• By Albert Depew

Carson City Public Works

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Water Conservation Tips

   Every Drop Counts graphic

Water is a precious resource in our environment. Growing populations and ongoing droughts are squeezing our water resources dry, causing natural habitat degradation and impacting our everyday use of water. We have no choice but to pay more attention to how we are using water, and how we may be wasting it. We must bridge the gap between our understandings of how important water is to our survival and what we can do to ensure that we have an adequate supply of clean water for years to come. Below is a partial list of the many simple ways you can take action and conserve water, both inside and outside our homes.

"Every Drop Counts" and every person can make a difference. Be aware of your local water restrictions, make sure your children are aware of the need to conserve water, and follow the tips below to save one of our most precious resources.

ToiletsShower & Bath /Faucets / Dishwashers / Laundry RoomOther Tips
Pool & Spas / Car Washing / Landscaping / Finding Leaks


Toilets consume about 27 percent of the water used inside the home. You can save water and money by checking your toilets for leaks and replacing your flapper. Installing an early-closure flapper can save from .5 to 1.5 gallons per flush.

Install a toilet dam or displacement device such as a bag or bottle to cut down on the amount of water needed for each flushing. Be sure installation does not interfere with operating parts.

Avoid unnecessary flushing. Dispose of tissues, insects, and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet.

If the toilet flush handle frequently sticks in the flush position, letting water run constantly, replace or adjust it.

Check for toilet leaks by adding food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes. Check the toilet for worn out, corroded, or bent parts. Consider purchasing Low Flow toilets that can reduce indoor water use by 20 percent.

Tips for fixing toilet leaks:

  1. Lift up the float arm. If the water stops running, then you have found your problem. Adjust the float assembly until the water stops flowing.
  2. If the toilet continues to run, examine the ball stopper or flapper valve. It should fit flush in its seat (no pun intended). If not, look at the lever and guide rods that operate the ball stopper. If they are crooked, gently straighten them. For toilets that have a chain pull attached to the flapper valve, make sure the chain is slack when the valve is seated to ensure a snug fit.
  3. If the ball or flapper valve is worn out, replace it. Check for corrosion or deposits on the ball stopper or flapper valve. Use fine steel wool to remove build up from the seal so the stopper sets properly in the seat.
  4. Inspect the small refill tube that connects the fill valve to the refill-overflow tube to be sure the smaller tube ends slightly above the standing water level of the completely filled tank. If necessary, gently pull the small tube upward until its end is correctly placed.


Showers comprise about l7 percent of the water used indoors. Replace any showerhead that allows a flow of more than 2.5 gallons per minute.  Replace your showerhead with an ultra low-flow version, saving up to 2.5 gallons per minute.

Limit the length of your showers to 5 minutes or less. Reducing showering time by one minute can save up to 2,000 gallons of water per year.

Take shorter showers. Try a “Navy” shower: get wet, turn off the water, soap and scrub, then turn the water on to rinse.

In the shower, instead of increasing the hot or cold water flow to adjust the water temperature, try decreasing the flow to achieve a comfortable water temperature.

Use the minimum amount of water needed for a bath by closing the drain first and filling the tub only 1/3 full. The initial burst of cold water can be warmed by adding hot water later.

Take more showers than baths. If you do take a bath, don’t fill the tub all the way. In-line water heaters or recirculation systems can save up to 30 gallons of water per day.

Don’t let the water run while shaving, washing your face, or brushing your teeth.


Faucets consume about 16 percent of the water used inside your home. Installing low-flow faucet aerators can reduce faucet water use by 50 percent.

A faucet that leaks 7 drops per minute can waste more than one gallon of water per day. Fix or replace leaking faucets.

Minimize the use of kitchen sink disposals; they require a lot of water to operate properly. Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing of food waste.

Store drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting the tap run to get a cool glass of water.

Do not use running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost them overnight in the refrigerator or by using the defrost setting on your microwave.

Consider installing an instant water heater on your kitchen sink so you don’t have to let the water run while it heats up. Your kitchen faucet should not have a flow rate of more than 2.5 gallons per minute.

Your bathroom faucet should not have a flow rate of more than 2.5 gallons per minute.

If your home was built before 1989, you might have older, inefficient fixtures.


When purchasing a new dishwasher, look for water and energy saving options.

When used properly, dishwashers can be more efficient than hand washing. Only run the dishwasher when it is completely full and use the water-level settings (if available) for the most efficient run.

When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink or basin with soapy water. Quickly rinse under a slow stream of water from the faucet. Use the dirty water to run your sink disposal, if necessary.

