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Turn the faucet off, save water and save energy


There’s a new water supply issue stirring in California. There may have to be a serious cut in supplies next year after a ruling in August designed to protect an endangered fish. Until an official resolution can be reached, the water agencies are doing the only thing they can: asking people to cut back in their water use.

Last week members of the TerraPass team were trying to impress each other with conservation stats. We had some good ones, but the one that really surprised everybody was the suggestion that turning off the water while brushing your teeth can save nine gallons of water.

Obviously I stole most of my stats from the internet. In particular I have to thank Mrs. Kuntz’s Third Grade Class of Crockett Elementary in Abilene, TX. It was their diligent research, published in the Abilene Reporter-News that I used as my source for the nine-gallon figure.

Perhaps I was in a bit of a daze, or just past a deadline, but I never stopped to think about that number until I mentioned it in our meeting. It’s absurdly high (56 pints in a currency that some of us understand a little better).

Now, with all due respect to the Crockett third graders, their number is probably a little too high. The average bathroom faucet gives water at around two gallons per minute and social scientists reliably measure the average tooth-brushing at 90 seconds. Even assuming a regular twice-a-day brushing, the maximum water consumption is still six gallons. You’d fill the bath after a week!

We often associate saving energy with oil, gas and electricity. But simple water conservation is a huge energy saver too. And now seems as a good a time as any to remind people of this. In June Tom observed on this blog that in Southern California 30% of the energy footprint of the average home is accounted for in its water transport.

Saving water isn’t difficult. First, you can just use less water. You’ve heard all this before (and if you haven’t, then the third grade at Crockett is putting you to shame), but here are a couple of the highlights…

  • Don’t leave the tap on while you brush your teeth.
  • Shower rather than bathe (and not for too long).
  • If you prefer to drink cold water, then keep some water in the fridge rather than waiting for the tap to run cold.

You can also reduce the flow of water. An aerator screws directly onto your faucet, increases the spray velocity while reducing splash and saving water. They come in different sizes for bath, bathroom sink and kitchen faucets.

And finally there are leaks. It’s worth testing for these, too. A leak in your toilet could be responsible for as much as 557lbs of CO2 each year.

If you’re inspired to do a little investigation into all this, then check out the Home Institute’s guide to water conservation. Or for just $14.95 you can measure your flows, check for leaks and get a couple of aerators with the Indoor Water Conservation Kit available from Then you can really know exactly how much water you’re saving while you’re brushing your teeth.

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