If you feel that your water bills are high or higher than your normal bills, the first thing you need to do is to recheck the reading on your meter to be sure that it wasn’t overread. Next, you will need to look for leaks. In order to detect leaks, turn everything off carefully so no water is being used anywhere in the house. Do not turn off the commodes, but be sure that they haven’t just been flushed. Turn off your icemaker if you have one. Then check the test hand on your meter (a small red triangle slightly to the left and below the center of your meter or the long sweep hand much like the second hand on a watch or clock). If it is moving at all, then you have a leak. If your meter does not have a test hand, then you will need to write down all the readings and go back and do the same thing in about 15 minutes. If there has been a change in the readings, then you have a leak. The leak will probably be somewhere between the meter and your house. However, a commode leak may not show on your meter every time you check it. You might check it ten times and a commode problem only show one of those times.
Toilets are notorious for their hidden leaks. They can waste hundreds of gallons a day undetected. Leaks occur when the toilet is out of adjustment or when parts are worn, so it’s important to check it periodically. It’s not hard or complicated. Most toilet leaks are at the overflow pipe or at the plunger ball. If it’s at the overflow, the water level is usually too high; although sometimes the overflow pipe gets a leak below the water line. Gently bend the float arm down so that the valve shuts off the water about a half inch below the top of the overflow pipe. Sometimes that valve is worn and will run like a leaky faucet and have to be replaced. If you’re an experienced do–it–yourselfer, you can do the job. Otherwise, call a plumber.
Plunger–ball leaks aren’t as easy to spot. The best way to check is to drop a little food coloring into a tank ful1 of clear water and wait 10-15 minutes to see if it shows up in the bowl. If it does, you probably have a leak at the plunger ball, either because the ball need replacing or because the mechanism is out of alignment. This, too, is a relatively simple repair for a do–it–yourselfer.
If both your electric and water bills have increased drastically, then it is safe to assume that you have a hot water leak somewhere in your home. This could be in your electric water heater or in a hot water line somewhere within or under the house.
Household water conservation not only saves water—it saves energy too—energy needed to heat water and to run appliances. The bathroom is where you can make the most substantial reduction in your personal water use. Two-thirds of the water used in an average home is used in the bathroom, mostly for flushing toilets and for showers and baths. A lot of that water may be going into the sewer needlessly, adding to the volume of sewage and putting an extra burden on treatment plants. Every time a toilet is flushed, about 7 gallons of water goes into the sewer. Toilets should not be used as a trash can to flush away anything which should go into a wastebasket or garbage can.
Install a shower flow controller, available at hardware stores. This is inserted between the shower head and shower arm. It reduces the flow of water to 3–4 gallons per minute, while the shower continues to give a good spray. You can save one (1) gallon of hot water per minute, or up to 4,000 gallons during a year.
Fix leaky faucets quickly. One drip per second wastes about 6,000 gallons of water per year. Most are commonly caused by worn washers. Check all the faucets in the house once or twice a year. If any of them drip after you’ve turned them off firmly, turn off the supply line, take the faucet apart and replace the washer. Usually it’s not hard, although some faucet designs do present a challenge. Any good household do–it–yourself book offers easy–to–understand advice if you need it. It’s important to get the right size washer. It has to fit inside a sort of cup on the valve stem and spread out to the edges when it’s screwed down. If the drip is still there when you’re finished, Get in touch with a plumber.
Don’t let the faucet run while shaving or brushing your teeth. Run as much water as you need, then turn off the tap until you need more.
A partially filled tub uses far less water than a long shower. By the same token, a short shower uses less water than a full tub. So time your showers, and then decide which way you can save more water. Since most showers pour out between 5–10 gallons per minute, that can add up in a hurry.
Run only full loads in the washing machine. Many machines use 40 or more gallons of water a load whether full or with only a pair of socks. Set your machine for a smaller load if it can be adjusted. For hand laundering put a stopper in the sink for both the wash and rinse. Don’t let the faucet run.
Keep a bottle of water in the refrigerator instead of running tap water endlessly, until it’s cold enough to drink.
Automatic dishwashers use about 15 gallons of water per run. Make sure that the washer is fully loaded before you run it. Don’t rinse the dishes—scrape them clean and let the machine do the rest.
If washing dishes by hand, remember not to wash them with the water running. A sink full of wash water and one of rinse water will do the job just as well. Don’t let the faucet run when you scrub vegetables or prepare other foods. Put a stopper in the sink instead.
Water your lawn early in the morning or in the evening when there is less evaporation. Water only when the grass or plants show signs of needing it. During cool, cloudy spells, you don’t need to water as often. Weeds are water thieves, too, so keep the garden free of them. Let water sink in slowly. If the water sinks deep, the lawn will develop deeper roots and won’t need watering as often. Make sure sprinklers cover just the lawn or garden and not sidewalks, driveways and gutters.Your garden hose can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours. Remember that when you leave the sprinkler running all day or leave the hose unattended, thousands of gallons can be lost in a very short time.
When washing the car, use a bucket for soapy water and use the hose only for rinsing. Running water in the driveway won’t get the car any cleaner.
Another water waster is using the hose to sweep away leaves. Use a rake or broom to clean up sidewalks, driveways and gutters.
Water heaters have been known to blow out, and pipes have been known to burst. Occasionally, a faucet decides to become a fountain. When this happens, you will want to know how to turn every thing off. Either that or lay in a supply of wading boots. Most sinks, wash basins and toilets in the house have shutoff valves below them that cut off water to that particular fixture. The hot–water heater also has a shutoff valve to cut hot water to the whole house. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have shutoffs for bath tubs and showers, because the plumbing is usually behind the wall. Check your house now and identify all of those shutoff valves; see if they work. Most important, check for the main shutoff valve that turns off the whole house. It’s usually located where the water pipe comes into the house. Check to see that you have one and that it works. If you don’t have one or if it does not work, ask a plumber to stop by and correct the situation.
Water will recycle itself eventually, come what may. But high–quality water which we need and expect in our home is not an infinite resource. Besides, you’re paying for every drop whether it’s used or wasted. So conservation can be a solid favor to your pocketbook, too. It is not hard to conserve water, and it does not change our lives drastically. It’s mostly a matter of using good common sense. Think about water—and when you do, think about conserving it. Water conservation is a good way of life. Let’s practice it together.