Tips for Conserving Water
To protect our precious groundwater supply, the Lower Platte North NRD encourages everyone to conserve water whenever they can. Conserving water isn’t just good for the environment - it’s a good way to save money too. Here are some guidelines you can follow that can help you greatly reduce water use:
Irrigation is the largest water use in Nebraska. By taking steps to improve efficiency, irrigators can greatly reduce water use and save money:
- Substantial water can be saved if more drought-resistant crop varieties are used.
- Recent research has shown that even regular corn varieties can be water-stressed when the corn plant is in its early growing stages and it will not affect yields if the corn receives adequate water in the tasseling to late reproductive phase. This can save two to four inches of water over the course of a summer.
- A simple crop rotation of corn and soybeans can save water compared to continuous corn.
Switching from gravity to pivot irrigation or from high-pressure to low-pressure systems can save a significant amount of water and lower your costs over time.
Tracking water use:
Installing a water meter or time totalizer can help you track your water use. This will help you be more precise in your water applications (saving on fuel costs and using water efficiently), and can also help identify leaks or other problems with your system. For more information on using a meter or time totalizer, contact Russell Oaklund.
Water Your Lawn/Garden Efficiently
Outdoor watering can account for a large percentage of your overall water use. To help reduce this, use efficient watering practices:
- Substantial water can be saved if more drought-resistant grass varieties are used. If you have a bluegrass lawn, consider reseeding with fescue, zoysia or buffalo grass.
- Letting your lawn go dormant during the summer and watering just enough to keep the roots alive can also save substantial water. With cooler temperatures and adequate watering in the fall, your lawn should return.
- Plan your watering for the evening or early morning.
- Avoiding the heat of the day will help reduce evaporation loss.
- Avoid watering on windy days.
- Water in several short sessions rather than one long one. Three ten-minute sessions spaced 30 minutes to an hour apart will allow your lawn to better absorb moisture.
- Mulch your garden and flower beds to reduce evaporation.
Leaks in your fixtures can add up quickly. Dripping faucets and leaking toilets can easily waste 40-50 gallons of water per day or more.
The most common source of leaks is the toilet. To check your toilet for leaks, put a few drops of food dye in the tank and wait 15 minutes. If color appears in the bowl, you have a leak that should be repaired. Leaky toilets can usually be repaired inexpensively by replacing the flapper or adjusting the water level.
Dripping faucets can usually be repaired by replacing the rubber washer or O-ring inside the valve.
Check for other leaks by turning off all water taps, recording the water meter reading, and then comparing it to the reading 3-4 hours later.
Take Quick Showers
Bathing is the third highest use of water. Taking a quick shower rather than a bath can save as much as 20 gallons.
Wash Full Loads
When using a clothes or dish washer, wait until you have a full load to avoid wasting water. Clothes washers can use as much as 30-35 gallons of water per cycle. A full dishwasher is more water efficient than washing the same load by hand.
Don't Waste Water
A few common-sense measures can help you reduce water used for everyday activities:
- Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or shaving. This small step can save more than 5 gallons a day.
- Don’t let the hose run when washing your car. Use a bucket of water and sponge, then turn on the hose only to rinse.
- Don’t run water from the faucet to get cold water. Keep a bottle of water in the refrigerator.
- Use brooms instead of a hose to clean patios, decks, sidewalks and driveways.
- Use a rinse basin or sprayer for rinsing hand-washed dishes and other items instead of running water.
- Reduce flushes by not using the toilet as a waste paper basket.
Don’t waste your “gray” water - put it to use:
- Water plants with leftover water from washing vegetables, leftover coffee, etc.
- Wash patio furniture, cars, plant containers, waste baskets and other items near or on the lawn to reuse the water. Use an environmentally safe mild cleaner - avoid strong cleaners that may damage plants.
Install Water-Saving Equipment
By installing water-efficient equipment and/or replacing old fixtures and appliances, you can achieve significant water savings.
Older toilets (installed prior to 1994) use 3.5 to 7 gallons of water per flush and as much as 20 gallons per person per day. To reduce that amount, consider:
- replacing pre-1994 toilets; newer toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush, and can save 7,900 to 21,700 gallons of water per year.
- reducing the amount of water used by an older toilet by installing a toilet dam, 1.6 gallon flapper, or placing water-filled jugs in the tank. Do not use bricks, as they can crumble and interfere with normal operation.
Older showers (installed prior to 1994) can use up to 6-8 gallons per minute (gpm). Consider replacing older showerheads with new water-efficient showerheads that use 2.5 gpm or less.
Consider installing aerators on your faucets to help reduce water flow. An aerator can reduce water flow up to 50% while adding air to make the flow appear the same. Aerators with flow rates of 1.5 gpm or lower are available for a few dollars.
Newer appliances can be considerably more water-efficient than older ones. When purchasing new appliances, look for the EnergyStar label, compare the amount of water used for the same tub capacity, and check for other water-saving features. “Horizontal-axis” washing machines (usually front-loading) are more efficient than top-loaders, and can use up to 1/3 less water per cycle.
Consider replacing an old traditional water softener with an “on-demand” model. On-demand softeners use less water by responding to actual water use and water hardness rather than a timed schedule.