Do You Know How Much Water it Takes To…?


Now that the water system is set up, and we have running water at the faucets (hot or cold), we needed to find out what exactly we could do around the house with this running water. What I mean is, we have LIMITED running water, the tank only holds 150 gallons and we are still toting it in about 25 gal at a time in 5 gal containers. So my husband asked me to find out what some basic tasks around the house use water-wise. Including the machines we have to help us (dishwasher and washing machine). No problem (I thought).

I started with bathing the girls. It took about 6 gallons to give them both a very quick shower, including washing their hair, but without conditioning it. That’s not bad at all! It took 6 gallons for me to take the same quick shower. Very reasonable. Now on to the machines.

I went to the water tank to check how much water we had, then went to the washer, turned it to the very smallest load setting, threw in a small load of laundry, started it and went about my work not thinking much about it. Later, when the load was done and I went back to the tank to check how much water it used, I almost fell over dead with shock. To do the VERY smallest load in my standard top-load washer it took 25 gallons of water!!!

Numbers began flying through my mind….a full load probably takes 50 gallons…I do about 8 loads a week usually…that is 400 gallons a week I use JUST for laundry…that is 20,800 gallons a year!!! And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. How spoiled I am. I have lived my entire life with unlimited running water and it had never really occurred to me how much I was using every day. I have been to third world countries and seen people toting jerry cans of water 3 miles from the well to their hut for their daily use. When I saw that I felt overwhelmed in many ways, and I was thankful for the fact that I had running clean water, and wished I could give it to everyone, but still it had never occurred to me HOW MUCH I used each day. I had heard of front load washers, high-efficiency washers, energy saver appliances, but I never thought about how much water they saved. I figured it couldn’t be THAT much water. Not enough to make it worth it to get rid of my old appliance and go buy an expensive new one. But now, I HAD to find out.

I got online immediately and started searching, to find out how much water everything takes, and how much the energy saver and high-efficiency appliances saved.

How Much Water it Takes To:

Run a full load in an average top-load washing machine…40-50 gallons

Run a full load in a front load high-efficiency machine…25 gallons

Run an average dishwasher…10-15 gallons

Run an energy saver dishwasher…4.5 gallons

Flush an older toilet…5 gallons

Flush a new toilet…1.6 gallons

So now what?

Well, doing our own laundry is quite a big deal until we are hooked back up to utilities (but my aunt said she would keep doing it if we needed), but even when we have utilities I am going to have a hard time doing a load without feeling the fact that we are wasting so much water. I mean, it took 6 gallons to get a human clean, and yet it takes 25 gallons to get 3 shirts clean? That is absurd. We both think we need to be seriously considering getting a front-loading high-efficiency washer. When we used my father’s FL washer last year on our vacation, I was able to fit twice as much in one load and get it clean than I could here with ours. So not only does it use half the water, it takes in twice the clothing. So that really multiplies the savings. I could do 4 loads a week instead of 8. We really need to consider this and find a way to make it happen.

As far as dishes go, it isn’t that big of a deal. I can just do them by hand and use the dishwasher as a large drying rack. I would say I can do the same amount of dishes as one load in the dishwasher, by hand, using only about 3-5 gallons of water.

And lastly, the toilet. This is an interesting dilemma with 6 people in the house. I have been trying to guess how many flushes we do in a day. I am guessing 4-5 each, so 24-30/day. That is 120-150 gal/day. That means even when we get our sewer back but not our water (which is how it is going to happen – sewer will be fixed first and then water), it would take our entire water storage tank of water just to flush each day. That wont work at all. I wonder how much we can cut it down by doing the “if its yellow don’t flush until 3 times” rule. Probably down to 12-15 flushes a day. That would be 60-75 gal. Who would have thought that half of our water tank would go to toilet flushing each day?

Did you already know this? Am I the only person who was completely in the dark about water usage? It is amazing how many things this flooding disaster has changed in our lives, and in this case, brought to light.

9 thoughts on “Do You Know How Much Water it Takes To…?

  1. I figured it out a few years back and was floored by how much water is used. We try to mitigate how much we need to wash by wearing specific chore clothes day after day while taking care of the animals and changing into house clothes when done. We will wear any clothes that don’t show dirt or smell bad a few times before washing them. I will often wash underwear, socks, and bras by hand and hang them to dry on a drying rack. I try to wear an apron when cooking to keep my clothes clean. We each have our own colored towels in the bathroom that we hang on our own hooks after bathing. We use our towel for a week before washing (with exception made for during menstrual cycles if blood gets on them). We always stain treat and soak our clothes. The pre-soak means we can use a short cycle wash instead of a longer one, even on muddy farm clothes. I still haven’t given up the dishwasher. I have in the past, and would again in the future if necessary, but right now I don’t even have my own kitchen so using a dishwasher is the only option.

    Do you have the ability to divert your gray water, so that used laundry water or bath water can be stored to water plants with? My mother used to take the water she rinsed the dishes with and scrub the kitchen floor with it when I was little, while the wash water went on the flowers.


    • What great ways to cut back! We do the chores clothes thing, the towel thing, and only wash clothes when actually smelly or stained. I have never thought of reusing the grey water, interesting thought! How often do you wash sheets? They take up a few loads for us each week.


      • We wash our sheets about every 3 weeks unless they smell. Since we almost always bathe before bed we are getting into bed clean, so the sheets don’t get dirty very fast. In good weather I will take them off the bed and air them out on the clothesline once a week. The wind and sun help to freshen them. We will wash our pillowcases sooner (weekly) since face oils and hair oils get concentrated on them.


  2. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” A motto we can all live by, but in your case maybe a new house rule!

    Living in Australia, we struggle with lack of water (between floods) and long periods of drought (dotted with spells of heavy rains) and so water saving appliances, low-flow taps and shower heads, rain water tanks, 3 minute showers, grey water systems, stage 4 water restrictions… are the kinds of things we discuss at dinner parties. It’s not uncommon to hear someone talk about the bucket they put in the bottom of their shower to catch the cold water before it is warm enough for them to shower, this they use to water plants or whatever. When we try, we can save heaps. Now you’ve got the motivation, I’ll be interested to see what a difference you’ll make. Go for it and amaze us all!


    • It is amazing to me the difference just a little forethought can make. We are actually catching the cold water while we wait for hot too. But we are using a clean bucket and pouring it back into the water tank. Or, at the sink if we need hot, we are using a clean jar and putting it in the fridge to drink.
      When we are hooked back on the grid I hope we can see a difference in our water bill by continuing to practice our water saving strategies.


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