How to Cut Your Water Bill by $170

Chances are, you're wasting water and money -- here's how to stop.

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The average U.S. household pays up to $500 a year for water and sewer charges, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But it’s possible to cut the annual household water bill by $170, according to EPA estimates. On a national basis, if each household in the U.S. replaced older appliances with water-conserving models, consumers would save more than $18 billion and 3 trillion gallons of water annually, according to the EPA. Here are a few strategies for cutting costs and water usage. (See also: 8 ways to lower water heater costs)

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Stop leaking

Be on the lookout for dripping sinks, pipes, faucets and sprinklers. Plugging leaks can build a pool of savings. That’s because more than 10 percent of your household budget may be washing down the drain because of leaks, according to water conservation groups. Take a virtual room-by-room home tour filled with water preservation tips at H2ouse.org, a website jointly developed by the California Urban Water Conservation Council and the EPA. The online house tour provides a specific action plan for conserving water.

Check the powder room

More than 50 percent of the water consumed in homes is used in the bathroom. To hold back the tide, install water-efficient showerheads and toilets. An older, non-efficient showerhead can use 25 to 40 gallons of water during a five-minute shower. But a water-conserving showerhead consumes only 7.5 gallons of water in five minutes.

Water-efficient appliances also cut household sewer and energy bills. To encourage water conservation, some water utilities, local governments and homeowners association provide free or affordable showerheads in swap programs. What’s more, many municipalities offer financial incentives to homeowners who replace older appliances with water-efficient fixtures.

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Target the spin cycle

Energy-star rated clothes washers use up to 50 percent less water than other models and less electricity. Check out the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, which provides a list of water-conserving clothes washers.

Sharon Harvey-Rosenberg is a member of Wise Bread’s top personal finance blog network. She is the author of "Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money” and a contributing author to ”10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.”