Water Usage and Conservation
The average Oregon resident uses about 80 gallons per person per day. See below for the many ways you can save water in your home with toilets, showers, clothes washing, faucets and leaks.
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.
Here’s how you can reduce your water use when showering:
• Take shorter showers, which saves gallons of water.
• Use a shower timer and aim for a shower length of 3-5 minutes.
• Turn off the water while shampooing and lathering. Turn it back on to rinse.
Older shower heads, especially those installed before the 1980s, have high rates of water flow – as much as 8 gallons per minute. Low volume shower heads with improved spray patterns and aeration use as little as 2.5 gallons per minute. Efficient shower heads save as much as 13,000 gallons a year for an average household.
For more information on water efficient shower heads, go to EPA water sense opens in a new browser tab.
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. To save water, purchase toilets:
• With the Water Sense label
• That are dual flush
• That use less than 1.6 gallons per flush
For more information on water efficient toilets, visit EPA WaterSense opens in a new browser tab.
Conventional, top-loading washing machines use as much as 51 gallons of water per load.
High efficiency, top loading washing machines use as little as 19 gallons, front loading washing machines use as little as 15 gallons. They also wash clothes more gently.
To save both water and money when you wash:
• Only full loads of laundry
• Lightly soiled laundry in shorter cycles
• Use less detergent in high-efficiency washers
• Use cold water
Faucets in kitchens and restrooms 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. If your faucets are older, you can benefit from installing aerator flow restrictors on faucets.
Water softeners allow soap to work more effectively and reduce the amount of water used for washing. Check with your water utility before purchasing a water softener as some water utilities already provide softer water. Older models of water softeners waste excessive water and salt by cycling more often than necessary.
For how to choose new, efficient faucets, visit the EPA WaterSense – Faucets opens in a new browser tab.
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. You can use food coloring or leak detection tablets which are available at your hardware store.
The U.S. EPA has an annual Fix-a-Leak event. The Fix a Leak opens in a new browser tab page and has resources to find and repair leaks.
The EPA WaterSense opens in a new browser tab website and has more information on conserving water such as:
• Water budget tools
• Water efficiency certification guidelines
• Inspection assistance
Outdoors, Americans use nearly 9 billion gallons daily on their lawns and landscaping. Home lawns and landscapes are often over watered.
In Oregon most outdoor water use occurs during the hotter summer months. Excessive watering can strain water resources. There are ways to reduce consumption while retaining an attractive landscape.
Daily water application is unnecessary for healthy established 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.
Efficient lawn watering:
• Water landscapes and lawns during the early morning, when it is still cool.
• Lawns need about 1 inch of rain or water per week. Deep soaking is better for roots than frequent shallow watering.
• Water your lawn infrequently, one time or less per week, assuming no rainfall has occurred.
• Cut grass 3 to 4 inches.
Residential automatic irrigation leads to over watering by hundreds of gallons through “setting and forgetting.”
• Turn off automatic irrigation completely and use them only during extended dry spells.
• Soil moisture sensors prompt irrigation only when needed. Most cost between $120 and $160. They rarely require replacement. Oregon irrigation systems also use technology that interrupts irrigation when there is sufficient moisture and that the user can adjust.
To adjust the lawn irrigation frequency, see:
WaterSense opens in a new browser tab- Watering Tips from the EPA.
In Oregon, per Tom Cook at OSU Extension Services; for general turf on shady sites, he recommends a mixture of 70 percent fine fescue and 30 percent perennial ryegrass. He says it is an easy lawn to maintain with medium to low fertility, occasional irrigation, and mowing at about two inches.
“This mix takes advantage of the natural shade tolerance of the fine fescues and the rapid establishment of the perennial ryegrass,” he said. “Fescues do better if the soil is fairly dry with good air movement. In wet shady sites typical of much of western Oregon, the fescues get riddled with fungal diseases.”
Using native and drought-resistant plants in residential landscapes reduces water consumption dramatically and requires no fertilizing. Using native plants saves water and maintenance. A good goal is at least 20 percent native plantings as part of your landscape design. Increased native plant coverage also provides habitat for native pollinator species, improving the health of your local ecosystem.
Turf lawns dominate most residential landscapes with some amount of peripheral shrubs and flowers. However, maintaining landscapes dominated by turf lawns can be expensive. Replacing lawn portions with other landscape options reduces water use. Native plants are an attractive and low maintenance option.
Mulch is another option requiring little maintenance with no irrigation whatsoever and:
• Prevents weed growth
• Improves soil moisture absorption and retention
• Looks attractive
Mixing native plants, mulches and turf lawns retains all the benefits of turf-lawn landscapes while drastically reducing maintenance and water use. Landscapes with this mixed variety are attractive and have more personality.
To learn to create a more sustainable and attractive landscape, see EPA > WaterSense > What to Plant opens
in a new browser tab.