The Need for Conservation
Marylanders have access to an abundance of water much of the time, and we’re accustomed to having water available at the twist of a faucet. U.S. citizens use approximately 205 billion gallons of water a day for household, industrial and agricultural uses. Unlike the dry western areas of the country, in this area we often overlook the importance of conserving water. As our population continues to grow, however, demands on our precious water resources will increase. In order to ensure adequate water resources for our future needs, we must put conservation measures into effect now.
Practicing water conservation on a regular basis can prevent or postpone the building of new water supply infrastructure. When utilities are able to reduce demand, they can frequently extend the life of existing infrastructure, saving their consumers the cost of building or renovating. Conservation can also reduce the amount of water that needs to be processed by wastewater treatment plants, again preserving infrastructure and also reducing the amount of waste discharged to streams and rivers. Finally, sound water use practices can make us more resilient during times of drought, negating the need for mandatory interventions.
How to Save Water in the Bathroom
- Do not let the faucet flow while brushing your teeth or shaving. Use a glass of water for rinsing teeth.
- If your shower has a single-handle control or shut-off valve, turn off the flow while soaping or shampooing.
- Install low-flow aerators and shower heads. They are inexpensive, easy to install and save water and energy.
- Leaking diverter valves (valves which divert water from the tub spout to the shower head) should be replaced.
- Place a weighted plastic one-half gallon jug or a toilet dam in the tanks of conventional toilets to displace and save water with each flush.
- Take showers instead of tub baths. Consider bathing small children together.
- When constructing a new home or remodeling your bathroom, install low-consumption (1.6 gal/flush) toilets.
How to Save Water in the Kitchen & Laundry Room
- Do not pre-rinse dishes prior to loading in a dishwasher. Pre-rinsing is an unnecessary and wasteful use of water.
- Operate the washing machine and dishwasher only when they are fully loaded.
- Refrigerate a pitcher of drinking water instead of letting a faucet flow until the water is cold enough to drink.
- Use a dishpan or plug the sink for washing and rinsing dishes. Install low-flow aerators on all faucets.
- Use the proper water level or load size selection on the washing machine.
- When purchasing a washing machine or dishwasher, consider water consumption as well as energy efficiency. Most manufacturers now provide this information to consumers.
Retrofit or Replace Water Fixtures
Water-saving devices are economical and permanent. Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators save valuable water and energy used to heat water without requiring changes in personal water use habits. The following chart highlights how much water can be conserved by installing water-saving equipment in place of conventional plumbing fixtures, fittings and appliances.
Fixture / Appliance
|Water Use (gallons)
Fixture / Appliance
|Water Use (gallons)
|Water Savings (gallons)
|3.5 per flush
|1.6 per flush
|1.9 gallons per flush
|Conventional shower head
|3 to 10 per minute
|Low-flow shower head
|2 to 2.5 per minute
|0.5 to 8 per minute
|3 to 6 per minute
|0.5 to 2.5 per minute
|0.5 to 5.5 per minute
|40 to 55 per load
|22 to 25 per load
|15 to 33 per load
|4 to 6 per flush
|1.6 per flush
|1.9 gallons per flush
*Manufactured before 1978
**Manufactured from 1978-1993
***Manufactured since January 1, 1994
Repair All Leaks
A dripping faucet is more than annoying; it is expensive. Even small leaks can waste significant amounts of water. Hot water leaks are a waste of water and of the energy used to heat the water. Leaks inside the toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day. Toilet leaks can be detected by adding a few drops of food coloring to water in the toilet tank. If the colored water appears in the bowl, the toilet is leaking.
If you have a leaking faucet or toilet, stop pouring money down the drain, and repair it.
Tips for the Home Gardener
Water infrequently, deeply and thoroughly. This will encourage rooting and greater tolerance to dry spells. Plants send out extra roots in dry conditions to seek water. Plants often bloom more profusely when stressed, as the natural instinct to reproduce creates more flowers.
Water responsibly, using correct watering techniques. Water early in the day, especially as the weather warms, to reduce evaporation loss. Water less often, for longer lengths of time, to encourage deep root growth. Be sure your irrigation system is in proper working condition. If drip irrigation won’t work for you, try a hand-held hose rather than a sprinkler.
