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Water Conservation During Drought Begins at Home

Water Conservation During Drought Begins at Home

Water Conservation During Drought Begins at Home

"Consumers are being asked to cut their water use." Kim Henken, extension associate for environmental and natural resource issues at the UK College of Agriculture


Even with recent rainfall in Kentucky, most of the Commonwealth is still in official drought status. Kentucky American Water Company lifted some of the water usage restrictions this week. However, people can take some precautions now to avoid further restrictions in the near future. The fact is, if Kentucky doesn't get more rain soon, water restrictions could become very strict, even to the point of limiting each individual to 40 gallons per day.

"Consumers are being asked to cut their water use," Kim Henken, extension associate for environmental and natural resource issues at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, said. "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."

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. If your shower is older than 1995, it might be a good time to invest in a new showerhead. You can exceed the 40 gallon per day maximum with only one shower. Try reducing shower times to five minutes per adult.

"Children could take four tub baths and three sponge baths per week," Henken said. "Limit water to 12 gallons for a tub bath and one gallon for a sponge bath."

Even hand washing uses more water than we can imagine. To save water, try keeping a supply of antibacterial towelettes or waterless hand sanitizer around the house.

Another way to save water is by turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth. Wet the toothbrush and fill up a pint-size cup to rinse. The amount of water used each time the toilet is flushed varies depending on when the toilet was manufactured. Most modern toilets use 3.5 to five gallons per flush. If your toilet uses the maximum water to flush, fill a one gallon jug and place it in the toilet tank. Henken said to reduce the amount of water flushed away even more, you should limit family members to four flushes per day.

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. Also, automatic dishwashers use about 15 gallons for a full load. You may think hand-washing dishes saves water, however you will probably use about 20 gallons to hand-wash dishes. So, use the dishwasher only for full loads and try to keep water use for dishwashing at 15 gallons per day.

Henken also gave some ways to minimize water use during food preparation. She said to wash and peel vegetables in a small pan of water instead of under a running tap. When cooking with water, choose appropriate sized pans with tight-fitting lids to avoid evaporated water loss. Keep a pitcher or jug of water in the refrigerator for drinking. Strive to limit water use for cooking and drinking to five gallons per day.

By following some of these simple conservation practices, a family of four can easily reduce water use by more than 1,000 gallons per week.

"If the goal is to limit water use to 40 gallons per person, per day," Henken said. "The family would have about 43 additional gallons of water for other uses during the week by following these suggestions. During times when water supplies are low, each of us should consider the many ways we use water and think about how we can cut our use.

Contact Information

Scovell Hall Lexington, KY 40546-0064