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Consumer Reports | Product Review

How to cut your water use in half


California residents are trying to save water as the state’s drought stretches into its fourth year. But California isn’t the only place facing a dry spell. Water managers in 40 states say that even if water conditions remain normal, they expect shortages in some part of their states over the next decade, according to WaterSense, the water conservation partner of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The two best ways to save water, Consumer Reports says, are by replacing water-wasting appliances and fixtures, and changing your lifestyle and habits. Neither is easy. The first requires an upfront expense and the second a long-term commitment. But do both and you can cut your usage in half or better.


Outdoor watering accounts for almost 30 percent of water use, according to an analysis published by Environment Magazine. But toilets (19 percent), washing machines (15 percent), showers (12 percent), and faucets (11 percent) also use substantial amounts. Then there’s the 10 percent of water lost to leaks.

The top six most effective ways to save water indoors are: plug leaks, install low-flow toilets, use a high-efficiency washer, reduce shower time to five minutes, wash only full loads of laundry, and reduce toilet flushes by 25 percent.

Consumer Reports offers these other ways to save water:

In the kitchen

Don’t rinse dishes before putting them in a dishwasher. The dishwasher is designed to do that — and do it better than you can.

Replace your old dishwasher. Energy Star dishwashers are about 15 percent more water efficient than standard models. The most miserly use only four to six gallons during a normal cycle.

Wash only full loads of dishes. For maximum efficiency, load the dishwasher according to the instructions in the owner’s manual, which will make the most of the sprays in the machine.

Keep drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap until it’s cool.


Give pots and pans a soak instead of scrubbing them under running water. And don’t wash fruits and vegetables under the tap. Instead, rinse them in a large bowl filled with water.

In the laundry room

Replace your old washer. Energy Star washing machines use about 40 percent less water than a regular washer.

Pick the appropriate water level setting — often small, medium, large — for the load if that’s how your machine works.

Measure laundry detergent and use high-efficiency detergents for high-efficiency top-loaders and front-loaders. Regular detergents are too sudsy, and using too much can cause high-efficiency washers to use more water by extending the rinse cycle.

Do only full loads, but don’t overstuff. Using cold water whenever possible helps save energy.

In the bathroom

Replace old toilets — all of them. Older toilets use as many as 6 gallons per flush while new WaterSense toilets do the job with 1.28 gallons or less. With new toilets, the average family can reduce water use by 20 percent per toilet.

Instead of baths, take short showers, cutting shower time to 5 minutes. If you’re brave, turn off the water when lathering up or shampooing. And don’t let the water run when brushing your teeth or shaving.

Replace old showerheads. Standard ones use 2.5 gallons of water per minute.

Replace old faucets. Replacing leaky or inefficient faucets and aerators with Water- Sense models can save the average family 500 gallons of water per year.

Don’t use a toilet as a garbage can. It wastes water and can clog pipes. Toilet paper is designed to disintegrate. Tissues, most wipes, and dental floss are not.