Every Drop Counts: How to Conserve Water in Columbia

Every Drop Counts: How to Conserve Water in Columbia

Water is a critical resource to conserve in the face of climate change: while over 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, less than 1% of that amount is available for use. Our access to water is impacted as warming temperatures, increasing drought, and other changes in precipitation exacerbated by climate change may limit water resources and raise demand.

Columbia’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) addresses this problem by mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their impacts, but it also acts by setting ambitious goals to reduce water usage and increase efficiency. As of 2021, the average resident in Columbia used nearly 40,000 gallons of water a year. By 2035, we’re aiming to reduce that number to 30,000, and by 2050, we want to reduce it to 26,000.

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Columbia’s annual per capita water consumption

Individual actions make a significant difference when it comes to water conservation. Every single resident in Columbia can help save water and move our city towards a sustainable future. We’ve collected five of our top water-friendly tips that can help residents save water, money, and our planet:  

The first (and most important!) step you can take in water conservation is identifying what areas of your home may be using extra water without you even knowing it. Start by checking for leaks in your plumbing and irrigation systems. Seal any leaks you find and fix any dripping faucets or sprinklers to reduce unnecessary consumption – even a slow leak in a faucet will waste 15 to 20 gallons of water each day. Toilets are especially important to tend to since they alone account for about 25% of indoor water use.

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Gallons of water used per toilet flush (GPF) based on manufactured year and money saved with a WaterSense certified upgrade

If you want to take your at-home check even further, Columbia Water & Light offers a free residential energy assessment to any Columbia Water & Light customer interested in a review of at-home habits, equipment, and structural issues. The assessment will only take about an hour to an hour and a half, and will end with a specialist offering easy and low-cost projects that can save water, energy, and money within the home,

Once you’ve identified inefficiencies and made easy fixes, you can take simple measures to reduce water usage indoors. Limit your shower time, or consider reducing bathwater usage by filling the tub to a maximum depth of five inches. Low-flow showerheads can also significantly reduce water consumption (and water bills) without compromising your comfort. You can also reduce unnecessary water waste by turning off the water while brushing your teeth, shaving, or washing dishes and only washing full loads in your dishwasher and washing machine.

The EPA’s WaterSense program also offers easy-to-use resources to save water in your home, yard, and business.

Outdoor landscaping accounts for over 60% of summer water use, and water waste can mostly be attributed to simple mistakes in lawn practices. Avoid overwatering, which not only wastes water but also harms plant health, by making sure you know when and how to water your yard.

Ready to take outdoor water conservation to the next level? Try xeriscaping with Columbia’s Wild Yards program, which can limit the need for watering and help maintain Columbia’s biodiversity by increasing the native plant population. Reducing areas of turf grass in favor of more native plants and using smarter irrigation system controls reduces the amount of drinking water used outside. You can also consider using rain barrels to capture water and hold it for later use, which provides free water and extends the life of existing infrastructure.


Not only do more efficient systems save money through water conservation, you can also save money on installing those systems through our city’s efficient use rebates! Columbia offers a pair of rebates that incentivize water-efficient practices in and outside the home. The Efficient Irrigation Rebate supports residents in installing smart irrigation controllers, rain sensors, and high efficiency sprinkler heads in their yards, and the Efficient Flush Rebate offers rebates for material and installation costs of efficient flush toilets.