How to Save Water

It’s easier than most people think, just be aware of wasteful habits and make small changes in the way you use water. Use the water you need, but please use it efficiently!

conserve_saving_water_indoors1Saving Water Indoors

Learning to conserve water is easy. It is only a matter of using the water we need more efficiently.


Toilets: Did you know the American Water Works Association (AWWA) estimates that toilets use the most water indoors at an average of 20 gallons per person per day? That adds up to 7,200 gallons per person per year. Toilet engineering has come a long way since 1994. High efficiency toilets (HETs) are more powerful than older toilets and use only 1.28 gallons per flush. Toilets older than 1994 use between 3 and 5 gallons per flush. Some very old toilets use up to 7 gallons per flush! By installing one of these new HETs you can save over 4,000 gallons per person per year. If you are a Dallas Water Utilities customer you may qualify for a voucher to help replace up to two toilets in your home. Go to our New Throne for Your Home Toilet Replacement Program page for information on the toilet replacement program.

Check your toilet for leaks, and repair them promptly. Toilets frequently leak around the flapper valve, wasting 200 gallons or more per day. To check for leaks, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank of your toilet. Do not flush the toilet for 10 to 15 minutes. After that time, if the bowl shows traces of food coloring, you have a leak. The flapper valve of the toilet should be checked in this manner at least once a year. Be sure to replace the flapper valve with the correct size for your toilet. The wrong size will significantly reduce your toilet’s efficiency.

Also: Never use the toilet as a wastebasket.

Bathing: Take shorter showers and install a low-flow showerhead (one that dispenses less than 3 gallons per minute). According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average family could save 2,900 gallons per year by installing WaterSense® labeled showerheads. These products provide a satisfactory shower that is equal to or better than conventional showerheads on the market. You can have an invigorating shower, with no reduction in water pressure and still use half the water of a less efficient showerhead. Newer showerheads have switches that allow you to stop the water flow while soaping up or washing your hair.

Also: Turn off your faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving.


The second largest user of water inside the home is the clothes washer, using 30 to 40 gallons of water per load. When it is time to replace your current washer consider a high efficiency model. They use only 12 to 15 gallons per load and are also able to extract more water from your clothes before they go into the dryer. These models not only save water, but reduce the costs for heating water and drying laundry. And always remember to wash only full loads. If you only have a few items, use the smaller load setting on your washer.

Repair leaking faucets. The AWWA estimates almost 14 percent of our indoor water use is lost to leaks. A slow drip can waste over 7,000 gallons per year. Often those drips can be stopped by simply replacing a washer.

Install faucet aerators. Aerators are inexpensive and can reduce the amount of water used by 50 percent. It is estimated that faucets use 10 gallons per person per day, so an aerator could save 1,825 gallons per year per person.

Never pour grease or oil down a drain. You will clog your drain or waste a great deal of water trying to get the grease down your pipes. For more information about what to do with your cooking oil and grease, visit the Dallas Water Utilities’ Grease Abatement Program page.

Also: Rinse dishes in a pan; don’t rinse under running water.

If you use a dishwasher, wash only full loads. Dishwashers use about 15 gallons of water each time per use.

Keep a jug of water in the refrigerator to avoid running the tap until the water runs cool.

WaterWater-Wise Landscaping

Water-Wise landscaping, also known as “Xeriscape,” is quality landscaping that conserves water and protects the environment. Using seven common-sense principles, you can create a lush, beautiful landscape that saves time, money and energy and prevents water pollution and water waste. Water-Wise landscaping consists of the following seven principles.

    1. Start with a plan. Consider soil type, drainage, water availability and views. Consider how the space will be used—for play, entertaining, gardening, storage, etc. Plan areas for different amounts of water—hand water, frequent water, occasional water and natural rainfall. Develop a plan that can be installed in phases as your budget and time permit.
      Red and yellow flower Bee pollinating flower Wildflowers


