Household Water -- Dos and
Robert L. Mahler, Mark M. Van Steeter and Ernestine
Surrounded by seemingly unlimited freshwater resources, Idahoans use
more water in their businesses and homes than the residents of any
other state. Idaho ranks second only to California in total water use,
and first in total use per capita.
Although Idaho has an excellent water supply, it is limited. We must
learn to use it more wisely if we are to continue to enjoy its
benefits. Water conservation begins at home. You can do your part by
following these dos and don'ts.
FACT: You can
conserve water and use it wisely.
About 75 percent of all indoor water use occurs in the bathroom.
Kitchen and laundry use account for the remaining 18 and 7 percent,
respectively (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1. Distribution of indoor water use in a
In the Kitchen
In the Bathroom
- Use an aerator or flow-reducing attachment on your faucets.
- Turn off your faucets tightly so they don't drip. If a faucet
drips, promptly repair it.
- If you hand wash dishes, never leave the water running. Fill the
sink, wash the dishes then quickly rinse them.
- If you use an automatic dishwasher, run it only when it's full and
use the shortest cycle possible.
- Keep cold drinking water in your refrigerator instead of turning
on the tap until the water runs cold.
In the Laundry Room
- Turn off all taps tightly.
- When brushing your teeth, run the water only for rinsing your
mouth and your brush. This saves 80 percent of the water usually
- When washing or shaving, use the water in a partially filled sink
basin instead of continuously running the tap. This saves 60 percent
of the water usually used.
- Promptly repair leaks in your faucets, shower or toilet.
- Use an aerator or flow-reducing attachment on your faucets.
- Use a low-flow shower head. Select one that reduces flow by at
least 25 percent.
- Take short showers and turn off the water while lathering or
shampooing. Some shower heads have a shut-off lever that allows you to
maintain the water pressure and temperature when you stop the
- If you take baths, avoid overfilling the tub (short showers use
less water than baths).
- Install a low-flow toilet. This will reduce total indoor water use
by at least 25 percent. Older toilets use as little as 1.5 gallons.
Toilets are the greatest water users in bathrooms.
- If you can't afford a new toilet, reduce the flow in your old
toilet by placing a brick or a plastic bottle filled with rocks in its
water tank (be sure it does not interfere with the toilet
- Flush your toilet only when you need to. Don't use your toilet as
a garbage can for tissue, cigarettes, feminine products, dental floss,
diapers, hair, etc.
- Check your toilet tank for leaks by adding food coloring to the
tank and seeing if it moves into the bowl without flushing. Make
necessary repairs when coloring indicates leakage.
In the Yard and Garden
- Wash clothes only when you have a full load.
- Run your washing machine on the shortest cycle. If your machine
has an adjustable water level setting, set it only as high as you
On Your Property
- Water lawns deeply (to a depth of 12 to 15 inches) every 3 to
5 days rather than for short periods daily.
- Don't water your lawn if it's green. Look for a black tinge along
the top to indicate the grass needs watering. A black tinge will not
harm your lawn but browning will.
- Never turn on your sprinklers and leave home for the day.
- Water only your lawn, not sidewalks, street gutters, etc.
- Water during the cool parts of the day, morning or evening, when
water loss to evaporation is lowest. Avoid watering on windy days,
when evaporation is high.
- Keep your lawn healthy by cutting it at a height of about 2 1/2
inches. Grass at this height holds water better than shorter grass and
requires less watering. A healthy lawn will also choke out
FACT: You can preserve the quality
of your water.
- Wash your vehicles only when necessary. Use a bucket of soapy
water and rinse briefly.
- Sweep your sidewalk and driveway rather than hose them off.
- Locate your water meter. Read it before bed and before using any
water in the morning. If it shows a change, you have a leak. Track it
down and promptly fix it.
House and garden chemicals have simplified domestic chores, but they
can be dangerous. Be responsible with these products so they don't
affect the environment or turn up in our water or foods.
- Buy only those hazardous products you really need and only in
quantities you will use. Hazardous products used around the home
include some oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners,
bleaches, rust removers, paints, solvents, polishes, carpet and
furniture cleaners and glues.