Properly condition your soil. Water does not easily penetrate clay soils and water passes too quickly beyond the root zone of plants in sandy soil. Adding organic matter to clay and sandy soils will increase the penetrability of clay soils and the water-holding capacity of sandy soils.
Mulch Soil Surface
Mulching cuts down on water loss due to evaporation. A two-inch layer of mulch or compost is recommended. Apply mulches to shrubs, trees, annuals, vegetable gardens and even containers.
Shelter Container Plants
To conserve water, move containers to areas with partial shade to keep them from drying quickly in hot windy areas.
Install a drip or other water conserving irrigation system. Slow drip and deep root watering systems can save up to 60% of all water used in garden care. Professionally installed and maintained irrigation systems will further help conserve water.
Discourage water competition from weeds. Keep weeds pulled and reduce the likelihood of them returning by mulching. Consider using landscape fabric between the soil and your mulch to further reduce weeds.
Tips for Conserving Water
- Backwash only when necessary
- Check regularly for cracks and leaks
- Cover the pool
- Covering the pool can save 95% of water lost to evaporation
- Conserves heat (which can save money for heating costs)
- Prevents accidents
- Reduces cleaning
- The average uncovered pool loses one inch of water per week
- Ensure that water is absorbed before it leaves your property and avoid allowing runoff to enter adjacent properties
- If acid has been used to clean the pool, the water should be neutralized
- Keep the pool and filters clean to reduce frequency of filter back-washing
- Limit the frequency of pool refilling
- Lower the pool’s water to reduce losses from splashing
- It is recommended to keep the water level one inch above the bottom of the tile
- Lower the pool temperature
- Reducing the temperature reduces water loss to evaporation and is particularly important when the pool is not being used
- Run filter backwash onto lawns and shrubs or collect for reuse
Washing Vehicles by Hand
Taking a few simple steps when washing your boat or vehicle (including automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, and trailers) can help to conserve water and protect the quality of nearby water bodies.
- Automatic Shutoff Nozzle - A standard garden hose uses about 10 gallons per minute. This means you use 100 gallons of water with only a 10-minute car wash. When you use an automatic shutoff nozzle on your hose, water does not flow continuously while you wash your vehicle, saving as much as 70 gallons per wash.
- Power Washer - Using a power washer can conserve even more water; power washers use, on average, about two to five gallons per minute, with a potential savings of up to 80 gallons over using a standard hose without an automatic shutoff nozzle.
- Use a Bucket of Soapy Water - Soap and water usually work well. If you need a special cleaning product for vehicles, read the label carefully and be sure to use a non-toxic, biodegradable detergent. Do not use a product that says "poison," "harmful," or "danger." Be sure to turn the running water off while you are washing a vehicle.
- Wash Vehicles on Grass - Wash your vehicle over an unpaved area, such as an area covered with grass or gravel. This will allow the soapy water to soak into the ground, be filtered and eventually recharge the groundwater. If you have your own well, you should wash your vehicle at least 100 feet from the well head. If you wash the vehicle on a paved surface, the runoff flows into a storm drain and the water and contaminants are discharged to the nearest lake or stream.
Commercial Car Washes
If you cannot wash your vehicle in an area that drains to the lawn or a gravel area, take it to a commercial spray booth or car wash. A properly designed car wash is connected to a sanitary sewer that carries the dirty water to a wastewater treatment plant.
There are three types of commercial car washes: self-serve car washes, in-bay automatic car washes and conveyor car washes. The following table provides water use information by car wash type. The data represents the total water used and does not take into account whether or not a car wash recycles its water.
Average Water Consumption by Car Wash Type
|Car Washing Type
|66 to 85 gallons per vehicle
|60 gallons per vehicle
|30 to 50 gallons per vehicle
|50 to 60 gallons per vehicle
|35 gallons per vehicle
|65 to 100 gallons per vehicle
|Commercial Self Serve
|15 gallons per vehicle
|15 gallons per vehicle
|Home wash - With automatic shut-off nozzle
|30 gallons per vehicle
|Home wash - Without automatic shutoff nozzle
|100 gallons per vehicle
1 Brown, Chris. 2002. "Water Use in the Professional Car Wash Industry and Car Wash Association." p. 47.
2 Mid-Atlantic Carwash Association Inc. Information provided to the Maryland Water Conservation Advisory Committee. June 2000.
3 WaterWiser. February 2003.
4 Assumes a 15-minute car wash with flow of 10 gallons per minute.