Put a Brick in It: Tricks for Reducing Household Water Usage

In response to California’s four year drought, California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed an executive order¹ to reduce statewide water consumption by 25% before February 2016. Given that the average American is estimated to use 80-100 gallons of water per day,² this 20-25 gallon reduction in daily water usage could be difficult drink for Californians to swallow.

While working in the water utilities industry, I found that water conservation is the responsibility of both the water utility and the consumer. Water utilities should inform consumers about water conservation strategies and incentivize consumers to conserve water. Meanwhile, consumers should understand how this precious resource is used in their homes and take steps to reduce unnecessary water usage. Not only will following the below steps help lessen our impact on the environment, but it will also decrease monthly water bills.

On a larger scale, water utilities can help with this effort by proactively communicating water conservation information to customers through existing customer touch points:

  • Adding water conservation information to their phone system including times when a customer is on-hold
  • Including water conversation information with a customer’s bill
  • Attending neighborhood meetings to discuss how water is used in the average household and what steps can be taken to reduce unneeded water usage
  • Offering discounted or free household water conversation tools (see below for more information!)

The following graphic details how the average residential consumer uses water in their home:

Water Usage

Showers use an average of 5 gallons of water per minute. Additionally, decreasing hot water usage will also reduce the heating/electric bill.

Ways to reduce shower water usage

Every time a toilet is flushed, 5 gallons of water are used. A leaking toilet (even a slow gradual leak) can cause an enormous spike in water usage.

Ways to reduce toilet water usage

  • Stand up a brick (in a plastic bag) in your toilet tank – this will reduce the amount of water per flush
  • Flush only human waste
  • Repair any toilet leaks quickly
    • Check for leaks on a monthly basis by adding food coloring to the tank and checking if the water in the bowl changes color

A faucet uses 3 gallons of water per minute, so brushing your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day with the faucet running could end up wasting 12 gallons of water per day!

Ways to reduce faucet water usage

  • Turn off the faucet while brushing and shaving and use a cup of water to rinse
  • When washing dishes by hand, fill the sink with water instead of keeping the faucet running

Clothes washing machines use an average of 35 gallons of water per load and dish washing machines use 25 gallons per load.

Ways to reduce washing machine and dishwasher water usage

  • Wash full loads only – feel free to wear your dirty gym socks one more day!
  • Use detergent pods to reduce soap and water usage
  • Skip the pre-rinse: most detergents clean just fine without it

Make a splash on your next monthly water bill by reducing unneeded water usage and help aid with the water conservation effort! While California’s mandatory water reduction may not directly impact your community, it is important for both water utilities and consumers to establish good water usage habits to help preserve the local water supply.


1 California Imposes First Ever Water Restrictions to Deal With Drought, New York Times, April 2, 2015

2 How Much Water Does the Average Person Use at Home per Day?, U.S. Geological Survey, October 23, 2014

1 Comment

  • Chris R May 6, 2015 3:56 pm

    Great article, Ryan! The brick trick is definitely something new that I will have to try in my own home. Thanks for sharing!

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