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Drowning in Utility Costs? How To Save Money On Your Water Bill

July 7, 2013
Energy, Gas & Water, Utilities
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

If you’re trying to cut corners on your monthly bills to free up a little cash, you’ve likely already taken steps to reduce what you’re paying for cable and electricity. After all, these are two of the biggest utility bills most people pay every month, so they’re obviously on the chopping block first.

But what you may not have considered is the impact your water bill is having on your bottom line; our water bills add $335 per year on average, so it makes sense to do whatever you can to scale back.

The good news is that you don’t have to take drastic measures to save big bucks on your hydro costs. If you choose just a few of the tips below and employ them consistently, their effects will add up to significant savings over time. Remember that conserving water is not just good for your wallet; it’s good for the environment, so you get full license to not feel embarrassed if you forget your reusable grocery bags. Here are a number of ways to cut down on your water costs:

Home improvements

Inspect all of your appliances. Keep an eye out for leaks and drips, as these pile up quickly over time. Pay special attention to toilets, faucets and dishwashers, as these are the appliances most likely to spring leaks.

Savings: 20 gallons per leak per day

Install low-flow toilets, or convert your current ones. This step will significantly reduce the amount of water these household items use. If purchasing a whole new toilet is more than you can afford, you can achieve the same effect by adding weights to the toilet tank. If you’re unfamiliar with this technique, take a look at the guide available here.

Savings: 2-5 gallons per flush

Add aerators to your faucets. An aerator both reduces the amount of water your faucet uses and makes the flow more forceful. It attaches to the faucet head and adds air into the water stream, acting like a sieve to reduce the amount of water coming through the faucet head. Because the aerator compacts the water flowing through, it also increases water pressure. It’s a win-win: increase performance and save money.

Savings: 17-27 gallons per day

Upgrade your appliances to Energy Star versions. Replacing your dishwasher and washing machine with their Energy Star counterparts will allow you to cut back on both your water and energy usage. To locate savings, tax credits and discounts in your area, use the Energy Star rebate finder.

Savings: 2 gallons per dishwasher cycle, 20-30 gallons per laundry cycle

Self improvements: Bathroom

Even if we think we’re doing our best to avoid unnecessary water usage, most of us are still holding on to a number of water-wasting habits. A major step in reducing your bill is cutting these habits out. For example:

Take shorter showers. Shaving off even one or two minutes can lead to impressive savings. If you’re feeling particularly eco- or budget-friendly, you can try the Navy Shower, in which you shut off the water while soaping up and turning it back on to rinse off. Caution: Despite the word “navy” in the name, this technique is not proof of your manliness, toughness or virility; please do not mention it at bars or parties.

Savings: 2.5 gallons per minute saved

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth or shave.

Savings: 3 gallons per day

Don’t flush the toilet every time you use it. Let the yellow mellow for a bit.

Savings: 6 gallons per flush with a regular toilet

Self improvements: Kitchen

Reuse your dishes. Don’t get a new cup or plate for every single drink or snack. This means fewer dishwasher loads, and thus less energy and water expended.

Savings: 6 gallons per load not done

Avoid hand-washing your dishes. Hand-washing dishes takes way more water than a dishwasher does; the average dishwasher uses 6 gallons per cycle, while water usually flows at a rate of 2 gallons per minute. If it takes you more than 3 minutes to wash your dishes (which, unless you are 21 years old and your idea of washing is to rinse off the fork you used for your instant ramen, is probably you), you’re better off using a dishwasher.

Savings: 2 gallons with the average dishwasher, 4 with an Energy Star one

Don’t defrost frozen foods with running water. Either put the items in the refrigerator overnight or use the microwave.

Savings: 2 gallons per minute

Other improvements

Use rolled-up paper towels to water your plants. Instead of using a watering can or glass, and wasting all the leftover water, just roll up a paper towel as tight as you can, dunk one end into a deep glass of water and lay the rest of the paper towel across the soil. Cover the glass of water to prevent evaporation.

Savings: Depends on how much your home resembles a rainforest

Take your car to a car wash that recycles its wash water. Going to a professional car washer is much more water-efficient than doing it at home (though it is more expensive). Check your local listings to find one that recycles wastewater.

Savings: Compared to washing at home, 60 gallons at a full-serve conveyor car wash and 80 gallons at a self-serve car wash

All the good wordplays about being green and saving green have already been taken, so I’ll spare you a bad pun. Instead, we’ll go with this: Water is one of our most precious resources, and as the world’s population grows, it becomes ever scarcer and more valuable. While you may not be able to move the needle on global water use, or even county water use, you still have a strong financial incentive to cut down on water consumption. Moreover, many of these water-saving tips will also cut down on energy use and bills, so you can double up on savings.

NerdWallet has partnered with BillShark, a company that can help save you money by negotiating your bills for you. If BillShark determines that you’re already getting the best rates, there’s no cost to you.