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In midst of U.S. drought, experts offer water-conservation tips

Toilets account for almost 27 percent of home water usage; a regular toilet uses four gallons of water per flush, while a water saving toilet will use less than two  

June 19, 2000
Web posted at: 10:19 p.m. EDT (0219 GMT)

In this story:

Cut grass higher

Shower water can be used on plants


ATLANTA (CNN) -- With a drought stretching from Texas to the Midwest and Southeast, water has become a precious commodity. That has some onsumers looking for ways to reduce and reuse the water they do have.

Almost 27 percent of all water used inside a home goes down the toilet, andthat, experts advise, is where consumers can conserve the most.


"A typical toilet will use four gallons of water per flush ... a water-saving toilet will use less than two," said Gretchen Gigley of Southface Energy Institute.

If a consumer is not ready to buy a new toilet, placing a brick or a plastic container such as a milk carton filled with sand or pebbles into the tank of an old toilet will mean less water is used to fill the tank.

Experts also say that showering generally uses less water than taking a bath. And they suggest buying low-flow faucets, which use less water while maintaining the same water pressure. They urge people to shut off the water while brushing their teeth or shaving.

Using a dishwasher is also advised because it usually requires less water than hand washing dishes in the sink. More water can be saved if the dishwasher is run only when full.

Choosing the right washer for the laundry room can cut water usage.

"It's better to purchase a front-loading washing machine if you're in the market for a new machine," said Gigley.

Front-loaders have no agitator, which means more room for clothes, and the washers generally do not fill and release as much water as a top-loader.

gutter water drums
Water barrels store rainwater collected from roof gutters  

Cut grass higher

Lawn care accounts for about 32 percent of the total residential outdoor water use, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

To conserve outdoor water:

  • Reduce the amount of grass in your yard, because it soaks up too much water.

  • Cut grass higher, which keeps the moisture in.

  • Mulch shrubbery and gardens 3 inches deep to retain moisture.

  • Try capturing water from rain gutters in barrels.

"For a 1,500 square foot roof that you're capturing water from, in a 1 inch rain, you can capture about 700 gallons of water," said Gigley.

Shower water can be used on plants

To find water for plants, consumers can recycle from so-called gray water inside the house as well.

"Our gray water only consists of our water from our washing machine," said Gigley.

That works if the consumer is using biodegradable soap, which won't harm the garden. Shower water can also be recycled and used, if city and county laws allow it.

A final suggestion from the experts: Hold off on planting until fall, because a new plant in a summer drought may need water every day and still may not survive.

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Cleaner Water Through Conservation- Chapter 3
Landscape Design For Water Conservation
Southface Home Page
NOAA Home Page
  • NOAA's Drought Information Center
  • NOAA's Climate Prediction Center
The U.S. Drought Monitor
The National Weather Service

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