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Water conservation is important these days. Whether you live in drought-stricken parts of the American west, have a cistern, or just need to save money on your monthly water bill, saving water is top of mind.
According to the US Geological Survey, the average household’s INDOOR water usage is between 80-100 gallons per person per day.
When we lived in our little suburban house, we used about 4500 gallons per month, or about 150 gallons per day for our household of 3 (i.e. 50 gallons per person).
Now in our off-grid home with rainwater catchment? We use 40-50 gallons per day TOTAL, or about 13-16 gallons per person per day.
How are we using nearly ONE-TENTH of the national average? Here are the top 15 ways we’ve founds to save water at home that YOU can use too.
15 Easy Ways to Save Massive Amounts of Water at Home
- 1. Don't flush for everything.
- 2. Put a "brick" in the toilet tank.
- 3. Get a composting toilet instead.
- 4. Get a toilet sink.
- 5. Use water-saving showerheads and aerators.
- 6. Use a newer high-efficiency clothes washer.
- 7. Turn off the water when brushing teeth, shaving, etc.
- 8. Don't wash your hair every day.
- 9. Take shallow baths or super-quick showers.
- 10. Garden with low-maintenance methods.
- 11. Install rain barrels.
- 12. Ditch the manicured yard.
- 13. Wash your dishes more efficiently.
- 14. Fix leaks.
- 15. Use greywater where you're able.
- Want to create a sustainable homestead of your own? Join us!
1. Don’t flush for everything.
Growing up, I had many friends who lived with cisterns. And whenever I’d visit their homes their parents would tell me the same little rhyme:
“If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”
I always thought it was funny, but their parents were dead serious about it and I followed the house rule.
Now in my own home, I really take it to heart. Each flush of a water-efficient toilet uses 1.5-2 gallons, and if you have older toilets in your home it’s much higher. If we flushed for everything we could easily use 20+ gallons a day on toilets alone.
2. Put a “brick” in the toilet tank.
On that same note, displacing some water in your toilet tank is a great idea for lowering your usage. We first placed bricks wrapped in plastic bags in each of our toilet tanks. We have since switched to plastic bottles filled with gravel or sand to weigh them down.
The bottles are easier to manipulate inside the tank and are relatively clean to work with.
If you use bricks, you may consider doing like we did and wrapping them inside of a plastic bag to avoid having the brick disintegrate and harm your plumbing over time.
3. Get a composting toilet instead.
One of the best ways to offset your water usage is to NOT use standard flush toilets, but instead to use composting toilets. This is very common in off-grid or green homes and is something we strongly considered doing.
Unfortunately for us, we were required to have at least one “working toilet” as a condition of getting an occupancy permit when we built our home. And while they recognized the commercially available composting toilet units as viable, they just weren’t in our price range at the time. Since they nixed the idea of a low-tech sawdust toilet, we decided to just get some regular flush toilets instead.
Rain has been so abundant here that flushing the toilets is more a matter of power consumption to run the cistern pump than it is about having enough water, so we kept the toilets. We figure we’re getting our money’s worth out of them!
Maybe we’ll consider switching to composting toilets in the future, but regular toilets are fine for now.
Related: Everything You Should Know About Off-Grid Wastewater
4. Get a toilet sink.
If you choose to stick with a standard flush toilet, you might consider getting a “toilet sink combo” to replace your standard tank lid. These combo units allow you to wash your hands and reuse that water to fill the toilet tank.
Units like this Sink Twice can be self-installed in five minutes on most standard toilets.
They’re great for smaller bathrooms, tiny houses, RV’s, or as at least one reviewer said, as a “conversation piece” in a standard bathroom.
5. Use water-saving showerheads and aerators.
When we installed our clawfoot tub, we got a tub and shower kit from Amazon that came with a dinky little shower head. It was pretty basic and also used a TON of water.
A shower would easily use up to 15-20 gallons, which also means our water pump kicked on a LOT. We wanted to reduce our water consumption and save solar power from the water pump, so I searched for water-saving showerheads.
The one I purchased is no longer available, which is a shame because I really like it. It’s the only water-saving head I’ve used that gets really close to the standard shower feel. The pressure is enough to rinse soap out of my thick hair, which has been a struggle with other showers.
HOWEVER, this one by the same brand is the most similar that I could find. They also had this less expensive option with better reviews (it didn’t have the 0.5 GPM option but I’ve found we mostly stick with 1 GPM because less than that turns off our on-demand water heater). At that rate, we only use 5-10 gallons for a shower versus 15-20.
Replacing your sink aerators is wise too, especially if you have kiddos who like to take their sweet time washing their hands. Niagara, the same company that makes our showerhead, also makes this awesome adjustable aerator.
6. Use a newer high-efficiency clothes washer.
When we were off-grid dreaming, I’d often look at videos of bicycle-powered clothes washers and portable options that were supposed to use very little water and energy. But the actual reality of living off the grid, even with a small solar power system like ours, actually means that we can do quite a bit more than I’d thought.
The truth is that for us, using a good high-efficiency washer uses less power AND water than washing by hand does.
I have a Breathing Mobile Washer for hand-washing small loads or for washing in the event that our washer breaks (which hasn’t happened yet, thankfully). But honestly, we use far less water to wash and improve our drying time by using a regular HE washer that you could find in any on-grid home.