  1. Analyze and improve the soil. To have your soil tested, check with the County Extension Office or your local nursery. Most soil will benefit from adding organic matter such as compost. This will improve drainage, moisture penetration and the capacity of the soil to hold water.
  2. Use practical turf areas. Grass usually needs more water than any other part of the landscape. Think about how you will use the area and if grass is the best choice for that area. It may be, but ground covers, shrubs, a deck or a patio may work better in some cases.
  3. Select appropriate plants. As much as possible, use native or drought-tolerant plants. There are hundreds of beautiful plants that naturally thrive on the amount of rainfall we receive in North Texas, so they rarely need additional water once they are established. But if your favorite plant is a water guzzler, go ahead and use it. Just place it with other water-loving plants.
  4. Water efficiently to make every drop count. Watch for signs that plants need water, and water only when it’s necessary. When you do water, water deeply. This will save water and help plants develop healthier root systems, making them more likely to survive hot summers and cold winters. Water early in the morning when the sun is low and the wind is calmer. The most efficient hose-end sprinklers throw large drops of water close to the ground. When you use misting sprinklers or sprinklers that throw water high into the air, the water often evaporates before it hits the ground. Soaker hoses are inexpensive, easy to install and ideal for planting beds. Drip irrigation applies water slowly to the soil directly surrounding plant roots.
  5. Use two to four inches of organic mulch to conserve water and slow weed growth. Mulches reduce soil water loss and erosion. Some common organic mulches include pine bark, shredded cypress, pecan hulls, cotton seed hulls, composted leaves, shredded cedar and shredded landscape clippings.
  6. Maintain appropriately. Water-wise landscapes need less maintenance than traditional landscapes. But please keep in mind that low maintenance does not equal no maintenance. Properly maintained landscapes are hardier and better able to withstand drought, freezing and pest problems. Remove weeds so they don’t compete with other plants for water. Raise the height of the lawn mower so grass blades shade the roots. Fertilize in moderation. Excessive fertilizer increases plants’ water needs and can be washed away by rain, polluting our rivers and streams. Allow grass clippings to remain on the lawn as a natural fertilizer. Flowering perennial plants may need frequent pruning to stimulate blooming and keep a neat appearance. Check woody plants, such as trees and shrubs, for pruning needs once a year. Dead, diseased or damaged wood can be removed any time.

To learn about native and adapted drought-tolerant plants that do well in the North Texas area, please see our Natural Beauties brochure or go to our Resource Center page for web links. Click here for a list of nurseries specializing in native and adapted drought-tolerant plants; Dallas area designers specializing in Water-Wise landscapes; and books on Water-Wise landscaping.


Water-Wise Landscape Tour logo

Dallas Water Utilities offers an annual free self-guided tour that demonstrates the beauty of Water-Wise landscaping in Dallas. You can choose your own route and visit as many landscapes as desired. Also, the Dallas County Master Gardeners offers free 30-minute MicroTalks on Water-Wise landscaping at the tour headquarters.


2016 [Tour Map]

2015 [Tour Map]

2014 [Tour Map] [Tour Video]

2013 [Tour Map] [Tour Video]

2012 [Tour Map] [Tour Video]

2011 [Tour Map]

2010 [Tour Map]

2009 [Tour Map]

2008 [Tour Map]


Water-Wise Landscape seminars/workshops are offered FREE several times a year to show homeowners how to conserve water in their landscapes and to use native and adapted plants that allow for lush, green, low maintenance landscapes without incurring big water bills.

Click here for information on upcoming Water-Wise Landscaping seminars/workshops and other water conservation seminars/workshops.

istock_000011936246mediumSaving Water Outdoors


There are a number of factors that will determine how much water your lawn needs and the frequency of watering. What type of grass you have, the slope of your lawn, how much sun or shade your yard gets and what type of soil are all big factors that impact how you should water. Clay soils (our “black gumbo”) will hold water longer but are difficult to water without runoff. Several short water cycles can help penetration. Sandy soils may require short and more frequent waterings. Likewise, southern or western exposures will need more frequent watering than north facing or shaded areas.

Many people think they must water every day or every other day to have green and healthy turf. This is a common misconception that wastes water and actually weakens your lawn. Horticulturalists recommend watering your lawn deeply and infrequently to promote a strong root system.

