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Beyond the Bin

Water Wisdom - Using Water Efficiently

Even though water is the most abundant substance on earth, only 1% is available for human consumption. Most of the water on earth is either saltwater or freshwater that is frozen in the polar ice caps and not usable by humans. Population growth, agriculture, and manufacturing all demand increasing amounts of freshwater.

Clean drinking water is precious because the amount of water on earth is constant and recycled through time. This means some of the water you drink is more than 20 million years old! Protecting and conserving water is vital to our survival and the survival of future generations.

Some of the environmental benefits that are aided by water efficiency include:
  • Fewer septic system failures caused from water overwhelming the system.
  • Healthier natural pollution filters such as downstream wetlands.
  • Reduced water contamination caused by polluted runoff from over-irrigating yards and agricultural lands.
  • Reduced need to construct additional dams and reservoirs or otherwise regulate the natural flow of streams, thus preserving their free flow and retaining the value of stream and river systems as wildlife habitats and recreational areas.
  • Reduced need to construct additional wastewater treatment facilities.
  • Efficient water use can also reduce the amount of energy needed to treat wastewater, resulting in less energy demand and, therefore, fewer harmful byproducts from power plants.
  • Most people realize that hot water uses up energy, but supplying and treating cold water requires a significant amount of energy, too. American public water supply and treatment facilities consume about 56 billion kilowatt-hours per year—enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes for an entire year.
  • The average American home uses about 260 gallons of water per day; however, during peak season the average household can use about 1,000 gallons of water in a day. Some homes use as much as 3,000 gallons on a peak day!

Here's what you can do...

  • The average bathroom faucet flows at a rate of two gallons per minute. Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth in the morning and at bedtime can save up to 8 gallons of water per day, which equals 240 gallons a month!
  • Collect water that runs until the shower gets hot. Use it to water plants.
  • Take a 5 minute shower or take one every other day: You can save 3 times: the water, the sewer, and the gas or electricity it takes to heat the water.
  • Save water and energy every flush: Over the course of your lifetime, you will likely flush the toilet nearly 140,000 times. If you replace older, existing toilets with WaterSense labeled models, you can save 4,000 gallons per year with this simpler, greener choice.
  • Don't pre-rinse dishes. Most newer dishwashers don't require pre-rinsing.
  • Make sure the dishwasher is full when you run it and/or use a small trickle to wash and rinse dishes. Average dishwashers use approximately 12 gallons of water every time you use them.
  • Reuse clean household water, such as water you run until it's hot, or water used to boil eggs or steam vegetables.
  • Chill drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap for cold water. You can waste up to 4 gallons of water every time you let the water run until it is cold.
  • Make sure there are no leaks or drips: A dripping faucet can waste 20 gallons a day or more, and leaking toilets can waste up to 500 gallons a day!
  • The average washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load. High-efficiency washing machines use less than 28 gallons of water per load. To achieve even greater savings, wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate load size selection on the washing machine.
  • When washing the car use a bucket: Only run water when you are rinsing the car off. Some commercial car washes recycle their water and are more efficient than doing it yourself.
  • Know how much you are using: A good way to help you reduce your use of water is to know how much you are consuming. Your water bill will tell you what you have used in cf's (cubic feet) or ccf's (100's of cubic feet). To convert cf's to gallons multiply the number of cf's by 7.5. To convert ccf's to gallons multiply by 748.

Information taken from:

[print version]


For more information about DEQ's Land Quality programs, visit the DEQ contact page.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97232
Phone: 503-229-5696 or toll free in Oregon 1-800-452-4011
Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service: 1-800-735-2900  FAX: 503-229-6124

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a regulatory agency authorized to protect Oregon's environment by
the State of Oregon and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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