water efficiency

Water faucet shutterstock june 2011


What to Know

Drink. Flush. Clean. Spray. Wash.  Think about all of the ways we use water.We use water to look good (wash our clothes, brush our teeth, take showers), feel good (drink water, go to the bathroom, water vegetables and herbs we eat), and to make our homes look good (water our lawn and plants). Indeed, the average household in Charlottesville and Albemarle for example uses more than 3,000 gallons of water per month.

Aside from the inherent benefits of conserving our limited water supplies, there is also a direct “drops to watts” connection between water and energy efficiency.

According to the EPA: “Delivering water and wastewater services is also an energy-intensive effort, as the water is treated, pumped to our homes and businesses, then pumped to wastewater facilities to be treated again. EPA estimates 3-4 percent of national electricity consumption, equivalent to approximately 56 billion kilowatts (kW), or $4 billion, is used in providing drinking water and wastewater services each year. Water and wastewater utilities are typically the largest consumers of energy in municipalities, often accounting for 30-40 percent of total energy consumed.”


What to Do

There are simple and smart things that every person can do to reduce the amount of water that is wasted in our daily routines in our homes and for our lawns and gardens.


In The Bathroom:

Check for (and Fix) Leaks: To tell if your toilet is leaking water, drop 3 drops of food coloring in the reservoir.  If the water in the bowl has changed color after 30 minutes, replace the flapper valve.  The average household in Charlottesville uses 3,703 gallons of water a month, and every drop adds up. Fix all leaky pipes and dripping faucets.

Switch to a Water-Saving Showerhead: Installing a better showerhead is a simple do-it-yourself that can make a big difference.  A typical showerhead uses 6 gallons of water per minute, while low-flow heads only use 2.5 gallons per minute.

Decrease Water Use Per Flush: Fill a small milk jug with water and place it in your toilet’s tank.

Keep a Bucket in the Shower: While you shower, collect excess water to use later on your plants.

Shop Smart:  Look for the WaterSense label to ensure that the product you are buying is tested for efficiency, performance and dependability.

Turn off the Water While Brushing/Shaving:  Also fill the sink or shower with enough water to rinse the toothbrush or razor instead of letting the water run.

Strategize Your Changes:  When deciding which bathroom to make water efficiency changes to, choose the highest use toilets and faucets in the house first.

Install Faucet Aerators: Aerators will add air to the stream coming out of your faucet, but you will barely even notice.


In the Kitchen:

Rinse Dishes Right: Fill one side of a double sink or use a large bowl to rinse dishes.  Rinsing the dishes under the tap wastes a lot of water.

Use your Dishwasher: Washing dishes by hand uses more water & energy than a dishwasher. And only run full loads.

Get a Cold Drink: Fill a water bottle and put it in the refrigerator instead of letting the tap run to get the water cold.  Make sure to wash it out every few days to keep it clean.

Use One Cup for the Day:  Designate one cup to each family member for drinking water for the day.  This will cut down on the number of times you need to run the dishwasher and dirty fewer dishes.

Full Loads Only: Only run the dishwasher and laundry when you have a full load.

Thaw Your Veggies:  Thaw frozen vegetables in the fridge instead of running water over them.



Get a Rain Barrel: Connect a rain barrel to your downspout to collect around 50 gallons of fresh rainwater to use on your plants during droughts.  Look on the Charlottesville City Website for a $3o Cash Back Rebate if you live in the city.

Use Your Stored Water: Collecting water in a rain barrel is useless unless you put in the time to use it on your plants.

Watering Schedule: Water in the morning or later in the evening to avoid evaporation.

Position Sprinklers Efficiently: Make sure that sprinklers are not watering driveways or sidewalks, and re-position them if necessary.

Washing Your Car:  Fill a bucket with water and wash with a sponge.  Only use the hose when you want to rinse the car.

Pick Up a Broom: Use a broom – not a hose – to clean sidewalks and driveways.

Landscape Effectively: Rain on a typical home in Charlottesville will generate 30,000 gallons of runoff a year.  Landscape right and select drought resistant plants suitable for our climate (a gardener at your local nursery can help you choose plants).


Additional outdoor tips courtesy of Snow’s Garden and Landscape Center (Summer 2011): 

• Use a broom to sweep the deck, patio, or walk instead of a water hose.

• Clean gutters and downspouts manually instead of using a hose.

• Check hoses and outdoor water faucets for leaks and repair as needed

• Remove weeds from the garden regularly to reduce competition for water and nutrient with the desirable plants.

• Use plants that are suited to the growing conditions that you have.  For example, shade-loving plants in full sun will require large quantities of water to survive.

• Start new seed in the lawn only in the cooler months of the fall to take advantage of autumn rains and lower temperatures.

• Avoid using turf in steep sloped areas that will be difficult to water efficiently.

• Plant trees and shrubs in the early spring or in the fall to reduce the need for supplemental irrigation.

• Minimize evaporation loss by watering in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are lower and winds are lighter.

• Mulch plants to keep the soil cooler, prevent erosion, and retain moisture in the soil.

• Mow your lawn at the highest setting on your mower.  Longer grass blades retain moisture better and help prevent weed competition.

• Install a rain sensor on any automatic watering systems (required by the city and county).

• Reduce the amount of turf in the yard by planting additional trees and shrubs

• Don’t water on windy days when water is likely to be blown off-target or lost to evaporation.

• Water plants deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root penetration and healthier plants.

• Use a commercial car wash that recycles its water.

• If you do wash your car at home, use a shut-off on the hose and a bucket to reduce the unnecessary use of water.

• Use a kitchen timer when watering with a sprinkler.

• Water only as rapidly as your soil can absorb the water.

• Aerate your lawn regularly to help water penetrate the soil, reducing run-off.

• Use an empty tuna can to measure the amount of water your sprinkler puts out over a specific amount of time.

• Keep mower blades sharp.  Sharp blades produce a cleaner cut, reducing water loss through the leaf blades.

• Give lawns the lowest priority when watering.  Turf can get by with far less water than you think.

• Always use a shut-off valve on your hose to prevent wasting water.

• Only water plants and turf when it is absolutely necessary.  Most mature plants don’t need extra water unless we’re in an extreme drought.


Additional Resources:

City of Charlottesville Water Conservation Tips 



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