Our planet’s most precious resource is water. Over 70 percent of our earth’s surface is covered in water with 97.5 percent of that being salt water. Less than 3 percent of the earth’s water is defined as fresh water and only 3/1000 of this is either too deep in the earth to retrieve or locked away in ice caps or glaciers. With global warming and climate changes threatening our current water supplies, the amount of available fresh water may soon dwindle.
Water is life to every living organism. All living organisms are made of water: humans are 60 percent; fish are about 80 percent; and plants are between 80 and 90 percent water. Water is necessary for chemical reactions to occur at the cellular level and water is the medium where the exchange of information between cells happens for life to continue. All living things depend on the hydrological cycle to continue as water is essential for all food production and all living ecosystems.
In North America, fresh clean water is readily available however our consumption patterns and wasteful ways threaten our future supplies. A typical single family home uses about 265 liters of water every day (indoors) and about 35 percent of that is used to maintain our lawns and gardens. According to the World Health Organization, humans only need 19 liters of water a day to meet basic needs.
Without actively thinking about water conservation, we all waste water: 114 liters goes down the drain if you wash dishes with the tap running; 180 liters of water is wasted per day on a leaky faucet; 280 liters of water is wasted by a steady slow-dripping tap; an average of 19 liters of water is wasted if you leave the tap running while you brush your teeth. By taking a few common-sense steps in our everyday life, we can save thousands of liters of water each year.
Inside the Home
The best place to start our water conservation is by reviewing how we use water inside our homes and identifying where we are most wasteful. The kitchen is one of the most obvious rooms in our homes where water is in constant use and where conserving water would make a big impact. Considering all that goes on in a kitchen – cooking, cleaning, and washing – taking a few deliberate steps to use less water will save thousands of liters each year. Here are some tips to consider:
(1) When it comes to drinking water from the kitchen tap, most of us let the water run a bit to clear the tap of stale water or we run water first so that we get a good cold drink but, either way, we are wasting water. A good drinking water option is to fill a jug full of water and put it in the refrigerator. If you only drink half a glass of water, do not dump the remainder down the sink – use it to water your house plants;
(2) When washing fruits and vegetables, wash them in a sink-full of water instead of running water over them. You only need enough water to slightly cover the fruits and vegetables to scrub them clean;
(3) If you wash your dishes by hand and have a double sink, fill the second sink with rinse water instead of rinsing dishes under a running tap. If you don’t have a double sink, put the washed dishes onto a drain rack and rinse them with a hand-held spray. By washing dishes this way, you’ll save gallons of water each month;
(4) If have a dishwasher, use it only when you have a full load of dishes. The dishwasher uses the same amount of water whether it is full or not. Some dishwashers have shorter cycles that do the job of cleaning and drying your dishes just as well as the longer cycles. Shorter cycles also use less water;
(5) Make sure there are no dripping taps or leaky pipes as these situations waste gallons of water. Fix all leaks and seal all pipes to ensure water is not being wasted and further erosion is not happening.
The bathrooms in your home are also a place where there are lots of water consumption and lots of waste. By taking a few conscious steps you can save gallons of water from going down the drain needlessly;
(1) When brushing your teeth, turn off the water. There is no need for water to run down the drain. Instead, wet your toothbrush and turn off the tap. When you are finished brushing your teeth, turn the tap back on to rinse your mouth. Another solution might be to take a glass into the bathroom just for brushing your teeth. You can fill the glass with water, wet your toothbrush and clean your teeth. When it is time to rinse, you can rinse with your glass of water saving gallons of water from being wasted;
(2) Toilets use a lot of water for flushing especially, older toilets. If possible you could replace your toilet fixture for a newer water-wise toilet. The newer toilets use less water when you flush which also saves you money on your utility bills. Whether you chose to keep your regular toilet or buy a new one, be careful what you put into the toilet. When flushing a small facial tissue down the toilet, for example, gallons of water are needlessly wasted;
(3) Long showers can waste five to ten gallons of water. Limiting showers to soap up, wash down and rinse off is a better solution. An alternative solution would be to install a water-saving shower head to help reduce the amount of water used during a shower;
(4) Taking a bath, however, is an even better solution for water conservation than taking a shower. Even a relatively full bath uses less water than a regular shower would;
(5) The bathroom is another place where checking leaky pipes and dripping taps on a regular basis is a good idea – leaky pipes and taps are the biggest culprits when it comes to wasting water as when they are left unchecked, drips and leaks can cause hundreds of gallons of water to be lost in a month. In addition to this, if drips and leaks are not investigated, water causes plumbing damages that are very costly to repair.
Outside the Home
Cleaning the outside of your home means using your hose to spray-wash the exterior. If you have aluminum siding, for example, washing your siding down in the spring and fall uses gallons of water and often does not do the job efficiently. An alternative might be to use a soapy bucket of water to wash the siding and then use your hose to spray-rinse the siding clean. A second alternative might be to rent a power sprayer that effectively washes and sprays the area clean in one operation.
Cleaning windows can also use a lot of water. Again, use a bucket of soapy water and then rinse them clean. Washing down the cement driveways and walkways can be done once a year with a broom sweeping done in between. This keeps these areas looking clean all year round. When it comes to washing your vehicles at home, lots of water can be lost if you are not mindful of what you are doing. Don’t let the water run while you hand-wash your vehicle – instead, get a bucket of soapy water, wash the vehicle down and then give it a good rinse.
Watering your plants and lawns is sometimes a quandary as gardens and lawns need to be watered to stay green and to continue to grow. Being careful how you water and how often you water is the key. Some cities have in place specific days when you can water your lawns keeping conservation of city water in effect. When watering lawns, don’t waste water where it is not needed. Try the lawn test. Step on a piece of grass – if it springs back right away, then no watering is needed. If it doesn’t then it is time to water. When it comes time to water your lawn, a deep soak is better than a slight sprinkle over the area. Deep soaking the lawn means watering deep enough to get down to the roots.
Watering this way means you won’t have to water so often – every third or even fourth day will do. When you do water your lawn, only water in the cool of the day – early morning or in the evening after the sun is almost set. Another good tip for your lawns and gardens is to plant drought-resistant trees and shrubs. These shrubs thrive well and they thrive on far less water than other varieties. Putting a layer of mulch around your trees and other plants will also help in conserving water. Mulch absorbs moisture from evaporating while at the same time, discourages weed growth.
Being aware, thoughtful and mindful of water conservation is the key when we are thinking about water conservation. If we want to continue to have water supplies available for generations, now is the time to protect and preserve what we do have. By consciously taking a closer look at how we use water and learning how to conserve it properly, fresh water will be available for future generations.