What are the best ways to conserve water indoors?

Summary

  • Toilet flushing is the primary use of water inside a home, so many of the best ways to conserve water involve toilets.
  • Toilets now available use 1.28 gallons per flush, compared to 3.5, 5 or more gallons per flush for models installed before 1994.
  • New toilets may pay for themselves in a few years by reducing your monthly water and sewer costs.
  • If it is not practical to replace an old toilet, you can conserve by putting a weighted container of water in the tank, adjusting the fill valve and/or flushing less often.
  • Some showerheads use as little as 1.5 gallons per minute, or 40% less than the plumbing code standard.
  • When it is time to replace a clothes- or dishwasher, we recommend choosing a water- and energy-conserving model.
  • If your water use goes up expectedly, the cause may be a leak in a toilet, showerhead, waterheater, faucet, pipe, etc. We recommend checking OWASA’s bills monthly to monitor your water use.

Leaks

Check your water consumption on our monthly bills for unexpected increases which may indicate a leak somewhere in your water system. A leak in a water pipe, a sticking “flapper” in a toilet tank, etc. can waste thousands of gallons of water in one month and substantially increase your bill.

You can check our meter at your home or business to monitor your water use and for indications of a leak. Please click here for more information.

Regularly check your toilets, faucets, spigots, showerheads, water pipes, washing machine and hoses, dishwasher, etc. for leaks. A leak in a water pipe, a sticking “flapper” in a toilet tank, and other kinds of leaks can waste thousands of gallons in one month.

Also, check the area between the water meter and your residence or business for wet spots indicating a possible leak in the “supply” line from our meter.

One of the simplest ways to check for leaks is to listen carefully for the sound of running water at night or another quiet time when no faucets or fixtures are in use. However, some leaks are so small that you may not hear them, for example, in a toilet.

Toilets are one of the most common places for leaks. To check for a leak in a toilet with a tank:

  • Put food dye in the tank (not the bowl),
  • don’t flush for 15 to 30 minutes and
  • look for dye in the toilet bowl.
  • If there is dye in the bowl, there is probably a leak in the flapper at the bottom of the tank or the “fill valve” may be leaking or malfunctioning. 

If a leak needs to be fixed or the toilet flapper needs replaced, the work should be done by someone who can do the work properly. Improper work can result in water waste.

Consider installing a special sensor and shut-off device which would detect a major leak in your plumbing system and turn off your water automatically even if no one is in the home or business.

An account adjustment may be available when you fix a leak

If you have a leak fixed and the water and sewer account is in your name, please contact OWASA Customer Service at customerservice3@owasa.org or 919-537-4343 to ask about an account adjustment after the leak is fixed. We may provide one account adjustment every three years after a leak is fixed, subject to some limits and conditions. Please click here for more information about our policy.

Toilets

If your toilets were installed before 1994, they probably use 2 to 3 times as much water as the low-flush toilets required under current plumbing codes. Toilets installed before 1980 may use 5 gallons per flush, and toilets installed from 1980 to 1994 may use 3.5 gallons per flush.

In contrast, “high-efficiency” toilets now available use  1.28 gallons per flush and low-flush toilets use  1.6 gallons.

We encourage you to consider replacing pre-1994 toilets. A new toilet may pay for itself in a few years by reducing your monthly water and sewer bills. Please click here for examples of water and dollar savings, costs and potential investment returns from replacing pre-1994 toilets which use 3.5, 5 or more gallons per flush.

The WaterSense website has information on water-saving toilets.

If you do not replace an old toilet, there are several ways to reduce its flush volume:

  • Lower the water level in the toilet tank by adjusting the fill valve. Adjustment is not possible for some types of fill valves.
  • Replace the fill valve (inside the toilet tank) with one that uses less water for flushing.
  • Put a “dam” in the toilet tank to reduce the flush volume. The dam works by holding some of the water in the tank instead of letting it flow into the bowl.
  • Put a bottle or other container of water in the tank. You can help keep the container stable by putting some sand in it. Please make sure that the container does not interfere with operation of the flapper, etc.

Showers and baths

Take short showers (5 minutes or less). For extra savings, turn off the shower while you lather and scrub.

Install a low-flow showerhead with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or less. Some showerheads use as little as 1.5 gallons per minute.  

If not installed properly, showerheads will leak and waste water, so get help from a knowledgeable person if you do not know how to install a showerhead.

Before hot water comes through a showerhead, catch and use the lukewarm water for plants, etc.

A bath uses more water than a short shower with an efficient showerhead. If you fill a tub half full, you may use 20 gallons compared to 7.5 gallons for a 5-minute shower with a showerhead that uses 1.5 gallons per minute.

Faucets

Do not leave water running while you brush your teeth, wash your hands, shave, wash dishes, etc.

Install a faucet aerator with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or less.

Before hot water comes through a faucet, catch and use the lukewarm water for plants, etc.

Consider installing faucets which operate only when they detect a hand and which shut off automatically when water is not needed. (This may be more practical in a business or office than in a home.)

Washers

If you have a clothes washer or dishwasher, use them when you have a full load of dishes or laundry.

When you plan to buy a new washer for clothes or dishes, consider buying a new high-efficiency model that saves water and energy. The EnergyStar website has information on water- and energy-efficient models such as front-loading clothes washers.

Water shut-off valve

Make sure that you know and mark the location of the water shut-off valve for your plumbing system so that you can turn off the water quickly if you have a leak or  when a repair is needed.

If you do not have a shut-off valve, we recommend installing one.

Urinals

If you have a business or other facility with urinals, consider installing a waterless model. The cost may be practical where there is a high level of use.

Please note if you rent your residence:

please contact the property manager/ maintenance staff about fixing leaks, whether you can arrange installation of a new showerhead or toilet flapper, possible adjustment of the fill level in toilets, etc.

For more information

Please contact us at 919-537-4267 or info@owasa.org. We appreciate very much your interest in conserving water, a previous resource!