Conserving Water at Home

Linda Heaton; Tom Ilvento; Joe Taraba

Most of us take for granted an abundant supply of good, fresh water. We meet our daily needs when we turn on the faucet and get seemingly unlimited running water. However, this situation is changing as more and more communities face water shortages.

Water shortages are certainly inconvenient and even scary. At first, they are hard to understand when we know that the US daily rainfall equals 4.2 trillion gallons. However, water is not always located where it is needed and demand keeps increasing.

In the last 30 years the US demand for water has grown faster than our ability to find new water sources. During this period while our population grew 52%, total water use tripled. Demand for water continues to rise sharply but population has increased only slightly in the last few years.

Water Use

Just how much water do we consume each day? Studies show wide variations in different areas of the country and between urban and rural households.

How the average person uses water inside the home

According to the American Water Works Assn., the average US resident uses about 110 gallons a day. Statistics for our part of the country show that a typical consumer uses 50 to 75 gallons daily inside the home. We use the most for toilets, followed by bathing, laundry/dishes and cooking/drinking.

Water use varies with time of day and season of year. Households use less water in the early morning, while most people are sleeping, and during the winter. Peak consumption is in the spring and summer and when the family gets home in the late afternoon. However, everybody's use is a little different. Home water use mirrors each person's lifestyle and behavior.

Conservation --It's Everyone's Responsibility

Water shortages are real, touching many US communities each year. Because water conservation is a good defense against shortages, it should happen all the time, not just when shortages occur.

To begin conserving water, everyone needs to know some simple facts:

  1. Water is a limited resource.
  2. Water costs a great deal in energy and money to pump, move and purify.
  3. Water consumption can be reduced significantly in the average home.

Conservation is everybody's responsibility. Most of us can significantly reduce our household water consumption if we change some of our habits.

The rest of this publication presents several check lists that can help you reduce home water use. When possible, each group of water-saving techniques is listed in order, starting with little savings and going to big ones. Some items are severe measures, recommended only for emergencies.

Watches and Warnings

For emergencies, the Kentucky Natural Resources & Environmental Protection Cabinet has defined two levels of water shortages:

Water Shortage Watch: Rainfall levels, reservoir levels, stream flow and the Palmer Drought Index indicate the potential for water shortages.

Water Shortage Warning: Water supplies have entered an emergency phase; amounts are very limited.

Remember these two levels use the same words as tornado watches and warnings: "watch" means we have conditions that could lead to a bad shortage. "Warning" means the shortage is already here.

When drought conditions develop, local governments and water utility managers will announce a plan based on their community's situation. At that point, use the stricter recommendations listed under "During Emergencies."

Bathing & Personal Care

Save Water Every Day

During Emergencies


Save Water Every Day

During Emergencies

As with your water from baths and showers, you can re-cycle your used laundry water for flushing the toilet, watering outdoor plants or doing other household cleaning like mopping floors. Do not use wash water containing bleach or borax for watering plants.

Cooking & Drinking Water

Save Water Every Day

During Emergencies

Household Cleaning

Save Water Every Day

Garden and Lawn

Save Water Every Day

During Emergencies


Save Water Every Day

For more information on water use, see the following Cooperative Extension publications:
IP-1, Understanding the Water System
IP-3, Water Testing
IP-4, Cisterns
IP-5, Water Treatment
IP-6, Carbon Filters
IP-7, Hard Water -- To Soften or Not To Soften

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