – you can still enjoy the water you are blessed to have. But a little moderation can go a long way.
1. Run full dishwasher loads | 110 gallons conserved weekly
We’ve all done it – though the dishwasher is hardly full, we need those few dishes to be clean so we pop the detergent in and run it half-empty. Next time you’re tempted to run a nearly empty dishwasher, remember that full dishwashers save 7,000 gallons annually over handwashing. See this as an opportunity to rest in the benefit of technology! Go play a boardgame or read a book – the dishwasher will fill eventually!
2. Steam vegetables | 42 gallons conserved weekly
Steaming vegetables is a wise water conservation and nutritional choice! Steaming vegetables diminishes the potential of leaching, which happens when water enters the vegetables’ cell structure and strips away its nutrients. The more you steam, the more health benefits you keep! And the more water you save.
3. Flush only when necessary | 63 gallons conserved weekly
The phrase “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” is an incredible rule to follow to improve your water conservation scorecard. The average person urinates six or more times a day but defecates only once a day. If we practiced flushing only the brown, we’d save 2,190 gallons of clean water every year. Remember that next time you’re on the John.
4. Take quick showers rather than baths | 315 gallons conserved weekly
While soaking in a bath can be one of the luxuries of life, on average a full bath uses 70 gallons of water – one bath could use up an average person’s entire day of water usage. Taking 10-minute showers regularly will conserve massive amounts of clean water.
5. Compost to save on disposal | 21 gallons saved weekly
Composting food scraps is easy, it reduces water waste used in sink disposal systems, and it also creates a healthy, water-absorbing topsoil for your plants or garden. If you think you don’t have the space or are worried about the smell, Bokashi composting is a wonderful way to go.
Grab a countertop composter, a Bokashi composting system, and you’re on your way to getting healthier plants and conserving more water!
5 Tips for Recycling Water
Water conservation is an amazing start to maintaining the water supply and reducing waste. But maybe you already are a conservationist who’s looking to dig a little deeper in your water practice.
Water recycling at home can be the next step deeper in helping support our nation’s water supply.
1. Reuse cooking water | 105 gallons saved weekly
What do we normally do with water used for boiling pasta or rinsing vegetables? Dump it down the drain, right? Next time you’re tempted to dump it, consider using that to water your indoor plants or your garden. The water is totally safe and can actually have a degree of nutritional value for your plants.
2. Use a shower bucket | 1 gallon saved each shower
It normally takes everyone’s water heater system a few seconds to heat up water coming out of the spout. Most of us just let the water run in our shower until it’s warm enough to hop in. Get in the practice of keeping a bucket in the shower to catch this “lag-time” water and use this for cooking, watering, or for bathwater if you are craving that luxurious soak.
3. Reuse hand-washing water for toilet flushes | 280 gallons saved weekly
Most people flush around 5-8 times a day and most standard toilets use between 5-8 gallons per flush. If you utilize hand-washing water for toilet flushes, you’ll be saving more than 40 gallons a day! It’s simple, though you must have at least a gallon of water to effectively flush manually. Just pour the gallon of water into the bowl and let gravity do the rest!
4. Utilize half-filled water bottles as self-watering systems for plants
We LOVE this idea! How many times have you found an old, half-drunk plastic water bottle filled with warm, backwash water? Now, you can give that water to your plants. Poke some small holes in the bottle and pop it into a planter. The water will slowly drain as the plant retrieves the amount of water it needs.
5. Install a rain barrel | 1,300 gallons saved from one barrel
Rain barrels both conserve and recycle water by collecting rainwater and redirecting it for many uses. We prefer this company’s rain barrel as it utilizes recycled food-grade plastic and is extremely durable. The spigot allows for you to connect a hose or connect to another rain barrel. Utilize this water for any outdoor activities such as gardening or car washing. Rain barrels also are a huge help to the environment by reducing flooding, easing the amount of storm runoff into community water systems, and reducing soil erosion.
There are so many ways we can be better stewards with the immense gift of water. Let’s inspire each other to get creative and help keep our water supply reliable and full!
Julie Kucks is a freelance content writer for New Jersey Institute of Nature and Cedar Hill Prep. Her work has also been featured in Fine Living Lancaster. Julie's writing interests include sustainable living practices, permaculture, mental health, and the power of breathwork. She also enjoys piano tuning, singing and songwriting, playing mountain dulcimer, hiking, and carousing with her kittens, Nike & Lionne.