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Front Page - Friday, February 22, 2019

Simple steps for smart water use

Americans use fresh water for the basics of everyday living, which means we’re constantly using one of Earth’s most precious resources. In fact, less than 1 percent of the Earth’s water is available for human use, so we have a big responsibility to use water wisely. Consider these relatively easy steps to cut back on how much water you use without requiring big expense or lifestyle changes.

Fix hidden leaks

Unseen leaks are one of the main culprits of water waste. The average family of four uses 400 gallons of water each day. As many as 10 percent of homes have easy-to-fix leaks that waste 90-plus gallons a day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports.

A toilet leak could be wasting about 200 gallons of water daily. A simple fix with a few tools and parts from the hardware store could solve the problem.

A degraded toilet flapper can waste the same amount of water as leaving a faucet running at a constant stream. To check for a leaky flapper, put a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank and wait 10 minutes. If the color shows up in the bowl, you’ve got a leak that’s easily fixed with a new flapper.

Your water meter can tell you if you’ve got a leak. Find a time when no one will be using water for at least a couple of hours – maybe before you leave for work or a family outing – and note the water meter reading. When you return, see if it’s changed. If it has, you’ve got a leak.

Cut back on running water

When you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, flip off the tap while you scrub or use the razor. Leaving the water running lets as much as 8 gallons of unused water run down the drain (and run up your water bill) each day. Teaching your kids this habit will multiply the savings.

If you have one, use the dishwasher to wash dishes instead of washing by hand – and make sure it’s fully loaded before you run it. Washing just a few dishes and pans under running water quickly uses the same amount of water as an entire load in the dishwasher. If you wash by hand, use a tub of soapy water and a tub of plain water for at least a preliminary rinse.

Outdoor watering done right

Your outdoor watering techniques could be another area for improvement. Outdoor water use makes up about 30 percent of the average water bill – and most of that is used for maintaining landscapes. Yet up to half of the water that homeowners use outside is wasted because of inefficient watering methods and systems.

If you’re using hoses and sprinklers, aim the sprays to make sure water lands where it will soak into the earth, not pool on sidewalks, driveways and patios. Set water sprays as low to the ground as possible to give wind and sun less chance to evaporate the droplets. It’s typically best to water early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid peak sunshine.

To learn more about ways to save water or improve your home’s overall efficiency, visit www.epa.gov/watersense. Visit the Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga membership directory at HBAGC.net for a list of professionals who can help you solve your water-waste issues.