Water conservation

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Water conservation tips

Conserving water benefits the environment by allowing the City to defer costly expansions to water treatment and distribution facilities in addition to wasting our most precious natural resource: water. Practice the three Rs and reduce your impact on natural resources, treatment and delivery systems, and save money.

  • Reduce - Be aware of your water use, and consider ways to use less.
  • Repair - Locate and repair leaks to save water, money, and to prevent potentially costly property damage.
  • Retrofit - Install water saving devices on existing fixtures and select water efficient devices when replacing older, water-guzzling fixtures and appliances.

What else could be making my water bill high?

There could be a leak.

To check to see if your home has a water leak you can either read your meter before retiring for the evening and read it again in the morning to see if the reading changed or turn off all fixtures and appliances that use water and check the leak detector indicator - the red triangle on your water meter for movement. There is a leak if it continues to move even though all water fixtures and appliances are turned off.

There's a leak somewhere, now what do I do?

The most likely place for a leak is the toilet. To check for leaks in your toilet, add a few drops of food colouring or a cold cup of black coffee to the water in the tank. Wait a few minutes. If, without flushing the toilet, the colour appears in the bowl your toilet has a leak it should be repaired immediately.

Other places for leaks - faucets and showerheads.

To check for leaks, make sure the sink or tub is dry, insert the plug into the drain, wait, and check the sink or tub from time to time. You have a leak if water starts to pool in the sink or tub. Don't forget to check all bathrooms, the kitchen and outside taps.

For more ways to save water and money:

Why conserve?

The Ottawa River, water source for both the Britannia and Lemieux Water Purification Plants, is the greatest tributary of the St. Lawrence River and the second longest Canadian river flowing 1,271 kilometres. However, the process of turning water into safe drinking water costs money due to the sophisticated processes, infrastructure, facilities, and chemical and electrical costs required to deliver this valuable product to homes all over the City of Ottawa.

That's why people should use water more carefully in and around the home. Being WaterWise benefits the environment, and allows us to defer expanding our water facilities - saving residents added expense.



  • Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth, shaving or washing your hands. Fill the sink with a few centimetres of warm water to wash or rinse your razor while shaving. For brushing, fill a glass with water to rinse your mouth.
  • Check for leaks - To check for leaks in your toilet, add a few drops of food colouring or a cooled cup of black coffee to the water in the tank and wait a few minutes. If, without flushing the toilet, the colour appears in the bowl your toilet has a leak that should be repaired immediately.
    • A toilet that continues to run after flushing, if the leak is large enough, can waste up to 200,000 litres of water in a single year! 
  • Showerheads - Older showerheads can use about 20L of water every minute. Replace your older showerhead with a new low-flow showerhead and save water and money. Look for a showerhead that uses 9.5L per minute or less.
  • Taps - Faucet aerators can reduce water use by 25 per cent. Replace your older aerator with a new low-flow aerator and save water and money.
  • Toilets - Older toilets use about 20L of water per flush. The Ontario Building Code requires 6L low-flow toilets for new construction and 13L toilets for renovations.
    • There are many products that you can install in the tank of an existing water-guzzling toilet to reduce the amount of water used, such as a water displacement (plastic bag or bottle), water retention (toilet dams) or alternative flushing (early closure or dual-flush). Check with your local plumbing supply of hardware store to find which method will work best for your toilet.
    • Don't put rocks or bricks in your toilet tank as these can breakdown over time and cause damage. Or replace your water-guzzling toilet with a low-flow 6L version, a 3L/6L dual flush, or high efficiency 4L flush toilet - that's 1/5 the volume of water per flush (and 1/5 the cost!).

Kitchens and laundry

  • Turn off the tap - For a cold glass of water, keep a jug in the fridge instead of running the tap.
  • By hand - To wash dishes by hand only fill the sink one-quarter to half full. Rinse using a second, one-quarter to half-full sink and avoid running the water.
  • Steamed not boiled - Steaming food uses less water, less energy and helps to retain nutrients.
    • When boiling, use only enough water to cover the food and use a tight-fitting lid.
  • To the top - Always wash full loads for greatest water and energy savings or adjust the water level to the amount of laundry to be washed.
  • Check for leaks - regularly check taps and pipes. Prompt repairs can save water, money, and prevent potentially costly property damage. Stop drips and save dollars - faucet washers cost pennies and take minutes to install.
  • Taps - Faucet aerators can reduce water use by 25 per cent. Replace your older aerator with a new low-flow aerator and save water and money. 
  • Front and centre - Top-load washing machines have agitator arms that generally reduce the size of load that can be washed. Front-load washers do not have agitator arms, and are more gentle on clothes. Wash larger loads and remove more water during the spin cycle to reduce drying time.
  • Spotted - When purchasing a new appliance spot the Energuide sticker and check the rating to determine energy efficiency and potential savings.


