Water Conservation Tips & Resources

Water Conservation Tips for Residents

Water is simply a valuable resource that shouldn’t be wasted. Only 1% of the entire water supply on earth is available for human use – the remainder is salty or locked in ice caps and glaciers. It’s just this 1% that keeps all of the world’s agricultural, manufacturing, community and personal household and sanitation needs operating. We actually drink very little of our processed and treated “drinking water” – only about 1% of all treated water. The remainder goes in our washing machines, on our lawns, and down our toilets and drains.lets-get-smart-about-water_0

Below are simple things you can do to conserve water...

For Every Room in the House with Plumbing

  • Repair leaky faucets, indoors and out.
  • Consider replacing old equipment (like toilets, dishwashers, and laundry machines) with more efficient versions.

In the Kitchen

  • When cooking, peel and clean vegetables in a large bowl of water instead of under running water.
  • Fill your sink or basin when washing and rinsing dishes.
  • Only run the dishwasher when it's full.
  • When buying a dishwasher, select one with a "light-wash" option.
  • Only use the garbage disposal when necessary (composting is a great alternative).
  • Install faucet aerators.

In the Bathroom

  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Turn off the water to brush teeth, shave, and soap up in the shower. Fill the sink to shave.
  • Get a dual-flush toilet - there are two buttons: one for solid waste releases only 1.6 gallons of water per flush, and one for liquid waste releases only 0.8 gallons per flush.
  • Repair leaky toilets. Add 12 drops of food coloring into the tank, and if color appears in the bowl 1-hour later, your toilet is leaking.
  • Install faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads (look for the WaterSense® label).


  • Run full loads of laundry.
  • When purchasing a new washing machine, buy a water saving model (front-loading) that can be adjusted to the load size.


  • Maximize the use of natural vegetation and establish smaller lawns. For portions of your lot where a lawn and landscaping are desired, ask a local nursery and/or Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners for tips about plants and grasses with low water demand. Consider planting more trees, shrubs, ground covers, and less grass. Shrubs and ground covers provide greenery for much of the year and usually demand less water. Use native plants in flower beds. Native plants have adapted to rainfall conditions and often provide good wildlife habitat. Cluster plants that require extra care together to minimize time and save water.
  • When mowing your lawn, set the mower blades to at least 3-inches high (or your mowers highest setting). Longer grass shades the soil improving moisture retention, has more leaf surface to take in sunlight, allowing it to grow thicker and develop a deeper root system. This helps grass survive drought, tolerate insect damage and fend off disease.
  • Only water the lawn when necessary. If you water your lawn and garden, only do it once a week, if rainfall isn't sufficient. Avoid watering on windy and hot days. Water the lawn and garden in the morning or late in the evening to maximize the amount of water which reaches the plant roots (otherwise most of the water will evaporate). Use soaker hoses to water gardens and flower beds. If sprinklers are used, take care to be sure they don't water walkways and buildings. When you water, put down no more than 1-inch (set out empty cans to determine how long it takes to water 1-inch) each week. This watering pattern will encourage healthier, deep grass roots. Over-watering is wasteful, encourages fungal growth and disease, and results in the growth of shallow, compacted root systems that are more susceptible to drought and foot traffic.
  • Apply mulch around shrubs and flower beds to reduce evaporation, promote plant growth and control weeds.
  • Add compost or an organic matter to soil as necessary, to improve soil conditions and water retention.
  • Collect rainfall for irrigation in a rain barrel.
  • When washing a car, wet it quickly, then use a bucket of water to wash the car. Turn on the hose to final rinse (or let mother nature wash your car when it rains).
  • Always use a broom to clean walkways, driveways, decks and porches, rather than hosing off these areas.


Additional resources

Water Conservation for Commercial, Industrial, and Institution Water Users

Commercial, Industrial and Institutional (CII) facilities use high volumes of water and have many opportunities to conserve and save money. An American Water Works Association Research Foundation study suggests that water CII conservation measures could reduce consumption by 15 to 50 percent. 

Reducing water consumption reduces operational costs, especially for energy expenses associated with hot water or water treatments, such as reverse osmosis. It also limits costs from charges for water capacity, drought surcharges, and fines. The return on investment for most water efficiency projects is less than two or three years.

How to become more efficient

A water audit provides an accurate understanding of the best methods to conserve water for their unique facility. Some cities have programs to assist with water audits. Check with your local water suppliers and energy providers. 

The EPA WaterSense site has an extensive guide to help facilities reduce the water footprint and save money.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency has a library of resources for CII users. 

Commercial & Institutional Water Users

Commercial users include facilities such as restaurants, hotels, apartments, and office buildings. Institutional users include educational facilities and senior citizen housing. Because they often serve high volumes of people, many of the largest uses in commercial facilities are for domestic purposes such as sanitation. Other significant sources of consumption include:

  • Cooling and heating
  • Landscape irrigation

The following steps lead to water savings and lowered utility costs for businesses.

  • A replacement or retrofit of facility water fixtures (toilets and faucets) to more water-efficient versions  
  • Updating landscape irrigation to more efficient methods leads to significant water savings, especially to facilities with large outdoor landscapes. Consider improving irrigation controllers, nozzles, and moisture sensors.
  • Consistent and preventative maintenance on water infrastructure in the facility catches leaks or problems before they waste much water. Submeters help identify leaks in specific areas. 

Educational institutions have the opportunity to educate while conserving. The EPA WaterSense has sources for several kinds of commercial and institutional water use. To reduce water consumption, see: 

Industrial Water Users

Industrial users include facilities like food processing, mining, gravel extraction, bottling plants, and manufacturing. Because industrial water consumption has highly variable water use, performing a facility water audit is a good first step for improving water efficiency. 

For more tips on how industrial water users can improve their water efficiency, see the following.

  • Using Water Efficiently: Ideas for Industry (PDF) 
  • WaterSense: Commercial buildings 
  • Water Management Plans and Best Practices at EPA