- If you don't completely use them up, give them to someone who
needs them or take them to a hazardous waste or recycling center that
will accept them. If your community doesn't have such centers, promote
- Never dispose of household hazardous products in the regular trash
or by putting them down the drain. Most sewage treatment plants cannot
remove household cleaners, paints, solvents and pesticides before
returning the water to the environment.
- If you have a septic tank, flushing harsh chemicals can damage its
effectiveness by killing the soil microorganisms that process sewage.
Harsh chemicals escape processing by the microorganisms and thus may
contaminate the septic tank drain field.
Try this recipe for an all-purpose cleaner:
- Whenever possible, use cleaning products that will not harm
the environment. Look for "environmentally friendly" products at the
market. Many household products such as shampoo and baby ointment
contain zinc. Paints and solvents may contain lead.
- Make your own household cleaning solutions from nonhazardous
materials such as vinegar, pure soap, baking soda (sodium
bicarbonate), washing soda (sodium carbonate), borax (sodium borate, a
natural mold inhibitor) and household ammonia.
1 gallon hot water
¼ cup household ammonia
¼ cup vinegar
1 tablespoon baking soda
- Clean household drains with hot water mixed with a half cup of
- Don't invent home recipes for cleaning agents. For example, mixing
chlorine bleach with ammonia produces poisonous fmes. Always read
- Choose latex (water-based) paint instead of oil-based paint. Use
it up instead of dumping it.
- Liquid laundry detergent is often a good substitute for a
- Instead of using pesticides on houseplants and your garden, try
- pulling weeds by hand
- pulling off and disposing of infected leaves
- picking off larvae
- rotating garden crops to control soil-borne diseases and maintain
- using a registered soap solution such as a Safer brand product to
- If you use commercial pesticides, follow labels and do not
- Use sand instead of salt for increasing traction on winter
FACT: You can make a
- Make sure septic tanks are properly sized and maintained.
Clean the tank every 3 to 5 years. Also, make sure the drain field is
adequate and that the soil is able to process the effluent. If several
house are nearby, consider a community septic tank.
- Septic tank users should stagger wash loads throughout the week to
avoid overloading the septic system.
An informed and active public can be a strong political force. Commit
yourself to acting on your beliefs. You can make a difference!
- Become informed.
- Trust in the ability of the individual to take action and work
together with other individuals, experts and politicians.
- Be willing to change your attitudes, behaviors and
- Educate your children and your friends. All environmental problems
cannot be solved in a single generation; your children and their
children will have to carry on the work.
|Pesticide Residues||Recommendations for use are
based on currently available labels for each pesticide listed. If
followed carefully, residues should not exceed the established
tolerances. To avoid excessive residues, follow label directions
carefully with respect to rate, number of applications, and minimum
interval between application and reentry or
|Groundwater||To protect groundwater, when there
is a choice of pesticides, the applicator should use the product least
likely to leach.|
|Trade Names||To simplify information, trade
names have been used. No endorsement of named products is intended nor
is criticism implied of similar products not mentioned.|
For more information, please contact the University
of Idaho Cooperative Extension System office in your county.
Quality Water for Idaho
To order, contact the University of Idaho Cooperative Extension System
office in your county or write to Ag Publications, Idaho Street,
University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho 83844-2240, (208) 885-7982.
About the Authors -- Robert L. Mahler is Extension
water quality coordinator, Mark M. Van Steeter is employed in
the Extension water quality program, and Ernestine Porter is Extension
clothing and textiles specialist.
Adapted from A Primer on Water: Questions and Answers published
in 1990 by Environment Canada.
||This publication is one of a series
on water quality issues produced by the University of Idaho
Cooperative Extension System for the people of Idaho. The material is
based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Extension Service, under special project number 90-EWQUI-1-9216.
Issued in furtherance of cooperative extension work in
agriculture and home economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in
cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, LeRoy D. Luft,
Director of Cooperative Extension System, University of Idaho, Moscow,
Idaho 83844. The University of Idaho provides equal opportunity in
education and employment on the basis of race, color, religion,
national origin, gender, age, disability, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran, as required by state and federal laws.
|8,000, May 1991|
with special grant funds from USDA
Comments to author:
All contents copyright © 1997-2002.
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Idaho.
All rights reserved.
Revised: January 3, 2002