Easy ways to save water
It's easy to conserve water, and you'll benefit through lower costs and a drier, more comfortable home.
You can buy water-saving appliances or install low-flow fittings, but the easiest way to save water is to think about how you use it.
By repairing leaks or turning off the tap when you are brushing your teeth you can save thousands of litres of water a year. If you pay for your water through water metering, that will also save you money.
Turn off the tap
The easiest way to save water is simply to turn off the tap when you don't need it.
If you run a tap while you brush your teeth, for example, you may be sending as much as 10 litres of water down the plughole every minute. Instead, turn the tap off until you need water to rinse. Remind the kids to keep the tap off while they brush, and you'll save more water and have a drier bathroom too.
When you do have the tap running, turn it on part-way. You'll get plenty of water for washing your hands or brushing your teeth - and you won't get splashed.
Leaks waste far more water than you'd think.
If you have a tap that drips at 50ml per minute (an egg cup full), you'll be losing 72 litres of water a day. Over the course of a year, that's more than 26,000 litres - enough to fill a family-sized swimming pool. If it is leaking from the hot tap, that unused water could cost more than $200 a year to heat. A leaky hose can waste even more water - up to 60,000 litres in a year. In addition, leaking taps can cause dampness and condensation in your home.
Use your water meter to check for leaks. Turn off all your taps and water-using appliances and make sure that the toilet cistern has stopped filling. Now read your water meter - it is generally close to the street. Read it again after an hour - without using any water in the meantime. If the reading has changed, you are losing water somewhere.
Fix leaking taps and pipes promptly. You'll save on water and energy charges, keep your home drier, and - in the case of leaking pipes - prevent serious damage to your home.
Whenever you call a plumber, have your tap and plumbing fittings checked for leaks and wear, so that prompt action can be taken.
Reduce water flow
Water flow is the rate water comes out of your taps and showerheads. You don't need your showerhead to deliver more than nine litres of water a minute, or your taps six litres a minute, yet some use three times that much.
By switching to water-efficient taps and showerheads, or installing water restrictors, you can save significant amounts of water.
For more detailed information, see Reducing water flow.
Save water in your kitchen and laundry
The kitchen and laundry account for 30% of household water use - roughly 180 litres per day - and much of this water is wasted. Simple actions and careful choice of appliances can reduce your water use in these areas.
Use the plug
If you rinse a lot of muddy clothes under a running tap, you could be sending as much as 100 litres of water down the drain. That's enough to do a whole load of washing. Instead, use a bucket or part-fill the tub instead of running water.
The same applies in the kitchen. If you're rinsing dishes or food in the kitchen, put in the plug and part-fill the sink instead of running water throughout.
Fill a jug
Keep a water jug in the fridge in summer so you don't have to run the tap for ages to get your water cold enough for a drink. It will also help save water when filling pots for cooking or the kettle. If your water is chlorinated, it also reduces the chlorine flavour.
Scrape dishes or use the dishwasher's eco rinse
Rinsing plates in the sink can waste many litres of water and is often unnecessary. Generally, it is enough just to scrape plates before putting them in the dishwasher.
Modern dishwashers can cope with grease and even some food scraps without rinsing first. Also, they often have water-efficient rinse cycles. These cycles may use just a few litres of water to rinse messy dishes when you're not ready to wash a whole load.
Choose the right appliances
Choose appliances that are the right size for your household, so it's practical to run them only when they're full. And choose models that use energy and water efficiently - look for models with higher WELS star ratings. For more detailed information, see Choosing the right appliances.
Don't run appliances half-empty
Dishwashers and washing machines use a lot of water - a top loader washing machine, for example, can use up to 200 litres of water per wash - so it is important to make the most of your washes.
Fully load your dishwasher and washing machine before running them. Typically, the 'half-load' setting on dishwashers tends to use much more than half the water and energy of a full load. Choose eco-settings where practical to save water and energy.
For more detailed information, see Energy and water-saving tips for home appliances.
Compost your food scraps
In-sink waste disposal units waste a lot of water. They can also overload sewage systems. A better option is to compost your food waste - that way, you can also feed your garden.
Save water in your bathroom and toilet
Together, the bathroom and toilet account for half of the water used by most households. The toilet alone flushes 25% of household water down the drain. A house with three occupants flushes 165 litres a day down the toilet - that's over 60,000 litres a year, or two thirds of an Olympic sized swimming pool.
A typical bath uses 180 litres of water. A typical shower uses anything from 20 to 100 litres, depending on how long you stay in. To save water and save on hot water bills:
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Keep your showers short - in a household of three, each extra minute of shower time costs about $80 a year.
- Turn the shower on only when you're ready to get in (and persuade teenagers to do this too).
- When you use the bath, think about how full it needs to be.
For teenagers, put a clock or a timer in the bathroom and reward them if they keep showers to the agreed time.
Reduce your toilet's water use
Toilets use from three litres (for newer dual flush models) to 11 litres each flush. As many households use one-third of their water to flush the toilet, dual flush toilets can save a lot of water. It is worthwhile considering replacing your cistern.
In older toilets (pre-2004) a full flush uses 11 litres and there generally isn't a half flush option. To find how much water you're using with each flush, turn off the water valve which feeds your toilet. Before flushing the toilet, note how full the cistern is. Flush the toilet and manually fill with a marked bucket or watering can.
You can adjust your toilet so it uses less water. Your options are:
- Installing a 'gizmo' - this hangs inside your cistern on your existing flush, and stops the toilet flushing when you take your finger off the button
- Installing a modern dual-flush adaptor - this will reduce your water use to only three to six litres per flush
- Installing a flush saver device - small weights that fit inside the cistern that reduce the volume of water in each flush. These are inexpensive and are available from most councils.
- Placing a 1-1.5 litre plastic bottle filled with water in the cistern to reduce flush water. Be sure to place it well clear of any moving parts. Bottles are preferable to bricks as they do not disintegrate and clog the tank.
Reducing the amount of water you flush is a particularly good investment if you have a septic tank, or are on metered water or rainwater tank supply. Switching to a modern dual flush toilet could save you 15% of your water bill.
Check with your plumbing retailer for the best option for your cistern.
Fix toilet cistern leaks
Check for cistern leaks and fix them - small drips of water can quickly add up to thousands of litres wasted.
You may not know if you have a leak. To check, put a few drops of food colouring in the cistern. If colouring ends up in the toilet bowl without flushing, you have a leak.
Note that in older toilets any overflow from the cistern goes to a drain outside, so the only water finding its way to the toilet bowl would be from a leak. In newer toilets, overflow from a poorly adjusted cistern goes into the toilet bowl. This can make it harder to decide whether you have a leak or if you need an adjustment to the overflow. Call a plumber if in doubt.
If there is a leak, it may be a simple matter of replacing the 'underwater valve seating washer' (the piece of rubber that keeps water in the cistern). These are available from plumbing retailers. Check the inlet washer at the same time. Replacing either of these washers will cost only a few dollars.
From Smarter Homes
- Choosing the right appliance
- Energy and water-saving tips for hoe appliances
- Re-using greywater
- Collecting and using rainwater
- Water heating
- Reducing water flow
From other sites
You can download NZ Water and Wastes Association booklets The story of drinking water and Savings in your House from the Association's website.
Kapiti Coast District Council's website has a guide on finding leaks in your home. It outlines five steps to detect water leaks and provides instructions for fixing leaking taps and toilets.