If you already filed your tax return this year, chances are you’re looking at a nice refund. The IRS tells us that Colorado residents will receive an average federal tax refund of more than $2,700. Sure, you could spend that on a nice vacation or the latest electronic gadget. But if you want to promote water efficiency and reduce your water bill, here are a few products to consider. Many carry the WaterSense label, and rebates are available for some of them.
1. Ultra-high-efficiency toilets: Prices start at $149, and they use up to 50 percent less water than a standard toilet. We know what you’re thinking: You’ll have to flush more with the new toilets to get the same results. But these are not your father’s high-efficiency toilets.
“The technology has improved tremendously in the last several years,” says Denver Water Conservation Manager Jeff Tejral. “With the newer models, you will see better performance and less water use with one flush.”
How can you tell how much water your current toilet uses? First, look for a marking near the seat hinge. Newer toilets have a mark that says 1.6 gpf (gallons per flush). If you don’t see that mark, check the underside of the tank lid or back wall inside the tank for a date stamp. Toilets made before 1982 use more than five gallons per flush!
2. High-efficiency showerheads: Prices start at $6, and like the toilets, these are more efficient than older models. They use about 20 percent less water than a standard showerhead, but you will still get a satisfying shower. (Yes, we remember that “Seinfeld” episode, too.)
By the way, Denver Water teamed up with water providers and legislators to pass a new law for 2014 that will save water by phasing out the sale of less efficient fixtures in Colorado.
3. Weather-based sprinkler controllers: With prices starting at $99, these devices will help you water your landscape based on weather conditions, soil type and plant species. Landscape irrigation accounts for about half of typical residential water use, so understanding the variables that influence outdoor water use will help you become more efficient.
4. Xeriscaping and wildscaping: There are many cost-effective ways to reduce the amount of grass in your yard and replace it with plants native to Colorado. Xeriscaping is a popular option that can cost as little as $69 by adding a few xeric plants to your landscape, or you can transform an entire area of your yard for less than $200.
“This is not simply about using cactus and mulch,” Tejral says. You can have an aesthetically pleasing, yet water-efficient landscape on your property using xeriscaping or wildscaping.”
5. Community gardens: Rather than devoting resources to a garden in your own yard, Denver Urban Gardens invites you to participate in community gardening. Community gardens typically use half the water you would use in your own yard if you had grass in the same area. Denver Urban Gardens plot fees average about $35 per year.
Here’s the good news: Even if do all of these things, you will likely still have money left over to treat yourself to something nice. So what are you waiting for? Efficiency is calling your name!