Green Living

Water Works

Reduce your hydro footprint—and save money—with a quick toilet tune-up.

Water Works
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THREE-QUARTERS of the Earth is covered with water, but only 3 percent of it is fresh--and only a third of that is fit to drink. About 40 percent of all freshwater used in U.S. homes is flushed away--literally. Each flush uses from 3.5 to 5 gallons of water; in older toilets, it can be even more, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To shrink your hydro footprint, try these water-saving strategies.

LOCK UP LEAKS. Toilet leaks can waste as much as 100 gallons of water a day. To see if you have any, pour vegetable food dye, powdered drink mix, or instant coffee into the tank; wait about 20 minutes, then check to see if the water in the bowl is discolored. If so, repair the leak promptly (visit for great DIY instructions).

DISPLACE YOUR WATER. If you have a pre-1980 toilet, an inexpensive way to save water is by displacing it, which reduces the amount of H2O used for each flush. Place a plastic container or bag filled with water, gravel, or small stones in your tank. (Avoid using a brick--it may disintegrate and clog the fixture.) You can save a gallon or more per flush, reducing your water consumption by about 13 percent.

TRY A LOW FLOW. Consider installing ultralow-flush toilets (cost: $150 to $750, depending on the model), which use 1.6 gallons or less per flush and have been required in new residential construction since 1994. They can be pricey, but because they reduce water usage by 34 percent or more, these toilets pay for themselves in just a few years.




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