The showers, toilets, washing machines, garden hoses and other thirsty devices can spray your water bill with charges.
The environment suffers, too, when we use more water than we have to. Consider these interventions if you'd like to see your water bill evaporate, rather than your paycheck.
Top-loading washers need to float clothes in a water bath to create a back-and-forth agitation. The tumbling motion of front-loading machines typically uses less water, according to the California Urban Water Conservation Council.
Washers that have the Energy Star label can use about 35 percent less water and about 20 percent less energy than machines without the rating.
The LG Electronics large-capacity, front-loading washer is designed to save water and energy by automatically setting the water level and length of the wash cycle based on the weight and size of your load. LG's 3.6 cubic foot, large-capacity model received Energy Star's "most efficient" designation in 2012. The machine sells for $719 at Home Depot.
Faucets and shower heads that slow the flow of water can cut water use and costs. Federal law requires that shower heads restrict flow to at least 2.5 gallons per minute. The best models deliver that lighter stream but fool you into thinking nothing's changed. That's the idea behind Delta's In2ition shower heads, which control the speed and movement of water and spray larger drops. This shower head also has a pause feature that cuts use to a trickle while you shave or lather your hair. Prices start about $239 and vary depending on the style and finish.
Look for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense label for fixtures that reduce water use by 30 percent or more compared with nonrated faucets and aerators. Moen's faucets, like others in the high-efficiency class, use only 1.5 gallons per minute, compared with the standard of 2.2 gallons.
Toilets are a major source of indoor water use in most homes, about 30 percent on average. An old toilet can use as much as 6 gallons per flush, compared with the current federal standard of 1.6 gallons. The newest models can perform even better, some using only 1.28 gallons or less, according to the EPA. The Caroma Somerton dual-flush toilet, available at Green Depot for $399, is in that top-performing class, using 1.28 gallons for a full flush and .9 gallons for a half flush. The design meets standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Its wider trap is designed to reduce clogs.
One of the easiest ways to cut water use is to make a conscious effort. A shower timer can help. Niagara Conservation offers one for $1.35 that gets flipped over when the water goes on and tells you when 5 minutes have passed. A suction cup holds the timer in place.
To save money outdoors, choose plants that thrive with moderate to small drinks of water. Experts for the garden centers at Lowe's stores recommend lantana, verbena, salvia, zinnia and rudbeckia, to name a few. See a more complete list of water-conserving plants and tips for Xeriscaping your yard at http://low.es/119zHtY. Other ways to conserve water in the garden include mixing compost and manure into the soil so it retains water. Use mulch around your plants to prevent weeds and moisture evaporation.
A half-inch of rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof can amount to about 300 gallons of water. Collecting runoff and using it in the garden or landscape is not a new concept, but stylish designs and accessories for rain catchers are an exciting twist. The 65-gallon polyethylene Rainwater Urn ($179 from Gardener's Supply Co.) has a brass spigot, a 6-foot hose with a shutoff valve and removable planting tray on top. Gardener's Supply Co. also sells a portable cedar rain barrel stand ($110) that makes it easier to use the spigot, which is typically at the bottom of the barrel.