August 17, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson

With all of the state in moderate to severe drought status, Kentuckians need to be more aware of water conservation at home. University of Kentucky Extension Associate for Environmental Issues Kim Henken said that many communities already have put limits on water use and more communities could do so in the near future.

“Consumers may be asked to cut their water use,” she said. “Really this is something we should all be aware of throughout the year, but especially during times of drought when water may be in short supply. Several uses of water are essential parts of our daily lives, but we can cut back on how much water we use for many activities.”

The Kentucky Division of Water reported that the average person uses nearly 62 gallons of water each day. In 1900 that figure was just 5 gallons per person, per day.

Henken said there are many simple things consumers can do to lower their water use.
Showerheads manufactured since 1995 dispense water at about 2.5 gallons per minute. So, the average 20-minute shower uses up to 50 gallons of water. 

“Try just reducing shower times for each person in your household,” Henken said. “Children can take four tub baths and three sponge baths per week. Even handwashing uses more water than we can imagine.”

Henken recommends using antibacterial towelettes or waterless hand sanitizer around the house. She said another easy way to conserve water is to turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Kentuckians also need to know how much water your toilet uses for each flush.

“Toilets today use 1.6 gallons to 5 gallons per flush,” she said. “If your toilet uses the maximum water to flush, fill a one-gallon jug and place it in the toilet tank.”

Most washing machines use about 40 gallons per full load of laundry. To limit water use, wash only full loads and avoid using the permanent press cycle on some machines, which can use an additional 20 gallons. Adjusting the water level to match your load size also can help.

“Also, automatic dishwashers use about 15 gallons for a full load,” Henken added. “You may think hand-washing dishes saves water, but you will probably use 20 gallons to hand-wash dishes, so only use the dishwasher for full loads and try to keep water use for dishwashing to about 15 gallons a day.”

Henken said families can even minimize water during food preparation by washing and peeling vegetables in a small pan instead of under a running tap. 

“By following some of these simple conservation practices, a family of four could easily reduce their water use each week,” she said. “During times of low water supply, we should consider the many ways we use water and think about how we can reduce the amount we use.”

The Kentucky Division of Water maintains a Web site detailing the water restrictions in the state at For drought resources, visit the UK College of Agriculture’s Drought Information Page listed under “Hot Topics” at There are also many resources for National Preparedness Month showing Kentuckians how to be prepared for drought and many other disasters at



Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Kim Henken 859-257-7775