Conserving Water

garden hose

Conserving Water

Drinking water is a precious natural resource that should be used wisely. Water conservation should be thought of not only in times of drought, but also as a daily practice. Daily water conservation will not only save water and energy, it will also save you money on your water bill.

Locate Your Main Shut-off Valve

The main water supply valve shuts off all water supply to the home.Locating your main water supply line and your main shut-off valve before trouble occurs will reduce water loss and additional damage to property if a leak were to occur. Some common locations of your main shut-off valve are:

  • Where the water line enters your home.
  • Near the washing machine hookup.
  • Near the water heater.


Homeowners are responsible for pipes within their house, as well as the water service line from their house to the water meter box. If you think you have a leak, try to identify its cause and contact a plumber if necessary. If you have discounted a leak on your side of the meter and you would like to have your meter inspected, you can request a leak investigation by calling 703-228-5000. If you see water coming out of the ground near your water meter box, call 703-228-6555. We’ll investigate this at no charge to you. Get more information about our Leak Adjustment Policywater leaks

Detecting Leaks

Minor leaks account for nearly 1 trillion gallons of wasted water each year in the United States. This amount of wasted water is the equivalent to the annual  household water use in nearly 11 million homes. Unseen or unfixed leaks can drip hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water down the drain daily. 

In our experience, interior leaks, from fixtures like toilets, faucets, showerheads, tubs and sinks tend to be the most common cause of a leak and a high bill.  But outside leaks, from service lines, irrigation lines and outdoor hose bibs can be more disruptive, more costly to repair and harder to identify. In many cases, the first indication of an outside leak may occur when your utility bill illustrates unexplained high consumption. 

Learn how to prevent frozen pipes.

Water Conservation Tips

Kitchen and Laundry

  • Don’t let the faucet run when you scrub vegetables or prepare other foods. Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator or in the microwave instead of with running water.
  • When washing dishes by hand, use two basins — one for washing and one for rinsing — rather than letting the water run continuously.
    • Whenever possible, only run the dishwasher and washing machine when full.
    • Use the garbage disposal less often to conserve water.
    • Reuse water as much as possible; take advantage of rinse water in your sink by using it to water plants.
    • Insulate your water pipes. You’ll get hot water faster and avoid wasting water while it heats up. You’ll save energy too.
  • The average household does about 400 loads of laundry per year. That’s about 13,500 gallons of water for a regular top-loading washing machine. By switching to a front-loading washer, you can cut your water usage in half.


  • Don’t let water run while brushing your teeth, shaving or washing your face.
  • Install water efficient fixtures like low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucet aerators. Look for ones that use no more than 2.5 gallons per minute at maximum flow for showerheads, and 2.2 gallons per minute maximum flow for faucets. Consumers can cut their water use by 30 percent, which can save households up to $100 annually.
  • Sinks and Tubs: If water continues to drip after the faucet is shut off, you may have a worn washer, O-ring or valve stem. Repairing dripping faucets can save approximately 2,000 gallons of water each year.
  • Bathroom Toilets: The toilet is leaking if you can see or hear water running after the tank has stopped filling. A silent leak — or plunger ball leak — can be found by dripping some nonpermanent food coloring in the tank and waiting 10 minutes. If the food coloring appears in the bowl, you have a leak in the tank and will most likely need to replace the toilet flapper. Find out more about detecting leaks or what to do if you have a high water bill.
  • Another type of toilet leak is an overflow pipe leak. You probably have an overflow pipe leak when water can be heard running after the tank has stopped filling.
  • Take showers instead of baths. Baths use more water than a typical shower. If your shower has a single hand control or shut-off valve, turn off the flow while soaping or shampooing.
  • Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket. “Disposable” wipes, dental floss, tampons, paper towels, condoms and other small items belong in the wastebasket. Flushing such items can cause damage to your plumbing and County sewer lines. And flushing medications can ultimately contaminate drinking water supplies.


  • Check for leaks in pipes, hoses, faucets and couplings.
  • Capture and recycle rain water. Place rain barrels beneath your downspouts. A roof the size of 1,000 square feet will collect 420 gallons of water in every inch of rainfall. You can use rainwater for outdoor plants and trees or to wash your car.
  • Use a broom — not a hose — to clean driveways and sidewalks; this can save up to 80 gallons of water. In addition, using a broom helps keep pollutants like grease, oils and pesticides that accumulate on driveways from running off into creeks and rivers.
  • When washing the car, use a bucket for soapy water and only use the hose for rinsing.
  • Tell your children not to play with the hose, as it can waste gallons of water.
  • If you have a swimming pool, get a cover. The average-size pool with average sun and wind exposure loses approximately one thousand gallons of water per month; in fact, the pool cover will cut the loss of water evaporation by 90 percent. Also, clean the pool filter often.
  • Don’t overwater your lawn — lawns only need to be watered every five to seven days in the summer and 10 to 14 days in the winter. But do deep soak your lawn when you water. Use a moisture indicator to tell when your lawn needs watering. Here’s another tip: When you step on the grass and it springs back, the lawn does not need water. To prevent water loss from evaporation, don’t water your lawn during the hottest part of the day or when it’s windy.
  • If you’re planning some landscaping, choose native plants that require less water to maintain.
  • Keep weeds out of flower and vegetable gardens. Weeds are notorious for stealing water away from other plants.
  • Avoid over-fertilizing the lawn. The application of fertilizers increases the need for water. Apply fertilizers that contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.
  • Mulching helps to slow the evaporation of moisture from the soil and keeps the soil and roots cool. It also protects the soil and roots from events such as freezing.
  • Add hydrogels to plants that dry out quickly; these water-absorbing polymer crystals swell to several times their original size and slowly release water into the surrounding soil. Hydrogels can be found at your local garden center.

Do You Know How Much Water You’re Using?

Typical Water Consumption:

  • Older Toilets: 3.5-7 gallons per flush
  • Newer Toilets: 1.6 gallons per flush
  • Water Taps: 5 gallons per minute
  • Dishwasher: 12 gallons per load
  • Washing Machine: 40 gallons per load
  • Garden Hose: 300 gallons per hour