22 Water-Saving Habits to Start Right Now

In the United States, it’s pretty easy to turn on the tap and let the water flow. But according to the United Nations, 2 billion people around the world live with severe water scarcity. While our daily actions may seem too small to have an effect on so large a crisis, taken together they can go a long way toward saving water—and our planet. Do your part with these 22 water-saving practices.

  1. Know Your Footprint

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    Water usage footprint

    How much water do you really use? Find out by using the Water Footprint Calculator, which will help you determine your current water usage and give you tips on reducing consumption.

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  2. Know the Facts

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    Water usage facts

    Make it your job to seek out information on water conservation. Through Gaia Education’s Local Water Solutions online course, you can learn about new technologies, interconnected systems, and governance issues affecting our global water supply.

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  3. Consider Your Habits

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    Ways to save water

    Your efforts to save water will be sustainable only if you take stock of—and correct—your daily habits. Do you take long showers? Wash tiny loads of laundry? Make a list of 10 daily activities that you can change up to reduce your water use.

    Related: 8 Low-Cost Upgrades for a Hassle-Free Laundry Room

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  4. Leak-Proof Your Home

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    Fix leaks to save water

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency, leaks account for nearly a trillion wasted gallons of water each year. Leak-proof your home using the EPA’s handy Fix a Leak Week program.

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  5. Change Your Fixtures

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    Change fixtures to save water

    While a standard shower head uses about five gallons per minute, a low-flow head cuts that number in half. Swapping out your faucets and shower heads for WaterSense-certified fixtures is one of the easiest ways to save water.

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  6. Collect Water

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    Rain barrel save water

    Too much good, clean water goes to waste, either down the drain or out through the downspouts. Catch it before it disappears! Place a bucket underneath your shower head or tub faucet to collect running water that's heating up, and invest in a rain barrel to capture rainwater from your gutters. Use the saved water for plants and cleaning.

    Related: 10 Times You Can Get Nature to Do Your Yard Work for You

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  7. Time Yourself

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    Reduce showering time save water

    It’s easy to lose track of time in the shower. Keep water use to a minimum by timing your showers and shaving a little bit from them until you reach a goal. Do the same with your bathroom cleaning routine to make sure you're not wasting too much water when you clean the tub.

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  8. Turn Off the Tap

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    Turn off tap save water

    You’ve probably heard this one before, but it bears repeating: Always turn off the tap while you're brushing your teeth! It’s a simple way to save hundreds of gallons each month.

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  9. Don't Forget the Toilet

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    Toilet save water

    A low-flow toilet is the best option for saving water, but if you have an older model, make sure it's working efficiently. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommends checking for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring into the tank. If the color shows up in the bowl, your toilet needs a tune-up.

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  10. Plug the Sink

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    Plug sink save water

    Running the tap while washing dishes wastes up to 27 gallons a load according to the NRDC. Plug the sink while doing the dishes, and if you capture the gray water (leftover waste water), you may be able to use it for cleaning, watering plants, or flushing your toilet—just pour it down the bowl!

    Related: 12 Smart Dish Washing Hacks No One Ever Taught You

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  11. Run Full Loads Only

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    Dishwasher save water

    Completely fill up your dishwasher and washing machine (preferably Energy Star-certified models) before you press start. And don’t bother rinsing dishes—just scrape and load.

    Related: Your Dishwasher Can Do Better: 9 Tips to Boost Performance

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  12. Choose Cold Settings

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    Wash clothes in cold water save water

    When it comes to laundry, cold water is better in most cases. It preserves fabric quality, and because you're able to wash more types of clothing together, it cuts down on the number of loads, which saves both water and energy (heating water accounts for roughly 17 percent of home energy use).

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  13. Buy Energy-Efficient Appliances

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    Energy efficient appliances save water

    Yes, the initial outlay can be costly, but it pays in the long run to buy energy-efficient appliances. Case in point: Energy Star-certified washing machines use about 40 percent less water than standard models.

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  14. Water by Hand

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    Water plants save water

    Use your salvaged shower water (see above) to water your garden by hand. This will let you monitor moisture levels more precisely, avoiding water waste. If you must rely on an automated sprinkler system, be sure to have it serviced regularly. 

    Related: 10 Creative Ways to Care for Your Yard

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  15. Eat and Drink Consciously

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    Dietary choices save water

    Changing your diet affects more than just your waistline. Eating less red meat, more organic produce, less coffee, fewer processed foods, and fewer nuts reduces reliance on water-intensive crops and livestock.

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  16. Trim Energy Use

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    Energy use save water

    Almost 90 percent of electricity in the United States is generated by thermoelectric power plants, which heat water into steam that turns turbines and generates power. Water is also crucial in producing and refining fossil fuels, so when you cut down on your electricity and fossil fuel use, you are helping to save water.

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  17. Shop Smarter

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    Shop smart save water

    Pretty much all consumer goods, from food to fashion to electronics, require water for production and distribution. Remember what you learned in school: reduce, reuse, recycle.

    Related: 14 Things You Never Realized Are Reusable

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  18. Buy WaterSense Appliances

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    WaterSense appliance save water

    Confused about which appliances and fixtures have the best water efficiency? Just look for the EPA’s WaterSense label, which indicates that these appliances have met independent, well-researched standards for water savings, quality, and performance.

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  19. Make It a Game

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    Save water have fun

    Have your family take this EPA-designed quiz for kids, then challenge them to find everyday ways to save water. Turn it into a game, and encourage everyone in the family to find fun and creative solutions. Review your water bill as a family, then choose a usage target—and a reward for hitting it.

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  20. Focus on Fashion

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    Fast fashion save water

    This headline says it all: “It takes 2,700 liters of water to make ONE T-shirt—as much as you’d drink in 3 years.” Think before you buy, and don't fall for fast fashion and seasonal buying sprees. The power is in your hands.

    Related: 25 Things Your Local Thrift Store Doesn’t Want You to Donate

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  21. Go Stainless

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    Reusable water bottle save water

    Save water and cut down on the number of germy, polluting plastic water bottles littering the streets and clogging up recycling facilities. Instead, buy a sleek, refillable stainless steel bottle, and keep it with you at all times.

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  22. Cover the Pool

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    Cover the pool save water

    For those lucky pool owners among us, did you know that an average-size pool loses upward of 20,000 gallons of water each year to evaporation? Cover your pool in all types of weather, or invest in an automatic pool cover system.

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  23. See the House of the Week

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    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!