August 14, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

With the entire Commonwealth in either mild or moderate hydrological drought, it's a good time to think about ways to reduce home water use.

The United States Geological Survey recently reported that, as a nation, the U.S. is using more than 400 billion gallons of water per day. The report stated that public water customers in Kentucky average about 70 gallons of water per person each day. That is water used for normal household purposes including drinking, food preparation, bathing, washing clothes and dishes, flushing toilets, and watering lawns and gardens.

About 27 percent of in-home water is being flushed down the toilet. Washing machines use 22 percent and showers 17 percent of that total. At a rate of five-to-ten gallons per minute in the shower, the number rises quickly.

Kim Henken, University of Kentucky Extension associate for environmental and natural resources issues, said there are many things Kentuckians can do to cut down on excessive water use at home.

"The most common ways to reduce in-home water consumption are simple things like turning off the water while you brush your teeth, using the dishwasher instead of the sink for dishes, and limiting flushes and shower times," she said. "But checking for toilet leaks can save money and water in the long run."

Henken said the best way to check for a toilet leak is to place three or four drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and then wait about 15 minutes without using or flushing the toilet. If color shows up in the bowl, there is a leak.

Another major user of water is the washing machine. Each load of laundry can use up to 40 gallons of water.

"Make sure you only wash full loads or adjust the water level to fit the load," she said. "Also avoid using the permanent press cycle on some machines as that can use another 20 gallons."

The average 20-minute shower uses up to 50 gallons of water, especially if the showerhead was manufactured before 1995.

"If your shower is older than 1995, it might be a good time to invest in a new showerhead," Henken said. "It's also a good idea to try and reduce shower times from the average of 20 minutes to 10 or even five minutes."

She said even hand washing uses more water than one might expect, so it's always a good idea to keep antibacterial gels and towelettes in the house to wash hands.

Henken said the most important thing is to use common sense.

"Be aware of how much water you and your family are using," she said. "Take simple steps to reduce that amount because everyone benefits from water conservation even when there are no drought conditions."


Kim Henken  859-257-7775