Water conservation for residents

in ground irrigation spout throwing water

IndoorsPie graph showing the percentages of water used in the house: toilet 24 percent, shower 20 percent, faucet 19 percent, clothes washer 17 percent, leak 12 percent

The average Minnesota resident uses about 52 gallons per person per day. Replacing old faucets, toilets, shower heads, washing machines, dishwashers, and water softeners with newer, more efficient versions significantly saves water. 

Check with your local water supplier or energy provider to find assistance programs. Many provide free water efficiency kits and rebate or cost-share programs for efficient water appliances. 

Home water use calculator

The questions in the Water Use Calculator help you estimate how much water you use, how your consumption compares to the average American home, and what you can save by switching to more efficient appliances.

Water Calculator from HomeWaterWorks
 

    Toilets

    Toilets are one of the biggest sources of indoor water consumption, using almost 24 percent of a home’s water. Older toilets use even more. Purchase toilets with the following:

    • The WaterSense label
    • Dual flush 
    • Less than 1.6 gallons per flush

     For more information on efficient toilets, visit EPA WaterSense.

    Showers

    A bath can use between 35 and 50 gallons of water, where a 5-minute shower can use as little as 12 gallons.  Older shower heads (before the 1980s) have rates of water flow as high as 8 gallons per minute. Newer low-volume shower heads with improved spray patterns and aeration use as little as 2.5 gallons per minute while retaining a comfortable showering experience. Efficient shower heads can save as much as 13,000 gallons a year for an average American household.

    There are also actions you can take while showering to reduce by gallons:

    • Take shorter showers. 
    • Aim for a shower length of around 3-5 minutes with an inexpensive waterproof shower timer.
    • Turn off the water while shampooing and lathering and turn it back on to rinse.

    Efficient shower heads can be acquired at virtually no cost with rebates from the Xcel Energy Store.

    For more information on water efficient shower heads, go to EPA water sense.

    Clothes washing machines

    Conventional, top-loading washing machines use as much as 51 gallons of water per load.

    High efficiency, front loading washing machines use as little as 15 gallons. They also wash clothes more gently, extending their life considerably.

    You can save both water and money when you wash only full loads of laundry, and lightly soiled laundry in shorter cycles.

    Taps and faucets

    Kitchen and restroom faucets are the fourth largest source of home water consumption. Newer, low-volume faucets use aeration and flow restrictors that maintain performance while using less water, though these can sometimes be inefficient for hand or dish washing. Older sinks may lack these features. 

    Water softeners allow soap to work more effectively and reduce the amount of water needed for washing. Older models might waste excessive water and salt by cycling when unnecessary. Check with your city before purchasing a water softener; many water utilities provide softened water. In parts of Minnesota, high chloride levels are concerning and water softeners might worsen this. 

    For how to choose a new, efficient faucet, visit the EPA WaterSense - Faucets.

    Leaks

    Proactive efforts to find and fix leaks save water and money for homeowners and prevent water damage. Use your water meter to determine if there is a leak:

    1. Turn off all water-using appliances. 
    2. Check your water meter; it should not be turning or changing numbers. 
    3. Make note of the number and check again in an hour. 
    4. If the number changes, there is a leak.

    Most undetected leaks in a home are in toilets or clothes washers. Check these appliances first.

    Toilet leaks can waste over 200 gallons of water every day. They are usually caused by a bad flapper or other easy-to-repair parts. Leak detection tablets are available at your hardware store and the DNR Information Center, or you can use food coloring.

    • The U.S. EPA  Fix a Leak page  has resources to find and repair leaks, and hosts an annual Fix-a-Leak Week event. 
    • The EPA WaterSense website has more information on conserving water in your home such as water budget tools, water efficiency certification guidelines, inspection assistance and more.

    Outdoors

    Americans use nearly 9 billion gallons daily outdoors. Home lawns and landscapes are often over watered. Traditional grass turf lawns require intensive watering, and most residents still apply more water than necessary.

    In Minnesota, water resources are strained during the hot summer months when everyone across cities attempts to keep their lawns lush and green. There are ways to reduce consumption while retaining an attractive landscape.

    Irrigation timing

    Daily water application is unnecessary for healthy turf.  Before watering, verify that the grass needs watering.

    Step on the grass.

    • Do not water if the grass springs back.
    • Water if the grass stays flattened.

    Water in the morning or at night.  The coolness provides water time to soak into the ground instead of evaporating in the hot afternoon sun. 

    Water deeply and infrequently. Once or twice a week during dry months is enough to promote healthier and hardier turf.

    Residential automatic irrigation leads to over watering by hundreds of gallons through “setting and forgetting.”  

    • Automatic irrigation could be turned off completely and only used during extended dry spells.
    • Rain sensors were required by law in Minnesota In 2003, to be linked to irrigation systems to prevent irrigation during or immediately after rainfall. But today better alternatives exist. 
    • Soil moisture sensors prompt irrigation only when needed. Most only cost between $120-$160 and rarely require replacement.
    • Watering restrictions are implemented by Many Minnesota cities, with odd/even day schedules during the summer months. However, this can result in residents feeling compelled to irrigate on their day, even when irrigation is unnecessary.

    To adjust the lawn irrigation frequency, see:

    Drought resistant and native plants

    Turf lawns are prevalent all over the United States. They use common grass species that are non-native to most regions and are often poorly suited to survive Minnesota hot summer months without assistance. In peak summer months it can consume as much as 50 percent of a utility’s water. In addition, the non-native grass species often require pesticides and fertilizers to be attractive.

    Using native and drought-resistant plants in residential landscapes can reduce water consumption dramatically. Fine and tall Fescue grass species are very drought resistant, shade tolerant, and are more suited to surviving hot Minnesotan summers without extensive assistance. Landscaping with native plants saves water and maintenance. A good goal is at least 20 percent native plant coverage. 

    Native Minnesota plant species evolved with the amount of precipitation and heat that occur here naturally, needing little to no irrigation beyond natural precipitation. They also provide habitats for native pollinator species, improving the health of your local ecosystem.

    These DNR guides provide information for you to transform and take care of your landscape:

    Efficient landscaping

    Turf lawns dominate most residential landscapes. Replacing portions with other landscape options can minimize issues created by large turf lawns. Native plants are an attractive and low maintenance option. 

    Mulch requires little maintenance and no irrigation whatsoever. It can prevent weed growth, improve soil moisture absorption and retention, and look attractive.

    Mixing native plants, mulches, and turf lawns retains all the benefits of turf-lawn landscapes while drastically reducing water consumption and maintenance. Landscapes with this mixed variety are attractive and have more personality. 

    To learn to create a more sustainable and attractive landscape, see PA > WaterSense > What to Plant.