Big and small ways to cap your water bill



 Water scarcity is a global problem that reaches into our own homes and backyards. Visit these sites to learn more and how you can make a difference:

The Water Project and water scarcity in the United States:

EPA’s WaterSense program:

Energy Star program:

The Charlotte Observer

Your home’s showers, toilets, washing machines, garden hoses and other thirsty devices can boost your water bill. The environment suffers, too, when we use more water than we have to.

Consider these interventions if you’d like to see your water bill evaporate, rather than your paycheck.

•  High-efficiency washers: Top-loading washers need to float clothes in a water bath to create a back-and-forth agitation. The tumbling motion of front-loading machines typically uses less water, according to the California Urban Water Conservation Council.

Washers that have the Energy Star label can use about 35 percent less water and about 20 percent less energy than machines without the rating.

The LG Electronics large-capacity, front-loading washer is designed to save water and energy by automatically setting the water level and length of the wash cycle based on the weight and size of your load. LG’s 3.6 cubic foot, large-capacity model received Energy Star’s “most efficient” designation in 2012. The machine sells for $719 at The Home Depot.

•  Flow restrictors: Faucets and showerheads that slow the flow of water can cut water use and costs. Federal law requires that shower heads restrict flow to at least 2.5 gallons per minute. The best models deliver that lighter stream but fool you into thinking nothing’s changed. That’s the idea behind Delta’s In2ition showerheads, which control the speed and movement of water and spray larger drops. This showerhead also has a pause feature that cuts use to a trickle while you shave or lather your hair. Prices start at about $239 and vary depending on the style and finish.

Look for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense label for fixtures that reduce water use by 30 percent or more compared to nonrated faucets and aerators. Moen’s faucets, like others in the high-efficiency class, use only 1.5 gallons per minute, compared to the standard of 2.2 gallons.

•  Dual-flush toilets: Toilets are a major source of indoor water use in most homes, at about 30 percent on average. An old toilet can use as much as 6 gallons per flush, compared to the current federal standard of 1.6 gallons. The newest models can perform even better, some using only 1.28 gallons or less, according to the EPA. The Caroma Somerton dual flush toilet, available at Green Depot for $399, is in that top-performing class, using 1.28 gallons for a full flush and .9 gallons for a half flush. The design meets standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Its wider trap is designed to reduce clogs.

•  Shower timer: One of the easiest ways to cut water use is to make a conscious effort. A shower timer can help. This one, priced at $1.35 from Niagara Conservation, gets flipped over when the water goes on and tells you when five minutes have passed. A suction cup holds the timer in place.

•  Water-conserving plants: To save money outdoors, choose plants that thrive with moderate to small drinks of water. Experts for the garden centers at Lowe’s stores recommend lantana, verbena, salvia, zinnia and rudbeckia, to name a few. See a more complete list of water-conserving plants and tips for Xeriscaping your yard at Other ways to conserve water in the garden include mixing compost and manure into the soil so it retains water. Use mulch around your plants to prevent weeds and moisture evaporation.

•  Rain catchers: A half inch of rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof can amount to about 300 gallons of water. Collecting runoff and using it in the garden or landscape is not a new concept, but stylish designs and accessories for rain catchers are an exciting twist. The 65-gallon polyethylene Rainwater Urn ($179 from Gardener’s Supply Co.) has a brass spigot, a 6-foot hose with a shut-off valve and removable planting tray on top. Gardener’s Supply Co. also sells a portable cedar rain barrel stand ($110) that makes it easier to use the spigot, which is typically at the bottom of the barrel.

Read more Home & Garden stories from the Miami Herald

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