By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Many Minnesotans have been asked to limit or stop watering lawns amidst our intense drought. But that’s not the only place where conservation can happen.

How can people limit water use at home? And do those small changes actually make a difference? Good Question.

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From splashing our thirsty plants to cleaning off a hard day’s work in the shower, the amount of water flowing in and around our homes really adds up.

How much water per day does the average Minnesotan use?

“I wanna say probably like 10 gallons,” said Nikki Crawford.

“I would say anywhere from 50-60 gallons per day,” guessed Kenneth Farr.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the average Minnesotan use 52 gallons of water per day. That number jumps significantly in the Twin Cities area. People who live in the seven-county metro average using 94 gallons of water per day.

“We definitely tend to over irrigate,” said Carmelita Nelson, water conservation consultant with the DNR.

Why do metro residents use more water than people in average Minnesotan?

“The average Minnesotan is less likely to irrigate their lawn on a daily basis or even a weekly basis or at all,” said Nelson.

Home irrigation is the main culprit for wasting water and the first to be curtailed in a drought since it’s considered non-essential. By banning or limiting irrigation, it returns water usage to winter levels when people are mainly using water inside their homes. Summertime water usage can be two to three times higher than winter usage.

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Does taking a shorter shower or turning off the faucet when brushing teeth make a difference?

“You are making a big difference,” Nelson said enthusiastically.

She recommends showers take five minutes or less, and possibly skipping every other day if you don’t work up much of a sweat during the day.

Shortening showers and turning off faucets when possible can help save at least 10 gallons per day.

“In your own house that may add up to 40-50 gallons of water. And you multiply that by all the residents in the community or even in your own private well, it does make a difference to conserve water,” she said.

Running the dishwasher might feel like a lot of water is being used, but it can be more efficient than washing by hand. If you’re just washing a few dishes, Nelson said doing so in the sink isn’t wasteful. However, high efficiency (HE) dishwashers only use about 4-5 gallons to clean a full load. Hand washing that same load might use two to three times more water. Appliances that are HE, like washer and dryers, have helped homeowners limit water consumption over the past several years.

In the bathroom, check the date on the inside of your toilet’s tank. If the toilet is older than 1980, it’s likely wasting water. Toilets before that decade used anywhere from 5-8 gallons of water when flushing. Toilets built now use a little more than 1 gallon per flush.

Speaking of toilets, Nelson said they’re the main culprit for leaks in homes. She suggests dropping a dye tablet in the tank and watching if the dyed water flows into the bowl without flushing. If it does, you’ve got a leak.

A couple ways to water your plants without running the hose include buying a rain barrel. Nelson also keeps a bucket in her sink when she’s washing vegetables and fruits. She then uses that bucket for her plants.

HomeWaterWorks has a program to help you calculate how much water you use in your home. To try it and find ways to conserve water, click here.

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WCCO did a Good Question segment in 2018 that breaks down where people use water most in their homes, as well as how much is consumed across the Twin Cities. Click here to see that report.

Jeff Wagner