Shutoff Valves & Emergencies

Water heaters have been known to blow out and pipes have been known to burst. Occasionally, a faucet decides to become a fountain. When this sort of thing happens, you’ll want to know how to turn everything off before you needlessly waste a lot of water and possibly water damage.

Find the main shutoff valve that turns off water to the whole house. It’s usually located where the water pipe comes into the house. Check to see if you have a main shutoff valve that works. If you don’t, or it doesn’t, ask a plumber to stop by and correct the situation.

The Bathroom

You can make the most substantial reduction in your personal water use in the bathroom. More than 50 percent of the water used in an average home is used in the bathroom. Much of that water may be going to the sewer needlessly, adding to the volume of burden on treatment plants.


About 7 gallons of water goes into the sewer every time you flush your toilet. There are 2 ways to cut down: don’t use the toilet as a trash can and reduce the water per flush.

Toilets should not be used to flush away tissues, gum wrappers, cigarette butts, spiders, diapers or anything else that ought to go in a wastebasket or garbage can. All of us do it at one time or another, but using the toilet as a wastebasket is just a phenomenal waste of water.

Most toilets use more water than is really necessary and work just as well with less. So, you can put a brick in the tank to displace some of the water right? Wrong! The extra weight might crack your tank. Besides, the bricks may begin to disintegrate after a while, causing serious and expensive problems in the plumbing.

Use a plastic soap or laundry bottle instead. It’s safe, easy and inexpensive. Fill a few bottles with water to weight them and put them in the tank. Be careful not to set the bottles where they’ll jam the flushing mechanism. Be sure you don’t displace so much water that you have to double-flush to get the toilet to work. Double-flushing wastes water.

Showers, Bathtubs & Sinks

People used to think showers were less wasteful than tub baths, period. This isn’t always the case. Some people spend 10 to 20 minutes or more in the shower. Most showers pour out between 5 and 10 gallons per minute, and that can add up in hurry.

There’s no hard-fast rule. It’s a matter of self control. A partially filled tub uses far less water than a long shower, but a short shower uses less than a full tub. Time yourself next time you step under the spray. The odds are you really don’t need to stand there that long; you don’t need the shower running at full-blast.

When shaving and brushing your teeth: don’t leave the water running. Run as much as you need, then turn off the tap until you need some more.

The Kitchen

You can conserve water in your kitchen without sacrificing taste or cleanliness.

Kitchen Tips

  • Automatic dishwashers claim the most water in kitchens - about 12 gallons per run. The secret here is to make sure the washer is fully loaded before you turn it on. It’s going to take 12 gallons whether there’s a full load of dishes or just a couple of cups.
  • Don’t bother rinsing the dishes in the sink before you put them in the dishwasher. Scrape them clean and let the machine do the rest.
  • Are you the dishwasher in your household? Remember not to wash dishes with the water running. A sink full of was water and one of rinse water will do the job just as well.
  • Don’t let the faucet run when you scrub vegetables or prepare other foods, either. Put a stopper in the sink and use the water collected in the sink instead.
  • And for a cold drink of water, don’t stand at the sink and let the water run endlessly. Fill a jug with water and keep it in the refrigerator for a refreshing cold drink anytime.

The Laundry

Many washing machines use 40 or more gallons of water a load, whether the washer’s stuffed full or loaded with only a couple of socks. Save up for a full load and make your water work efficiently. Or remember to set your machine for a lesser load, if it can be adjusted. As with the dishwasher, you save energy and electricity, as well as water.

For hand laundering, put a stopper in the washtub for both wash and rinse. Don’t let the faucet run.

Outside the Home

It’s a fact of life that when more water is used outside, more is wasted there. But you don’t have to let your lawn turn brown or the car turn dusty to conserve water. Use common sense instead.