Toilet flushing is by far the largest single use of water in a home. Many toilets use from four to six gallons of water for each flush. On the average, a dishwasher uses about 50% less water that the amount used when you wash and rinse dishes by hand if the dishes are prerinsed and if only full loads are washed in the dishwasher.
Without counting lawn watering, typical percentages of water use for a family of four are:
- Toilet flushing – 40%
- Bath and shower – 32%
- Laundry – 14%
- Dishwashing – 6%
- Cooking and drinking – 5%
- Bathroom sink – 3%
In the United States, the National Energy Act of 1992 requires low-volume toilets in new construction or as replacement in existing homes after January 1, 1994. Businesses were to have complied by 1997. Ultra low flow (ULF) toilets are available that use only 1.5 to 1.6 gallons for each flush.
Toilet flushing uses a lot of water, and putting something in the toilet tank that takes up space, such as a glass jar, plastic bag, or a jug filled with water means that less water will be used each time the tank refills after a flush. Because some toilets require a certain volume of water to work right, be sure to test the toilet to make sure it is still flushing well after any changes. And never use your toilet as a trash can. Using several gallons of water to get rid of a tissue or a cigarette is very wasteful.
Also remember that toilet tanks can leak. To check, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank, wait about fifteen minutes, and look in the bowl. If the food coloring shows up there, the tank is leaking and should be fixed. Toilets should be checked for leaks every year.
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