top of page

Conserving Water Indoors and Outdoors

Meghan Oh

ater conservation in its essence is the practice of avoiding unnecessary or wasteful water usage. Fresh water is a finite resource, and access to fresh and clean water is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Fresh and clean water is a human right to both hygiene and health, though increasing water needs due to population growth, agriculture, energy, and drought threaten this human right. Water scarcity is expected to increase, however improving water-use efficiency can reduce the stress on our water resources. There are a variety of ways to conserve water both indoors and outdoors, and this article will highlight the main approaches to incorporating water conservation into your daily life. Some of these examples include water-efficient irrigation, efficient toilets, and greywater reuse!

Water-efficient irrigation

Irrigation makes up 30% of water usage in American households, and 60% in arid condition. Implementing water-efficient irrigation tools, such as WaterSense devices, within your landscape and home can reduce 20% of water usage. Weather based irrigation controllers reduce the amount of water used by timing waterings according to weather conditions. By tailoring the watering schedules, homeowners and landowners can achieve efficient irrigation. Installing, or upgrading existing sprinkler systems to micro-sprinklers or in-line drip can additionally reduce water waste by preventing overspray. In-line drip aligns the watering holes and focuses them onto the plants themselves to ensure they are water properly, while preventing overspray. Micro-sprinklers greatly reduce overspraying areas that do not need to be watered (dirt, mulch, hardscapes).

Removing your lawn/pool

A considerable amount of water usage in US households is due to large landscapes. Lawn size was found to be a great predictor of annual water use in a study in Boston, MA. Reducing your lawn can greatly reduce water usage by converting your landscape to low-water usage lawns. This can be demonstrated in rock gardens, mulched landscapes with drought-tolerant plants, native plants, and other living ground cover plants that emulate lawn. Converting pools to a drought-tolerant landscape can additionally greatly reduce water usage. 

Rainwater capture techniques

Rain can be collected and reused for irrigation through different capture techniques such as rain barrels, cisterns, and rain gardens! Rain barrels and cisterns are connected from downspouts along the house that collect rainwater from the roof that can be reused when connected to a hose. Rain gardens prevent water runoff and allow water into the ground by creating a depressed area in the landscape to soak up water from roof downspouts. They can also filter pollutants and act as shelter for local fauna.

Reusing your greywater

Greywater is defined as the used water from faucets in sinks, showers, washing machines, and tubs. Instead of wasting this water and pouring it into the drain, you can reuse it for irrigation in your yard. Collecting the water from your shower that is normally wasted when heating up, you can use it to flush your toilets manually by keeping it in a bucket and pouring it into the toilet when needed. By reusing greywater and not flushing it down the drain, you can prevent greywater from entering the sewage system and keep it within your water system outdoors, letting it return to the earth.

Changing consumption/behavior patterns

Water conservation is not exclusive to installing new technology, but also changing your habits in your day to day life. Reducing red-meat consumption can greatly reduce your water-usage footprint. It takes about 2000 gallons of water to raise beef in comparison to chicken that takes up 520 gallons in water usage. Using your dishwasher instead of handwashing dishes can save up to 5,000 gallons of water per year. Checking for leaks in your toilet and faucets can reduce water usage and frustration.


  1. Runfola, D. M., Polsky, C., Nicolson, C., Giner, N. M., Pontius, R. G., Krahe, J., & Decatur, A. (2013). A growing concern? Examining the influence of lawn size on residential water use in suburban Boston, MA, USA. Landscape and Urban Planning, 119, 113–123.

  2. United Nations. (2022). Water and Sanitation. United Nations Sustainable Development.

  3. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2018, November 7). Statistics and Facts. US EPA.

  4. US EPA,REG 01. (2018, December 27). Soak Up the Rain: Rain Gardens | US EPA. US EPA.

  5. Water and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) | 2015 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference. Water and Sustainable Development: From Vision to Action. 15-17 January 2015. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2024, from

  6. Water Conservation - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.).


bottom of page