The average water use for United State's citizens is 100 gallons per day. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, this is four times the minimum water requirement for a good quality of life (26.4 gallons). At home the average household uses 120,000 gallons each year (329 gallons per day). Each household could cut more than 60% of their water use with the implementation of water-efficient appliances and practices designed to reduce, reuse, or harvest water.1
The following chart illustrates the typical end-uses of water in U.S. homes. As you can see that the outdoor irrigation of lawn and garden accounts for more than half of water consumed by a U.S. household.
On this page we introduce the common ways to reduce your water footprint. Specifically, there is a discussion of the following water management strategies and technologies:
Any water leaks will likely be the largest water consumer in your house. Thus, the first step to reducing your water usage - examine your home for leaks. Check out American Water's "how-to guide" for checking for indoor and outdoor water leaks to learn how to do so.10
WATER SAVING PRACTICES
REDUCE OUTDOOR WATER USE
WaterSense doesn’t only provide outdoor water savings; they also certify household appliances. WaterSense products are proven by an independent third party to perform at least 20% more water efficient than non-WaterSense certified products. Low-flow plumbing fixtures can save water, and for showerheads and faucets they will also save energy that is typically used to heat water. Learn more at the "WaterSense Products" webpage.12
Graywater is non-potable water that has not been in contact with and human waste, food, or other organic matter. In your home, graywater commonly originates from bathroom sinks, showers, and laundry machines. This water accounts for 50 to 80% of the total wastewater effluence of a household. According to the EPA, those sources account for 30% of total household water usage. A home's lawn and garden is the largest consumers of water in a typical household (46% of all water usage), and you can supplant much of this water demand by using your home's graywater. By reusing graywater to meet your landscaping requirements you save money by decreasing your water bill, and keep water out of the sewer or septic system thereby reducing run-off and pollution of your local water bodies.7
You can harvest your rainwater for direct use as non-potable water or filter it to make potable water in most regions of the United State's. There are arid locations such as Denver, Colorado, where this practice is not allowed so be sure to check your local regulations. Rainwater is typically harvested using "rain barrels." Rain barrels collect run-off water from the roof and divert it to a barrel or other type of water storage container. Most of these systems are small, consisting of only a few 55 gallon barrels. Rain water can be used directly to water plants on a property. Larger rain collection systems do exist, but cost more to install. The Ohio Department of Health provides a document explaining the process and regulations for installing larger water collection systems known as cisterns. These systems more commonly are linked to the internal plumbing of a structure, and can provide graywater for landscaping as well as laundry, toilets, and other graywater uses.
For regulations about rainwater collection, please check your local jurisdiction and the Ohio Department of Health webpage.8
1 "U.N. Highlights World Water Crisis" by National Geographic
News of the world-wide water crisis.
2 "Water Rebate Finder" by WaterSense® (EPA)
Find rebates in your state related to water efficiency.
3 http://www3.epa.gov/watersense/our_water/how_works.html - Water Reduction Calculation, Provided by EPA
To calculate your potential water savings, use EPA's easy-to-use excel spreadsheet (requires Microsoft Excel).
Introduction to the WaterSense certification program.
EPA WaterSense Water Budget Tool
6 "Save Water 49 Ways: Indoors" by American Water Energy Savers
Simple tips that can reduce indoor water usage.
7 "About Graywater Reuse" by greywateraction.org
Detailed graywater reuse information.
8 "Plans for Developing a Rainwater Cistern or Hauled Water Supply" by Ohio Department of Health, Bureau of Environmental Health
Comprehensive document providing information related to rainwater harvesting including: sizing, permitting, locating, maintenance, and examples.
9 "Low-Flow Fixtures" by Rutgers University
Information about low-flow fixtures.
10 "The Water Leak Detection Kit" by amwater.com
A detailed guide for locating indoor and outdoor water leaks.
11 "Water Usage Calculator" by hunterwater.com.au
A water usage calculator that estimates your annual water usage, and provides recommendations to reduce your water usage.
12 https://www.epa.gov/watersense/watersense-products "WaterSense Products" by EPA
Introduction to WaterSense products.
13 https://www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoors "Outdoors" by WaterSense® (EPA)
Information about the WaterSense outdoor water-saving tips with detailed discussion landscape deign strategies, real water-saving home examples, recommendations on when to use water outdoors, irrigation control systems, and how to find a professional in your area.
14 "Outdoor Water Use in the United States" by the EPA
Introduction page to outdoor water use in the United States, with a discussion of water wasted from inefficient watering methods.