Spring and summer seasons for Floridians are characterized by recreational activities involving water sources that are especially unique to us like springs and beaches. While we use these resources almost all year around, it can be difficult to notice that these water sources, once plentiful, are now gradually being depleted by wasteful behavior and old technology.
The average gallons per day for a person in Mozambique (Africa) is 2 gallons, Germany, 72 gallons, Canada, 114 gallons, the United States, 150 gallons and Florida, 176 gallons, according to statistics from the St. Johns River Water Management District. The St. Johns district statistics show that about 58 percent of water use goes to outdoor uses – the worst offender being irrigation.
Other uses include about 10 percent for the toilet, about 8 percent for washing machines, about 7 percent for the shower, about 6 percent for faucets and about 5 percent goes to any kind of leak. Cutting down usage of all of these appliances could make a dent in water usage, considering they account for about 36 percent of water usage per person.
There are numerous excuses for not cutting back on water: not enough money, time or lack of knowledge. But whether you don’t have money or you don’t have time, water saving behaviors or upgrades are still in reach.
By just changing behaviors or making upgrades outside the home, 40 gallons or more of water can be saved per day. Behaviors that can easily be changed to reduce water usage are:
- Water plants and grass only when needed.
Tip: Step on the grass – if it springs back then it doesn’t need water
- Set the lawn mower blades one notch higher.
Tip: Never cut more than the top third of grass to decrease evaporation. Longer grass means less evaporation.
- Don’t water on windy days
- Only water before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. Watering midday can waste up to 65 percent of water to evaporation.
- Don’t let the hose run while washing your car, instead use buckets to hold water and soap
- Group plants according to their watering needs
- Water less in the winter.
- Use a broom instead of hose to clean driveways
- Adjust sprinklers to reduce spraying on sidewalks and driveways
- Repair leaky hoses or sprinklers
Ready to take the next step?
There are nontraditional upgrades that can be made to the outside of the home. Some of them, like rain barrels and cisterns, that seem foreign to some, but they can stop wasteful watering easily. Upgrades to the outside of the home are:
- Water-efficient drip irrigation for trees, shrubs and flowers
- Install a rain shut-off device on automatic sprinklers
- Put mulch around trees, shrubs and flowers to lessen evaporation
- Use rain barrels or cisterns to collect rain run-off
- Replace turf grass with native drought-tolerant vegetation
- Make a compost pile
- Replace traditional St. Augustine grass (high water use) to a lower water use grass
- Install a smart irrigation controller that adjusts watering for temperature and rain
- Install a pool cover to reduce evaporation
Also: Be careful with small children around these.
Inside the Home
Even though most of the water usage is accounted for outside of the home, 41% of water use comes from uses inside the home. By changing behaviors and making a few upgrades, water can be saved and used efficiently, saving anywhere up to 30 gallons per person, per day.
Water saving tips involving behavioral change are:
- Shower in 5 minutes or less
Tip: Don’t think you can shower in just 5 minutes? Try just cutting back your shower by 2 minutes to save 5 gallons per day)
- Run only full loads in the clothes washer
- Don’t leave water running while washing the dishes
- Run the dishwasher only when full
- Turn off water while brushing your teeth
- Fill the bath tub only halfway
- Don’t use the toilet as a waste basket
Still not enough?
You can upgrade appliances and plumbing in the home to further water saving. Some of these upgrades cost $1 while some cost hundreds of dollars.
Upgrades to save water in the home are:
- Fix leaky faucets and toilets
Tip: Put a few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank, wait 15 minutes, and if bowl water is colored then you have a leaky flapper that should be replaced.
- Install a shower head with a maximum flow rate of 2 gallons per minute
- Install low flow shower head (2 gallon/min)
- Purchase efficient clothes washer (Energy Star)
- Purchase an efficient dishwasher (Energy Star)
- Install toilets with 1.28 gallons per flush
Tip: If you can’t afford a new toilet, try this to reduce the amount of water it uses – fill half way a half-gallon jug with pebbles, gravel, sand or water, and put it in the toilet tank.
**Also: If one flush doesn’t clean out the toilet, then remove the jug.
- Install sink aerators with maximum flow rates of 1.5 gallons per minute
Information was provided by Stacie Greco of the Alachua County of Environmental Protection Department. More resources on saving water include Gainesville Regional Utilities, St. Johns River Water Management District, South West Florida Water Management District and the Suwannee River Water Management District. GRU also provides free home surveys where their trained professionals can point out how to save water and energy in the home.