Now that most of us are at home more, you may be wondering “how much more water am I using?” The good news is, it’s probably less than you think. This is because the activities that use the most water  – such as outdoor irrigation, showering and doing laundry – happen at the same weekly frequency regardless if you and the family are spending your days at home or not.

Your water use will increase only slightly

Unlike our use of electricity, which we use continuously as we light our rooms, run our computers or stream shows, our water use is more intermittent. This means that although we are home the entire time, we only use water when we get up to use the restroom, wash your hands, clean dishes or do laundry. This is good news for your water bill.

What about all the handwashing?

Surprisingly, washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds does not use that much water. If you have faucet aerators or a newer faucet, each 20-second hand wash with the water running uses less than half of a gallon of water. Even still, faucets are responsible for 18% of the typical indoor water use. It takes 24 extra handwashing events per day over a 60 day billing cycle to increase your bill by one unit, which equals 748 gallons and costs you $4.98. You can use less water if you shut the faucet off while you soap up your hands, but you don’t have to. Public health is more important than water conservation. Wash your hands and stay safe.

What about additional toilet flushing?

Since you are at home and not at work, you are flushing your home’s toilets more, this is where you may see a slight increase in your indoor water use. After all, toilets make up an average of 20% of the typical indoor water use. The good news – it takes a lot of flushes to really increase your bill.  The most common toilets in everyone’s homes use 1.6 gallons per flush, while newer toilets use 1.1 gallons per flush or less. It will take 467 flushes of al 1.6 gallon per flush toilet to use one unit of water..  Note that older toilets can use 4-6 gallons per flush, and that changes the picture dramatically. It’s also important to note that you should not use your toilet as a garbage can. DO NOT FLUSH “flushable” wipes, paper towels or disinfecting wipes down the toilet. These items wreak havoc on sewer systems. The last thing any of us need at this time is a backed up sewer.

What about the dishes from extra cooking and snacking?

You may be creating more dishes due to extra cooking and snacking, but fortunately, dishwashing does not use much water either. If you want to use less water, use the dishwasher. Dishwashers recirculate water and are highly efficient, only using 4-5 gallons per load.

Showering and Laundry

The good news is that even though you and your family are home all day, you’re most likely not showering any more than you typically would. This is good because showers are a larger portion of our indoor water use, around 21 percent. The same is true for your laundry, which can be around 22 percent of indoor water use. But, not dressing up for work each day may reduce your weekly laundry and offset other water use increases.

Our home’s “other half”

The big piece that is missing from our water use what we use on our landscapes, and thankfully, this should not change. Outdoor water use is responsible for half of our customers’ total use. So, while we may be concerned that being home will increase our indoor water use, the largest potential for savings is still outdoors. An irrigation controller has more to do with the typical home’s water use than our indoor behaviors. If you have not been outside lately, the soil is still wet and most of us can leave our irrigation controllers in the off position for the time being.

We’re here for you

We are in unprecedented times, and we are all adapting to these changes. We want you to know that Helix is here for you. We have suspended water shut-offs and late fees through April 30, and Helix’s board voted to not raise rates this year. If you‘re experiencing difficulties paying your water bill due to the pandemic, feel free to call us at 619-466-0585 to make a payment arrangements. In the meantime, keep up the handwashing and we will continue to ensure that there is safe water available for you and your families at your faucet.


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This article was written by Helix’s Water Conservation Technician Vince Dambrose, whom is currently working from home to keep his coworkers safe and healthy so that the district can keep your water flowing.