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Watch your water usage and save big bucks

Are you trying to cut back on water use around the house this summer? These tips can help both the environment and your bottom line during the hot months.

It’s summertime. It’s hot. Your lawn is thirsty, your plants are thirsty, your pets are thirsty – and heck, you’re probably thirsty, too.

Is it really possible to conserve substantial amounts of water inside and outside your home at this time of year?

You bet it is. The following tips can help both the environment and your bottom line this summer.

1. Don’t rush household chores. Try to wait until your washing machine and dishwasher are full before running them. If your washing machine has variable load control, you can adjust its water level to correspond with the size of the load. Don’t pre-rinse dishes before stacking them in the dishwasher, and if you wash dishes by hand, fill up the sink or a dishpan rather than allow the water to run continuously.

2. Use a little color to spot toilet leaks. You can save as much as 200 gallons of water a day by fixing toilet leaks, which aren’t always noticeable. To spot a leak, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank water, wait 15 to 30 minutes, then check the bowl. If the food coloring is there, you have a leak.

3. Care for yourself with care. Keep the faucet off when brushing your teeth or shaving, and try to make a point of taking shorter showers – ideally five minutes or less if you can swing it. When taking a bath, close the drain before turning the water on, and fill the tub half as full as you normally do.

4. Update showerheads, toilets and faucets as needed. Showerheads made after January 1994 use a maximum of 2.5 gallons of water a minute, as opposed to 8 gallons a minute with older showerheads. Also since 1994, Congress has mandated that newly manufactured toilets can use a maximum of 1.6 gallons of water per flush, as opposed to 3.5 gallons in the past. If you have older toilets and a family of four, you may be using 11,000 more gallons of water than necessary each year. Low-flow sink faucets also can contribute to cost savings, as can simple repairs of leaky faucets. Replacing the washers on a leaky faucet can save you anywhere from 20 to 13,000 gallons of water a day, depending on the magnitude of the leak and your water pressure.

5. Be careful with hoses. Opt for pistol-style hose nozzles on your outdoor hoses because they shut off automatically. Keep the water turned off at the spigot to avoid leaks.

6. Water wisely. Water your lawn during the coolest times of the day to reduce evaporation, and don’t let your sprinklers waste a lot of water on sidewalks and driveways. Don’t cut your lawn too short – the grass won’t be able to hold as much moisture if you do. To find specific water restrictions that may apply where you live, contact your city, county or water management district.

7. Brooms are your friends. Instead of cleaning sidewalks, driveways and outdoor steps with a hose, sweep them with a broom. If you hose them down, you’ll use about 50 gallons of water every five minutes.

8. Wash your car carefully. Fill up a bucket of water rather than let the hose run continuously. By keeping the hose off between rinses, you can save up to 150 gallons of water.

9. Remember your pool. If you have a pool, cover it when it’s not in use to lessen evaporation. Keep the pool filled a little bit lower than normal, and try to avoid fountains or water ornaments that don’t use recycled water.

10. Get acquainted with your water meter. Spot system leaks by turning off all faucets and appliances that use water for half an hour. Take a reading at the beginning and end of the 30-minute period. If the dial moves, you’ll know that you have a leak in one or more of your pipes.

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