Keeping your family's water usage -- and water utility bills -- under control and within budget may at first feel like a daunting task: Every dripping faucet, slowly leaking toilet seal or extra half hour of accidentally overwatering the garden can seem impossible to track. But there are a number of easy and effective ways to evaluate your water use, starting with an educated look at your monthly utility bill [source: WaterSense].
Some utilities offer a record of your water use from month to month -- perhaps this comes as a chart on your bill or can be checked online. If your utility doesn't offer this option, start recording your total monthly water use and cost in a spreadsheet, file folder or notebook. After a few months, you'll start to see usage trends. Note the times when you used more water than normal, and consider what those high-use periods say about your water habits.
Did your bill spike in certain months? Perhaps you used more water during the warm months, when family members were watering plants in the garden. Did your bill increase and then stay high after a certain month? A sudden increase that continues from month to month could indicate that a fixture started leaking, or show that an appliance such as the dishwasher isn't working properly. Evaluate these clues, and see if they point you toward a water-wasting culprit in your home.
Family members' habits can also have a big impact on your water bill. Some issues are obvious, such as a child who takes extremely long showers or a parent who leaves the hose running after washing a car in the driveway. But other, more subtle behaviors can also increase water use. Leaving the sink running while brushing your teeth or washing your face, for example, wastes water. Work with your family members to teach them that unless they're actively washing, rinsing, filling a container or doing something else that directly requires a tap to be running, they should turn off the water [source: Water - Use It Wisely].
When your family institutes a change in water use, watch your utility bill over the next few cycles for a change. It may be small, but even a tiny drop in your average water use can validate your family's changes and give you a reason to celebrate: You've saved money and a valuable resource, and your entire family should feel good about that.
On the next page, we'll share a few types of products that can help your family conserve water automatically.