Making Every Drop of Water Count

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Drinking Water Division has reported that eight public water utilities serving 14 Nebraska communities and some rural customers are currently restricting water use.

The National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska reported that the eastern portion of Nebraska remains moderately dry. Other areas are experiencing severe drought, with Hitchcock and Red Willow counties experiencing extreme drought.

As hot and dry conditions persist, public and private water supplies will be strained.

What can you do to make every drop count? Lee Sherry, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension educator in Madison County, suggests four ways to reduce water usage.

The first is maintenance. Fix leaks and dripping faucets. Leaks can account for 14 to 25 percent of all indoor water use.

Second is change the way water is used in the home. Third is consider purchasing water-reducing equipment and appliances.

Finally think. Develop creative water conserving practices that are safe and sanitary.

In your home, Sherry said these items rank as the highest percentage of water users: Faucets 16 percent, shower 17 percent, clothes washer 22 percent and toilet 27 percent.    

Start with your toilets. About 20 percent of toilets leak. Consumers can lose 200 or more gallons of water a day from a leaky toilet. A toilet that leaks 22 gallons per day means 8,000 gallons per year of wasted water and an unnecessary expense.

To check for leaks, put a few drops of food dye in the tank. If after 15 minutes, color appears in the bowl, you have a leak that should be repaired. Typically, the toilet flapper needs replacement or the water level adjusted.

A toilet installed prior to 1993 may use up to eight gallons of water per flush. New toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush.

Pressure and vacuum-assisted and jet-action toilets were designed to improve waste removal. Dual flush toilets use 0.8 and 1.6 gallons per flush. If your present drain system blocks often, select a toilet rated high for “drain carrying.”

Toilet dams, 1.6-gallon flappers or water-filled plastic containers can be installed in older toilet tanks, but reduced flow can affect flushing. About three gallons of water may be needed in the tank to flush properly. Avoid bricks that crumble and affect operation.

Also, Sherry said, take short showers. Showers with water-conserving showerheads use less than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) while baths may use 30 to 50 gallons of water. A quick shower usually draws less water than a bath.

A leaky faucet can waste 10 to 20 gallons or more a day and damage materials. Faucet repairs may be as simple as changing an inexpensive washer or O-ring.

Faucet aerators restrict the water going through the faucet by about 50 percent, adding air to make the flow appear the same.  Faucet aerators with flow rates of 1.5 gpm or lower (1/2-1 gpm) are available for a few dollars.

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By Erin B 07/19/2012 08:04:00
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