Driveways, cars and sidewalks

Did you know? One drop of oil can render up to 25 litres of water unfit for drinking. 

  • Clean sweep - Use a broom to clean driveways, sidewalks and patios, instead of the hose. Let the rain take care of the rest.
  • Turn off the tap - Use a bucket and sponge to wash your car and a trigger nozzle on the hose to wet and rinse.
  • Suds away - Use a car wash facility that recycles its water and collects and separates out greases and oils.
  • Check for leaks - Regularly check connections and hoses for leaks. Prompt replacement of an inexpensive washer could save water, money and possibly prevent costly property damage.
    • A leak of only one drop per second wastes about 10 000 litres of water annually. 
  • Trigger change - Use a trigger nozzle on a hose to stop the flow of water when not in use.

Pools and hot tubs

  • Cover up - Covering your pool or hot tub when it's not in use will reduce energy costs, evaporation and the amount of water required for top-up.
  • Turn off the tap - Lower water level in your pool or hot tub to reduce water loss due to splashing. Pools should only be filled to 15 to 20 cm from the top.
  • Back off on backwashes - Limit backwashes to one to two minutes or until the water becomes clear. Longer backwashes waste water and chemicals.
  • Check for leaks - Regularly check connections, liners, and pipes for leaks, prompt repair could save water, money and possibly prevent property damage.
    • A leak of only one drop per second wastes about 10 000 litres of water annually. 
  • Get the dirt out - Check the pump strainer basket and the skimmer basket daily and remove any debris. This can improve water circulation and result in cleaner water.
  • Pre-screen - Consider adding a pre-filter to the skimmer basket, this may reduce the frequency of backwashes to three or four times per season.

High Volume User Program

Save money and water with the City’s High Volume User (HVU) Program. The HVU Program offers rebates to property owners for installing eligible water efficient toilets, urinals, spray valves and commercial dishwashers and washing machines.

What are the benefits?

Inefficient use of water increases utility costs and places undue stress on the environment. These negative outcomes can often be avoided by retrofitting inefficient fixtures with devices which use less water while providing equal or superior performance. The HVU program aims to offset the costs when retrofitting water fixtures by providing rebates. Find out how these Ottawa organizations benefitted from the High Volume User Program:

  • Ottawa Community Housing Bank Street location cut $78,000 from its annual water bill
  • Osgoode Properties sees return on investment eight months after installing water efficient toilets
  • Ramphos Holdings Inc. saves money with water efficient toilets and washing machines

Are you eligible?

The business or facility must be built before 1996, located in the City of Ottawa and be either:

An industrial, commercial or institutional property consuming a minimum of  25,000 m3 of water per year


A multi-residential property with six or more units.

Ready to apply?

  1. Complete the Screening and Application form [ PDF - 196 KB].
  2. Before removing old fixtures and appliances, take photos of what is being replaced.
  3. Send completed form and photos for review to:

WaterWise Coordinator
City of Ottawa 
951 Clyde Avenue
Ottawa, ON K1Z 5A6

Once your application has been approved, you will receive more information about next steps.

Frequently asked questions

Which toilet should I purchase?

Review the maximum performance (MaP) testing information to ensure the toilets you are considering meet the HVUP criteria. Toilet selection will be reviewed by the City as part of the screening form review and approval process.

What dollar rebate values are available?

Qualifying applications may receive:

  • Toilets: $50 rebate for single-flush and dual flush high-efficiency toilets
  • Urinals: $60 rebate for 3.8L or less; $75 rebate for waterless urinals
  • Spray valves: 50% of the pre-tax price, to a maximum of $200
  • Commercial dishwashers and washing machines: 25% of the pre-tax price, to a maximum of $1,000

The total maximum rebate is $10,000 per tax roll number.

Is there a deadline for completing the work?

After a project is approved, applicants must complete the work within 18 months.


Contact the City of Ottawa at 3-1-1 or send an e-mail to: waterwise@ottawa.ca.

High Volume User success stories

Find out how local property owners have benefitted from the High Volume User Program.

Ottawa Community Housing

In 2011, the Ottawa Community Housing Corporation (OCH) installed 144 water-efficient toilets at a facility located on Bank Street.

Water conserved: ~20,000 m3 of water/year
Rebate received: $7,200 rebate
Return on investment: 1 year
Annual savings: ~$78,000

Osgoode Properties

In 2011, Osgoode Properties installed 122 water-efficient toilets in their building.

Water conserved: ~14,000 m3 of water/year
Rebate received: $6,100 rebate
Return on investment: 8 months
Annual savings: ~$54,000

Ramphos Holdings Inc.

From 2011-2012, Ramphos Holdings Inc. installed 18 water-efficient toilets and 2 water-efficient washing machines.

Water conserved: ~400 m3 of water/year 
Rebate received: $1,643 rebate
Return on investment: Five years  
Annual savings: ~$1,500