Ask Eartha: How to save water (and money) at home |

Ask Eartha: How to save water (and money) at home

Dear Eartha,
My friends just remodeled their bathroom and upgraded to a low-flow toilet. Does that really have an impact?

On average in the United States, water from the tap, toilet, dishwasher and other appliances adds up to about 138 gallons per household per day. That’s roughly 60 gallons per person per day, and it’s all based on data from the Water Footprint Calculator. Breaking this down further, we find that much of the daily water use occurs in the bathroom with about 64% used by toilets, taps and shower heads.

Based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense data, leaky toilets, faucets and appliances account for more than 1 trillion gallons of wasted water each year, equal to the annual household water use of 11 million homes. Simply upgrading an old toilet to a low-flow model can save upward of 13,000 gallons of water annually for the average family. This is an easy way to save on your water bill each month and usually requires a plumber to install new toilets and properly address any leaks that might exist with your fixtures.

Saving water can help reduce the impacts of drought

Reporting done by NPR shows the growing demand for access to clean water in the mountain west is stressing local watersheds that are already facing persistent drought conditions. Although the intensity and location of droughts fluctuate each year, Colorado’s temperature has increased by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit from 1977-2006, according to multiple independent studies. This leads to less annual precipitation and spring snowpacks melting faster, which leads to less water in our rivers and lakes throughout the year.

Currently, Summit County is rated abnormally dry by the United States Drought Monitor. Even though this winter saw average snowfall levels, a dry and warm April pushed us into early drought levels. And we are not alone: Nearly 76% of Colorado is experiencing drought conditions with 11% under extreme drought conditions.

Installing water-saving toilets, faucets, shower heads, dishwashers and washing machines can help use less water in our homes and can help reduce the severity of drought in our communities and set a standard for future generations who will be the ones managing a very different water landscape than we live in today.

Make the switch

Fortunately, saving water around the house is easier than ever before. Switching to water-saving fixtures and appliances can reduce indoor water use by 20%. The Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense website lists many water-saving products and the Department of Energy’s Energy Star label also has an extensive list of energy- and water-saving appliances, like dishwashers and washing machines.

Newer dishwashers and clothes washers use water much more efficiently than older models. Water-efficient dishwashers save more than 5,000 gallons of water per year compared with washing dishes by hand (and use less than half the energy, too). Newer washing machines handle much bigger loads of clothing with much less water. A full-sized Energy Star-certified clothes washer uses 13 gallons of water per load, compared to the 23 gallons used by a standard machine, saving over 3,000 gallons of water per year.

Likewise, newer bathroom fixtures and appliances like toilets, shower heads and faucets are designed to be more water-efficient than older models and can save hundreds of gallons a month. The WaterSense line of bathroom products passes strict criteria for flow and quality control so you don’t need to worry about trading performance for efficiency. For example, older toilets use up to 6 gallons per flush, whereas WaterSense toilets use 1.28 gallons per flush or less. Likewise, older shower heads flow well over the federal limit of 2.5 gallons per minute, while WaterSense models can flow no higher than 2 gallons per minute.

If you are a customer of Breckenridge, Frisco or Dillon water providers and need help making the switch to a low-flow lifestyle, then sign up for Tame the Tap, and experts from the High Country Conservation Center will schedule a physically distanced indoor water assessment. They will check your bathroom fixtures for leaks and can provide low-flow faucet aerators and shower heads on the spot — all free of charge. And if you’ve been considering an upgrade, they have rebates up to $100 — Frisco residents have additional rebates available — to use toward specific WaterSense and Energy Star appliances and fixtures. You can visit for more info as well as sign up for an indoor water assessment.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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