Water Conservation Checklist


1. Repair leaks—Carefully examine plumbing for dripping faucets, toilets that continue running, and leaky pipes. The building’s water meter (if there is one) can be used to identify leaks—take readings before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used (there should be no change). On well-water systems, a frequently running pump is a sign that there may be a leak in the system. Repair any leaks or faulty fixtures. 2. Replace toilets—Replace older toilets with new, 1.6 gpf (6 liter) models. Highest priority should be those toilets that are used the most or leak. Less effective, but better than nothing, is installing toilet dams or displacement devices (usually plastic jugs filled with water) in the tank to reduce the flush volume. 3. Install low-flow showerheads—Replace existing shower-heads with low-flow models. Models that permit the users to reduce the flow without changing the hot-cold mix allow even greater savings. 4. Add low-flow faucet aerators—Flow-restricting faucet aerators providing 2.5 gpm (9.5 lpm) are appropriate for kitchens; models providing 1.0 gpm (3.8 lpm) usually suffice in bathrooms. 5. Install water-conserving clothes washers and dishwashers—Purchase state-of-the-art clothes washers and dishwashers. The best clothes washers are front-loading (horizontal-axis). Water-conserving dishwashers have advanced circuitry that determines the water use based on how soiled the dishes are. 6. Avoid in-sink garbage disposals—Kitchen sink garbage disposals require a lot of water to operate, and they overload sewage treatment plants or in-ground septic systems with organic matter. 7. Insulate water pipes—By insulating hot water pipes, water in the pipes will stay warm longer between uses; the user won’t have to run water as long to get hot water, and waste will be reduced. A device to cycle water back to the water heater during warm-up will even more effectively reduce this waste (see EBN Vol. 4, No. 2). Avoid systems that circulate water continuously to keep hot water at the tap—these waste a lot of energy. 8. Reduce water pressure—If a building has water pressure in excess of 60 psi (414 kPa), it may make sense to reduce that pressure to 40-50 psi (276-345 kPa) to lessen the likelihood of leaks. Pressure reducing valves can be installed on individual buildings, or the municipality can be approached about lowering the pressure over a larger area. 9. Plumb buildings for graywater separation—Even if local building codes do not yet permit graywater separation and use, it makes sense to plumb wastewater lines so that a graywater system can later be added easily (see EBN Vol. 4, No. 2). 10. Consider rainwater harvesting —Rainwater collection systems for potable water make sense in some locations and situations. Careful roof-wash, filtration, and purification systems are required to ensure safe drinking water (see EBN Vol. 6, No. 5). 11. Consider dual plumbing for water reuse—In certain buildings it may make sense to provide dual plumbing so that recovered water can be used for toilet flushing. California now promotes this practice. 12. Design more efficient evaporative cooling systems—In commercial and industrial buildings, evaporative cooling towers can use significant amounts of water through evaporation and blowdown (in which some of the recirculating water is flushed to get rid of dissolved solids). More water-efficient systems are available. 13. Educate building occupants—Provide homeowners or commercial building occupants with information about water conservation. Include specific information on how to use appliances and plumbing fixtures for maximum water savings. Behavioral changes can dramatically reduce water use in buildings.


1. Minimize lawn area —Lawns are not only high water consumers, but they also often require significant use of fertilizers and pesticides, and mowing generates air pollution. 2. Plant climate-appropriate turf grass—For areas that are planted to lawn, choose a variety of grass that is well adapted to your climate. In hot, arid areas, the native buffalo grass (Buchloë dactyloides) is a good choice. Avoid overfertilizing. 3. Use xeriscaping practices—Xeriscaping (use of drought-tolerant, low-water-demand plants, mulching, and other practices to reduce water use) can dramatically reduce irrigation needs outdoors. 4. Avoid watering pavement—Make sure that sprinkler systems (if used) are designed and positioned properly to put the water only where it is needed. 5. Install water-efficient watering systems—When landscape irrigation is needed, install the most water-efficient systems possible. Micro-irrigation, drip-irrigation, and soaker hoses are examples of more efficient systems. Sprinklers should be timed for early morning and evening operation, when evaporation rates will be the lowest. 6. Ensure that automated irrigation systems will be checked regularly—If installing timers, or a more sophisticated automatic irrigation system, install a rain sensor device or switch that will override the watering system when there is adequate rainfall. Check automated irrigation controls regularly. 7. With pools, install water-conserving filters—Backflush-ing with a conventional swimming pool filter can consume 180 to 250 gallons (680-950 l) of water. Some newer filters require much less water. 8. Use graywater for landscape irrigation—If local building codes allow it, use graywater for below-ground landscape irrigation (see EBN Vol. 4, No. 2). This will reduce the amount of potable water used for irrigation. 9. Use collected rainwater for landscape irrigation—Very simple rainwater harvesting systems work very well for landscape irrigation. This application can be cost effective even if a full-scale rainwater system for potable water is not.



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