Root and watering illustration (deep and infrequent, deep and frequent, shallow and frequent)

Most grasses only need one inch of water every five to ten days in the heat of summer. How long must you water to apply one inch? It depends on the type of irrigation equipment, water pressure, wind and how much sun your yard gets. To measure how much water your system puts out, set out several six ounce tuna or cat food cans in the path of your sprinklers. These cans are one inch deep, so when they are full, you’ve applied one inch of water! Be sure to watch for run-off on some soils that cannot absorb the water quickly. You may need to water these soils for a few minutes to soften the soil, wait 10 or 15 minutes and then resume watering. While this may sound like a lot of effort, you’ll only have to “get acquainted” with your soil’s watering needs one time, after that, you’ll know how long it will take to apply an inch of water.

Don’t forget to include rainwater in your water total. Check your rain gauge – if your lawn has gotten an inch of rainwater within a week or so, you probably don’t need to water. If it’s gotten a half inch of water, you only need to supplement that with another half inch.

Please keep in mind that if your landscape is accustomed to being watered every other day, you may need to slowly cut back on your watering. The roots may be shallow and they will need some time to grow, so it may take a few weeks before you can “wean your lawn.”

Use sprinklers that throw big drops of water close to the ground. Smaller drops and mist often evaporate before they hit the ground.

Click here for seasonal water tips and a suggested watering schedule by month (depending on the type of irrigation used).


Watch your lawn for signs of stress. If the St. Augustine blades of grass “roll”, if the Bermuda gets a bluish cast or if you leave foot prints on the grass after walking on it, your lawn needs water.

The best time to water is in the early morning, when evaporation rates are at their lowest, there is little wind and water pressure is at its best. Grasses are also less likely to develop diseases or pest problems if watered in the morning.


The American Water Works Association (AWWA) has determined that homes with in-ground automatic irrigation systems use 35% more water than those without irrigation systems. And those households using automatic timers for their irrigation systems use 47% more than their neighbors with in-ground systems operating their systems manually.

If you use your automatic sprinkler system, be sure that it does not water sidewalks, driveways or the street. Also be sure that all the sprinkler heads are in good working order and that your system has no leaks.

As a service to our customers, Dallas Water Utilities is conducting FREE automatic irrigation system check-ups. For more information or to schedule your automatic sprinkler system check-up, call (214) 670-3155.


If you have a swimming pool, check it for leaks and be sure to cover it when it is not in use. Pool covers will save up to 90 percent of the water lost to evaporation.

Use a broom to wash your driveway—not a hose.

When you wash your car, use a commercial car wash that recycles the water. This saves water and helps prevent water pollution.

Click here for links to useful information that can help one prepare and maintain their landscapes in times of drought.

dollar-closeupLower Bills All Year Long!


Your water charges reflect the costs of cleaning and delivering safe, high quality drinking water to your home. Your sewer charges reflect the costs of collecting wastewater, transporting it to a wastewater treatment plant, cleaning the water to almost drinking water quality, then returning it to the Trinity River. The cleanliness standards for both drinking water and treated sewage are set by the state and federal governments.


To ensure that customers are charged fairly, DWU uses meters to measure water use.


Because it is not cost effective to meter sewer use, DWU estimates it. To estimate sewer use, DWU uses your winter months average (the average of your water billed in December, January, February and March). This is thought to be the best time to average because customers water their lawns less in the winter. However, if a customer’s current month’s actual water use is less than the winter months’ average, the customer’s sewer bill is based on the actual water use.


Per ordinance (Chapter 49-18.2) the monthly residential sewer charges are based on the average water consumption billed in the months of December, January, February and March, or the actual month’s water consumption, whichever is less, up to a maximum charge of 40,000 gallons per month. This is also referred to as Winter Month Average (WMA). See the following example.


Months Usage
December 120
January 100
February 98
March 110

120 + 100 + 98 + 110 = 428 ⇐ Total winter consumption

428 ÷ 4 = 107 ⇐ Winter Month Average (WMA)

There must be at least two billing cycles (with a minimum of 20 days in each period) in order to calculate an average. If a billing reversal is performed to any of the four averaging months, a new winter month’s average will be automatically calculated. Those not having a minimum of two months will be billed the lesser of the residential class average or the actual usage each month.

To calculate the sewer usage charge for a residential account, multiply the Winter Monthly Average (WMA) or water usages, whichever is less by the current rate divided by 1,000 gallons. Using the above example and the rate for FY 09-10, the sewer usage charge would be:

10,700 x $4.26 = 45,582 ÷ 1,000 = $45.58

For more simple ways to save water, go to our Saving Water Indoors page.

Leave a Reply