Laundry Room

Laundry consumes about 21 percent of water used inside the home. Each load of laundry uses between 27 to 54 gallons of water.

Look for high-efficiency water saving washing machines when purchasing new to reduce water and energy usage up to 50 percent.

Horizontal loading machines use less water than top-loading machines.

Only wash full loads to save both water and energy.

Use the water level setting if your washer has one. Some loads take less water than others.

Other tips

Reuse fish tank water on your household plants and outdoors. It makes nice fertilizer, too.

Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year.

Insulate your water pipes. You will get hot water faster and avoid wasting water.

Pools & Spas

Cover your pool. An exposed pool loses 50 to 70 gallons of water per square foot per year to evaporation. During the hot summer months, you may lose up to 4 inches of water each week.

Plant trees and shrubs that buffer your pool, but won’t shed or drop leaves in the water.

Consider a new water-saving pool filter. A single back flushing with a traditional filter uses from 180 to 250 gallons of water.

You can wash cartridges on landscape areas since chlorinated pool water is diluted with clean water. Never allow wash water to run into the street.

Test pool and spa water frequently and maintain appropriate chemical balances so as to shorten changing frequency.

Warmer water means higher evaporation rates. Professionals recommend 78 degrees Fahrenheit as the ideal recreational pool temperature.

When you drain your pool or spa to the sanitary sewer, you allow the water to be cleaned and used again, rather than wasted.

Car Washing

Commercial car washes recycle water on-site or send it to a water treatment facility, where it is cleaned and returned to the water cycle.

Washing your car at home can use two to three times more water than a commercial car wash, and the water that flows into the street can’t be recovered and reused.

If you wash your car at home, make sure you put a nozzle on your hose, or you will waste water and may be cited for a water waste violation. Park it on the grass, use a bucket with soapy water, turn off the water while soaping, and use a hose with a pressure nozzle to decrease rinsing time.


Do not over water your lawn.

Do not water your street, driveway, or sidewalk. Position your sprinklers so that your water lands on the lawn and shrubs and the unpaved areas.

Install sprinklers that are the most water-efficient for each use such as micro and drip irrigation and soaker hoses.

Regularly check sprinkler systems and timing devices to be sure they are operating properly. Teach your family how to shut off automatic systems so they can turn them off when storms are approaching. Some timers have rain delay features.

Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended. Your garden hose can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn the water off.

Raise your lawn mower blade to at least three inches. A lawn cut higher encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system, and holds soil moisture better than closely-clipped lawns.

Avoid over fertilizing your lawn. The application of fertilizers increases the need for water and is a source of water pollution.

Mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulching also helps to control weeds that compete with plants for water.

Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Check with your local nursery for advice. Group plants together based on similar water needs.

Minimize the grass areas in your yard because less grass means less water.

Invest in a rain gauge to determine how much rain or irrigation your yard has received.

Avoid the installation of ornamental water features unless the water is recycled.

Watering in the early morning before the sun is intense helps reduce the waste lost from evaporation. Installing rain gutters and collecting water from downspouts also helps reduce water use.

Use a hose to water brown spots on your lawn. 

Put a spray nozzle with a cutoff handle on your hose so water doesn’t flow continuously.

Use hose washers between spigots and water hoses to eliminate leaks.

If you have a well at your home, check your pump, listen to see if the pump turns on and off while the water is not in use. If it does, you may have a leak.

Finding Leaks

You know you have a leak when your faucet drips, but do you know how to find a hidden leak? If you suspect you have a phantom water waster on your property, follow these tips to find the culprit.

First, make sure no water is being used inside or outside of your home.

Verify that your home is leak free, because many homes have hidden water leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.

About 90 percent of all area residential water meters are located by the front sidewalk on either property line. The first step is to check your water meter for movement. Look at the top of the meter. You’ll notice a star or triangle called a low flow indicator. It’ll move whenever water is passing through it. If your meter doesn’t have a flow indicator, you can use the sweep hand on the register to indicate water loss. If either the flow indicator or the sweep hand is moving, you may have a leak or malfunction.

Locating a leak is a process of elimination. Shut off one toilet at a time at the wall. In between each shutoff, go out to the water meter and check your flow indicator. If the small, red low flow-indicator star or triangle is moving, that toilet is not the problem, move on to the next toilet. If the small triangle stopped moving, that means it is the culprit.

Shut off the anti-siphon valve that serves your sprinkler system. Check the red flow-indicator star or triangle at the water meter. If the flow indicator stopped moving, the sprinkler system is the problem.

If you are not able to find and fix the leak, call a professional to help you.


More water conservation tips