Conducting a Household Water Audit

Knowing how much water you use is the first step toward water conservation at home. You receive a bill that tells you how much water you use each month. As you evaluate your water use, try to look for ways to reduce your daily consumption. 

Your water bill 

MPW provides a bill that tells you how much water you consumed during the billing period. It is important to look at your water use over at least an annual period, since water use can vary by season. Most people use more water in the warmer months for gardening, washing cars, and other outdoor projects. 

Your water meter 

Your water meter measures the total amount of water used by your home. Most water meters are located at the property line inside a meter box. 

Mount Pleasant Waterworks (MPW) uses positive displacement water meters manufactured in accordance with Standards established by the American Water Works Association. The meters are produced to exact specifications using high quality materials. All meters are tested before being shipped and come with a certificate of accuracy. 

Toilets 

Toilet leaks are a common source of water loss. A leaking toilet can waste anywhere from several gallons to more than one hundred gallons per day. In most cases, it's easy to identify a leaking toilet. If you have to jiggle the handle to make a toilet stop running, if you regularly hear sounds coming from a toilet that is not being used, or if a toilet periodically turns the water on for 15 seconds or so without flushing, you can be fairly certain that you have a leak. Sometimes, even if your toilet doesn't have any of these symptoms, it's still possible that it is leaking. These "silent leaks" can go undetected for long periods of time, potentially wasting thousands of gallons of water. 
 

To check your toilet for "silent leaks", carefully remove the cover on the toilet tank and set it aside. Remove any "in-tank" bowl cleaners and flush so that the water in both the bowl and the tank are clear. Add dye (such as food coloring) to the tank. Put enough dye in the tank to give the water a deep color. Wait 30 minutes and don't use the toilet during that time. After waiting 30 minutes, if the water in the bowl contains dye, you'll know that the toilet is leaking. A properly operating toilet will store water in the tank indefinitely without any water running into the bowl. 
 

There are two possible culprits when a toilet leaks, the flush valve or the refill valve. To determine which is responsible for your leak, draw a pencil line on the inside of the tank at the waterline. Turn the water supply off, either under the tank or at the main shutoff and wait 20 to 30 minutes. If the water level remains at the pencil mark, that means the leak is occurring at the REFILL VALVE, the unit in the left side of the tank. 
 

If the water level falls below the pencil mark, the FLUSH VALVE, the unit located in the center of the tank, is to blame. Most homeowners are capable of making their own toilet repairs. Visit your local home improvement store or hardware store, pick up the parts, turn off the water supply and follow the directions. With a little effort, you can save many gallons of water and possibly reduce your water bill at the same time. 

Retrofit Your Fixtures and Appliances 

Once you have repaired any leaks in your home or business, the next step is to evaluate the efficiency of your current fixtures and appliances. Sometimes simple retrofits or fixture replacements can save many gallons of water. 

 

Faucets 

A faucet aerator is a small circular screen that is screwed onto the faucet. It reduces flow by adding air to the water, giving the sensation of more water with less volume. An aerator can reduce the flow on a faucet to 1.5 to 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), and is a very effective and cost-efficient way to reduce water consumption. Check to see if aerators are installed on your kitchen and bathroom faucets. Some older faucets may not be able to accommodate an aerator, but if the faucet will accommodate an aerator, 

one should be installed. Even if aerators are installed, they may be an older, less-efficient variety. If the flow from your faucets (see "measuring flow") exceeds 2.5 gpm you could reduce water use by installing new aerators. An alternative is to install a new faucet. If you need to replace a faucet for any reason, be sure to purchase and install a faucet that uses 2.5 gpm or less. 

Showerheads 

Some showerheads can use as much as 5 gpm, but low-volume showerheads use 2.5 gpm or less, resulting in a savings of as much as 38 gallons per day per household. They save water through better mixing of air and water. 

Some showerheads also feature temporary shut-off valves, which allow the user to turn the water off when shampooing or washing for even higher savings. Since showers use hot water as well as cold water, saving large volumes of water in the shower also saves energy. 

Toilets 

Newer toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush, as opposed to the 4 or more gallons per flush used by older toilets. If you are replacing a toilet, plumbing codes require more efficient toilets to be installed. You can easily and inexpensively reduce water use in older toilets by installing a displacement device. These devices work by occupying space that would otherwise be filled by water, thereby reducing the amount of water used for each flush. Hardware stores sell plastic or rubber bags that can be filled with water and hung from the side of the tank, or you can simply fill an empty half-gallon milk jug or other durable container with water and place it in the toilet tank. Each time you flush, you'll save a half-gallon or more of water. 

Appliances 

An average of more than 22% of residential water is used to wash clothes. High-efficiency clothes washers are now available that use only 27 gallons per load, as opposed to 39 to 43 gallons per load with a conventional washer. When it's time to replace your clothes washer, consider purchasing one of the high-efficiency models. Newer models of dishwashers that use 7 gallons per load can save about 50% over older models. 

Check for Leaks 

An average of more than eight percent of residential water use is lost through leaking fixtures or pipes! 

Check your meter 

Turn off all water fixtures both inside and outside the home, and check the reading on your water meter. Wait one hour, making sure that no one uses water, then check the meter again. If the meter dial has moved, you have a leak. 

Pipes 

A leaky pipe is usually pretty obvious. Visually inspect all piping in your home, and look for tell-tale water marks on walls or ceilings. If a pipe is leaking, replace or repair it. 

Faucets 

A leaking faucet is also easily identified, but do you know how much water can be wasted from what seems like an insignificant drip? Count the number of times that water drips from the faucet per minute. You can use the following chart to estimate the amount of water wasted. 

Drips Add Up!

30 drips per minute 54 gallons per month
60 drips per minute 113 gallons per month
120 drips per minute 237 gallons per month
1/4" stream of water 1,014 gallons per month
1/2" stream of water 2,202 gallons per month

  

Drips can usually be eliminated by replacing worn washers, or by tightening or repacking the faucet. Replacement washers or repair kits for washer-less faucets are available at hardware or home improvement stores. 
 

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