7. Turn off the water when brushing teeth, shaving, etc.
This is pretty standard information, but it always appalls me when I’m out on a trip with friends or family and they just let the water run while they brush their teeth. Just run. Down the drain. For no reason.
Don’t do that.
Leaving it on wastes up to 2 gallons of water per minute, depending on your aerator. Assuming it takes you 1-2 minutes to brush your teeth, turning it off can save 14-28 gallons per person per week, or 728-1456 gallons per year.
Instead, we leave a glass bottle filled with water from our Berkey on the bathroom counter. I’ll pour about 1/4-1/2 cup of water into a cup and use that to wet the brush and rinse.
Related: 2022 Berkey Filter Review: Our Honest Experiences Using a Big Berkey Off the Grid
8. Don’t wash your hair every day.
This is a tip for my long and/or thick-haired friends. My hair is something akin to Mia Thermopolis or Hermione Grainger in its wild state and it takes quite a bit of water to wash it thoroughly. It’s healthier for my hair and much easier on our water usage if I only wash it every 3-4 days.
9. Take shallow baths or super-quick showers.
On the days that I don’t wash my hair, I put a few inches of water in the tub (+/- 10 gallons based on how often the pump goes off while I fill it). It’s more than enough to get clean and I can take my sweet time versus trying to rush through a shower.
10. Garden with low-maintenance methods.
We have very rocky clay soil. Knowing this, we set out to find gardening methods that were beneficial to building the soil and required very little water. This is something you can do no matter your soil type!
So far, our favorite gardening methods that reduce how much watering we need to do in the summer include:
Related: Easy Garden Projects You Can Do For Cheap or Free
11. Install rain barrels.
Rain barrels are a fantastic way to harvest rainwater for reuse in the yard and garden. It diverts water from storm runoff and saves you from using water out of the tap.
You can choose a premade rain barrel or save money by making your own.
12. Ditch the manicured yard.
You might be clutching your pearls if you’re used to having a perfectly manicured green yard, but hear me out.
According to the National Resources Defense Council: “Every year across the country, lawns consume nearly 3 trillion gallons of water a year, 200 million gallons of gas (for all that mowing), and 70 million pounds of pesticides.”
If you’re used to keeping your yard perfectly weed-free and uniformly green, ask yourself: Why?
I’m sure most of us would love for our homes to be beautifully adorned with greenery, but the lawn as it is traditionally maintained is a very unsustainable way to go.
If you want to find some beautiful ways to redesign your yard for both beauty and water/resource conservation, I HIGHLY recommend checking out “The Suburban Micro-Farm” by Amy Stross. She turned her little suburban postage-stamp yard into a lush haven. She also shows some incredible before-and-after transformations of brown, barren yards that she helped transform. Highly recommend.
13. Wash your dishes more efficiently.
Being off-grid, we don’t currently have a dishwasher. Instead, we wash dishes by hand in the sink.
Modern dishwashers are often more water-efficient than washing dishes by hand. BUT, this also boils down to your method of washing.
If you must wash dishes by hand, remember:
- DON’T fill both sides of the sink (one for washing and one for rinsing)!
- INSTEAD: rinse as you fill.
- Turn the tap off between dishes.
That way, you’re using your rinse water to wash subsequent dishes.
14. Fix leaks.
We’re hyper-aware of any leaks we might have in our house. Why? Because after we run the water for a bit, the pressure in our tank drops and triggers the pump to bring in more water from the cistern.
That pump is loud. And if it runs when we haven’t been doing dishes, washing, or flushing toilets, that’s a red flag that there’s a leak somewhere.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as one of the faucets didn’t get closed all the way. Other times, there might be a running toilet that we need to troubleshoot.
This was a bigger problem when we had city water. We actually had a month where our usage was much higher than normal and they sent a city worker to check on our system. Turns out, our downstairs toilet had been running and we didn’t notice since we hardly used that bathroom.
That was a month of wasted water and money!
If you have city water, keep an eye on your monthly usage and look for spikes.
You can be even more proactive by making it part of your routine to check your faucets, toilets, and other fixtures regularly to make sure they’re working properly.
15. Use greywater where you’re able.
You don’t have to install an elaborate greywater system to take advantage of using greywater in your home.
Greywater is any water that may have come into contact with soaps, detergents, oils, food, grease, or hair, but NOT feces (that is “blackwater”). Basically, this is water you can reuse from doing the laundry, washing, dishes, and so on.
In the summer, I often will catch our washing machine discharge in buckets as the washer drains and use that water on trees and flowers. I’ll do the same with melted ice in our coolers after a party.
Informal use of greywater like this is one thing, but installing a greywater system can be tricky. Depending on your state, there may be regulations you have to contend with in order to harvest your greywater safely and legally.
Related: All About Off Grid Wastewater: Options, Septic, Code, and Advice
Want to create a sustainable homestead of your own? Join us!
Learn more about our original cordwood homestead project here. And be sure to join us on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram for more homesteading goodies that don’t necessarily make it to the blog. Thanks for reading!
Keralee Miedaner says
Great reminder. I have lived without running water for 17 years. If you have springs, even seeps, you do know that you can “permaculture” them with swales above them? Often far above, depending on your terrain and this will increase output over time and drought-proof them. Sa.e for swaling yard, its amazing how much more water the soil starts to hold.