How to Conserve Water in the Kitchen

For more sustainable living

Running tap water in a kitchen sink.

Yevhenii Podshyvalov / Getty Images

Water consumption is often back of our mind when we think of sustainability or energy efficiency. So, when we heard the average American uses about 156 gallons of water every single day this really put things in perspective. Especially when we consider that citizens of other first-world countries like France use about 77 gallons a day, whereas people in developing countries like India use about 38. It’s clear we like our water on-demand, but is this really realistic? If we don’t change the way we consume water, scientists predict that in the next 50 years most Americans will regularly experience water shortages.

Besides saving on your monthly water bill and doing a solid for future generations, there’s a real existential risk to ignoring this issue. We outline the most impactful ways to save water in the kitchen so you can be a part of the solution.

Examine the Products You Buy

gotham greens

Gotham Greens

As with most themes surrounding sustainability, our household habits are a drop in the bucket compared to those of the food industry and agriculture. But the advantage here is that we as consumers can drive demand.

  • Before you buy any product off the shelf, research how sustainable it is.
  • Co-founder and CEO of Gotham Greens Viraj Puri claims we could all save more water simply by eating more plants. In fact, raising animal proteins consumes up to 50% of the available freshwater. Puri's company takes things one step further by using re-circulating hydroponics to grow their greens, a highly water-efficient method and one that will almost certainly be a part of the sustainable future of food.
  • Consuming local and seasonal foods can make a great difference as keeping food fresh during transport and fighting out-of-season climates all require water.

Clean Up Your Dishwashing Habits

Dishwasher racks filled with pots, cups, plates and utensils

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

It’s estimated that the taps in our homes account for about 19% of our water use—we're looking at you dirty dishes. By far, washing dishes with the tap running consumes the most water, as around 2.5 gallons can escape from a faucet every minute. Adjacent to how much water you use is the issue of the energy that it takes to heat it. It's been shown that the energy expended to heat water accounts for the majority of its emissions, so the more you can avoid this, the better.

  • Consider an Energy Star certified dishwasher and skip rinsing your dishes before loading them.
  • If you prefer hand washing, fill two basins with soapy, cold water—the kids will even love to get involved with this project.

Defrost in the Fridge

How to Defrost Chicken in the Microwave
I Am a Food Blog

There are a number of safe solutions for defrosting that don't require filling up a bowl or pot to place your frozen food in.

  • Plan ahead and let your food thaw in the fridge overnight.
  • Place your frozen food in the coldest section, typically located near the back, bottom shelves, so your fridge doesn’t work overtime compensating for the drop in temperature.

Reduce and Reuse

watering blueberry plants

The Spruce / Kara Riley

We often dump water straight down the drain before giving it a second thought—guilty! But realistically, cleaning the floors or watering the plants doesn’t require perfectly clean, drinkable water.

  • After you blanch or boil your food, let the water cool, then use it for your garden.
  • Use leftover water from dishwashing to clean the floors, sink, or toilet.
  • You can use dirty water to run your garbage disposal since this appliance requires a lot of water to run smoothly. Alternatively, skip the garbage disposal and compost your food scraps.

Cook With Efficiency in Mind

water added to brine mixture in the pot

The Spruce / Sonia Bozzo

Cooking offers many opportunities to reduce your water consumption. First, think about what’s truly necessary in terms of how large your pot or pan is and how much water you use to cook. If you’re cooking a small portion of food relative to the size of your pot and the amount of water in it, you’ll both use more energy and water.

  • Follow the directions on the back of food packages to gauge how much water you should use.
  • Consider your cooking method. For instance, steam cooks food faster than boiling or blanching it, and keeping the lid on your pot or pan will also save you from using excess water.

Upgrade Your Hardware

Commerce Photo Composite

The Spruce Eats / Chloe Jeong

The actual hardware your kitchen sports is an important player in reducing your water use. New hardware is designed to be energy efficient, so if it makes sense for you and your budget, consider ways you can either modify or replace your appliances.

  • Look into water filters that improve the flow to your taps and make for a sustainable solution to bottled water.
  • Energy Star products, which are certified by the EPA, provide a range of solutions from refrigerators and dishwashers to non-kitchen related items, like air purifiers and light bulbs.   
Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cdc global health - infographics - water use around the world.

  2. Why is America running out of water? Science.

  3. The case for plant based. UCLA Sustainability.

  4. Water conservation: why saving water is important - kayplumbing. Com.