Whether you do it once a day, twice a day, or once a week, your momma always told you (and your dentist may have scolded you) to make sure you brush your teeth. Taking care of our teeth has become a national obsession, with choices about which kind of electric toothbrush to buy or which bleach will whiten your teeth to glow-in-the-dark bright. What often escapes our attention, however, is the amount of water wasted while brushing, flossing, and humming your way through the prescribed two minutes of oral hygiene twice a day.
Two minutes may seem like a small amount of time to worry about water use. Consider this: your two minutes of brushing, if the water is left running, could account for up to 14 gallons of wasted water in older faucets (according to the EPA). Water faucets are responsible, for 15 percent of the average household’s indoor water use. That percentage adds up to more than one trillion gallons of water a year in the United States. That is an amazing amount of water that could be going down the drain while you brush your two minutes away, and listen to the sound of your running faucet.
There are several ways to make your brushing experience greener:
1. Turn it off. According to the EPA, you can save up to 3,000 gallons of water a year by simply turning off the water while you brush your teeth. Wet it. Turn it off. Paste it. Brush. Rinse. By using as little water as possible to brush your teeth, you are making a real difference not only in the amount of water available in the United States, but also in your water bill.
2. Multitask. Brush while you are in the shower. Or you can use the water you collect while waiting for your tap water to warm to wash your face. Any time you have excess water or you are performing a task with water, wet your brush and do your thing! Every little bit helps.
3. Accessorize. According to the EPA, just by adding faucet accessories such as water-saving aerators, you can reduce water use by approximately 30 percent. Aerators are designed to mix air with water, allowing for a smooth flow. Water-saving aerators will still provide that smooth flow while using less water.
4. Use your sense. While modern faucets do not exceed 2.2 gallons of water per minute, older faucets often allow for 3-7 gallons per minute. You can reduce this number by going with a WaterSense faucet. WaterSense (a partnership program sponsored by the EPA) faucets reduce the amount of water flow to 1.5 gallons per minute. Just by installing one, you could save more than 500 gallons of water a year. If you prefer to hold on to your existing faucet, simply install a WaterSense aerator. Doing so could save water as well as decrease your energy bill by slowing your hot water heater use.
By simply installing an aerator or purchasing a WaterSense faucet, we could potentially save $600 million nationally in energy costs as well as 60 billion gallons of water a year. Imagine those billions of gallons of water going where they could be most needed: severely depleted areas within our own country suffering from the effects of drought. According to the EPA, 60 billion gallons of water is enough to meet the public demand for water in Miami for 150 days. Imagine the change you can bring about by simply turning off the faucet for two minutes while you brush!