Why and How to Conserve Water In Your Home

With a few small changes, you can significantly cut back your water consumption.

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This winter has been one of the snowiest on record for many states, which can make the argument for saving water a little, well, weak. After all, we're inundated with water right now!

[See 12 Money Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes.]

But many scientists and government experts have been warning, for several years now, that we're using too much water for the environment to handle. In fact, some experts have predicted as many as 36 states could face significant water shortages in the next five years. If this is the case, we should be doing all we can to preserve this precious resource. According to the American Water Works Association, the average person in the United States uses 69.3 gallons of water per day. Treehugger puts this figure at 79 gallons. Either way, that's more than twice the global average.

Fortunately, a few small changes on our part can make a big difference in how much water we consume. Here are some ways to conserve water in your home, and save on your utility bill:

1. Install Low-Flow Showerheads

You probably knew this tip was coming, but it's with good reason it's first on the list. Older shower heads can burn through an astonishing 4 to 5 gallons per minute. Low-flow heads use a meager 1 to 2 gallons per minute.

I use low-flow showerheads and can honestly say I can't tell the difference in pressure. This is an easy fix that can make a huge difference in your water consumption.

[See 5 Tips for Winter Cleaning Your Home.]

2. Displace Your Toilet Tank Water

Most homes use 20 gallons or more every day just flushing the toilet. If you don't have a low-flow toilet, you can reduce water usage by putting something solid in your toilet's tank reservoir. It could be a brick, a milk jug filled with rocks, or you can even buy toilet tank water displacement bags to put in there. Regardless of what you use, displacing the water can reduce your toilet's water consumption by 25 to 50 percent.

Additionally, you can reduce your water consumption by flushing less.

3. Use Rain Barrels for Your Garden

Rain can dump an incredible amount of water in a short amount of time. If you use the huge surface area of your roof to collect that water, one small rain shower can fill up a 55-gallon rain barrel in just a few minutes.

Rain barrels offer a wonderful way to conserve water because they harness water that would ordinarily be absorbed into the ground. I have two of them, and can't imagine home gardening without them.

4. Use Appliances Only When Full

Your clothes washer and dishwasher use a combined 16 gallons of water every time you run them. And that's for newer models.

Make sure you only run these appliances when they're 100 percent full. This will cut down your water consumption because you would run them less. There might even be appliances you can live without.

5. Use a Dishpan

Remember dishpans? Decades ago, a dishpan was a staple of kitchen gadgets and utensils. Today, however, dishpans aren't as common.

Using a dishpan is a wonderful way to reuse water that would ordinarily go down the drain. For instance, you can collect the water you use when washing vegetables, and give it to your houseplants. If you use an eco-friendly dish soap, you can toss your dish water out onto the lawn or garden to water your plants.

[See 5 Ways to Free Your Home of Dangerous Chemicals.]

6. Use Mulch

Mulch makes your yard landscaping more attractive. But it also retains moisture and keeps the soil wet, which means your watering goes further, and you need to water less often.

7. Skip the Car Wash

Washing your car at home uses up an average of 77 gallons of water. That's a ton of water! Instead, purchase a car cleaner. There are a number of "waterless car wash" products that allow you to spray your car down with an eco-friendly cleaner, and then wipe off the dirt and grime. This is what I use to clean my car and it works great. The best part? I never have to use a drop of water to clean my car.

What are you doing to conserve water in your home?

Heather Levin contributes content related to green home living and saving money to the Money Crashers personal finance blog. She also writes about similar ideas on The Greenest Dollar.