Leaky Faucets and Running Toilets Equals Money Down the Drain
Reducing our use of water will decrease water pollution, increase energy savings, and create more efficient use of our water resources. Too much water in an on-site sewage treatment system can flush untreated material through before organisms have a chance to break it down. If untreated material gets to the drain field, the material can plug up the soil within the drain field and shorten the life of the septic system.
Why Is Conserving Water Important?
Sending too much water down the drain can also cause systems to "blow out," allowing untreated material to flow out onto the ground. If this occurs, the system needs to be dug up and repaired. Failing septic systems can:
- contaminate drinking wells
- cause health risks such as hepatitis or dysentery
- cause chemical pollution from household cleaning products
- contribute excess nutrients to ground water, lakes, or streams
Conserving water in rural areas will increase the life of existing septic systems. Conserving water within a municipal water system will reduce household expenses, increase treatment plant efficiency, and reduce the amount of electricity and chemicals needed to treat wastewater. In both situations, conserving water protects water quality through improved wastewater treatment.
How Much Water Do We Use?
A typical household of four uses 260 gallons of water each day. Much of this water is used in the bathroom. Toilets use 40% of the total, showers/baths and faucets use 35%. By contrast, 15% is used in the kitchen, and 10% for washing clothes.
Use less water by using common sense, making lifestyle choices, and installing new low-flow products!
To significantly reduce water use, replace your old 5 gallon per flush toilet with a new 1.5 or 1.6 gallon per flush toilet. This is the most effective way to decrease the amount of water used in the bathroom.
As an alternative to installing a new toilet, retrofit your old one with a water-saving device. Displacing volume in the tank means that less water is used for each flush. A clean, sealed plastic container filled with sand will work.
- Don't use a brick-pieces of decaying brick can get under the rubber flapper and cause leaks.
- Leaky toilets can waste a lot of water. Replace the rubber flapper in the tank every two to three years. If black coloring comes off on your hand when you touch the flapper, it's time to replace it!
- Be careful that your displacement device still allows a complete flush. With old tanks, less volume may mean less than a total flush.
- Flushing twice doesn't save water!
To save water while showering, install a low-flow showerhead. New designs range from 1.5 to 2.5 gallons per minute and still provide a powerful stream of water. Some models allow you to temporarily turn off the water without changing the water temperature.
To install a new showerhead, simply unscrew the old one and screw on the new one using Teflon tape to seal the threads. Be careful not to unscrew plumbing fixtures inside the wall!
Other lifestyle choices will help save water while bathing:
Baths can sometimes actually save water compared with long showers. A showerhead that delivers 5 gallons per minute means that a shower longer than 8 minutes uses more water than a typical full bathtub (40 gallons).
- Take short showers instead of baths.
- Take shorter showers or shower less often.
- Don't run the water full force when showering.
- Turn the shower off while soaping or shaving.
- Keep the water shallow when using the tub.
Saving water in the kitchen is easy with a low-flow faucet aerator and a few new habits. When selecting a low-flow faucet, keep in mind that flows less than 2.5 gallons per minute are inconvenient at a kitchen sink when you are trying to fill pots or wash dishes. A dual flow faucet is the best choice for kitchens.
Other BMPs can save water in the kitchen:
- Repair leaky faucets.
- Wash only FULL loads in the dishwasher and select a low-water-use model.
- Hand-wash dishes in a basin instead of under running water.
- Store a container of water in the refrigerator to avoid running water each time you want a cold drink.
Front-loading washing machines use 40% less water than top loaders. However, front loaders are not common; they may be more expensive than top loaders and may be difficult to find.
Another option is to purchase a top loader with a suds-saver. Suds-savers reuse most of the sudsy wash water for a second load. By beginning with the cleanest clothes and reusing wash water for at least one load, suds-savers can cut water use by 30-50%.
Even when using a standard top-loading machine, there are habits that will save water:
- Wash only FULL loads.
- When smaller loads are necessary, use partial load settings.
Water Treatment Devices
If your water softener backflush line is connected to the septic system, recharge your softener as infrequently as possible to reduce water use and avoid overloading the septic system. If you want automatic recharge on your conditioner, select a model that recharges after a certain amount of water passes through rather than one that recharges at regular time intervals. That way if you're away or your water usage drops, the frequency of recharge will also drop.
If you have a point-of-use water treatment device, be sure it has a shut-off valve so the system doesn't run continuously when the reservoir is already full. Reverse osmosis systems sometimes reject 8 gallons for every 1 gallon filtered. This rejected water can put too much water into your septic system and chemically destroy the bacterial action.
Saving Water Saves Energy and Money
By conserving water, you will save money. Using a low-flow showerhead will annually save you an estimated $10 per person in water heating savings alone. Savings can be realized from water and wastewater service fees, electric city bills, and longevity of your pumps and switches. The largest savings in the rural setting is your septic system performance and longevity.
Regulations That Apply
The 1992 Federal Energy Policy Act established standards for water-efficient plumbing fixtures including toilets, urinals, showerheads, and faucets manufactured after January 1994. This includes installing 1.5 or 1.6 gallon flush toilets, low-flow showerheads, and other water saving devices in new constructions and remodeling projects.
Minnesota law requires municipalities with public water supplies serving more than 1,000 people to develop conservation plans. By January 1, 1996, municipalities must have developed a water emergency and conservation plan. Before requesting approvals to construct new wells or increase their annual appropriation, communities must implement demand reduction measures designed to decrease water use.
What Is Your Water Footprint?
As a consumer, you can reduce your direct water footprint (home water use) by installing water saving toilets, applying a water-saving showerhead, closing the tap during teeth brushing, using less water in the garden and by not disposing medicines, paints or other pollutants through the sink.
Every leaking toilet or faucet is money down the drain. Fixing those plumbing leaks
adds up to money in your pocket. A Minnesota Plumber would be happy to show you how you can reduce your water foot print.