For many, fresh water is something we take for granted in our everyday lives. We rely on it to be there when we shower, brush our teeth, shave in the morning, wash our laundry, run the dishwasher, and when we turn the faucet on for a cold, refreshing drink during an afternoon of mowing the grass under a hot summer sun. With growing populations, development of arid regions of the country, increased farming needs, and global climate changes, the free-flowing days of water usage are rapidly becoming threatened. Each passing summer brings more frequent news reports of reservoirs at record-low levels and municipalities calling for either voluntary or mandatory water conservation from citizens. Water is a vital part of life, and educating yourself and your family on the efficient and intelligent use of water will help ensure that our future needs for this basic element of life can be met.
The "Water—Use It Wisely" campaign notes some average water savings that can be achieved by your family by making a few simple lifestyle changes:
Water-saving Techniques and Savings
- Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway: save 80 gallons each time
- Keep showers under 5 minutes: save up to 1000 gallons per month
- Fix a leaky toilet: save 600 gallons per month
- Fix a leaky faucet: save 140 gallons per week
- Install a low-flow showerhead: 500 gallons per week
- Turn off water while you brush your teeth: save 4 gallons per minute
- Wash only full loads of laundry: save 600 gallons per month
- Turn off water while you shampoo or condition your hair: save 50 gallons per week
- Turn off water while you shave: save 100 gallons per week
Unless you live in a rural area and obtain your water from a well on your property, your family is most likely receiving water from a municipal source. Remember that you are paying for the amount of water your family uses each billing period. Each gallon of water you and your family can save is one less gallon that you will be billed for on your next statement. With that in mind, the Red Cross provides the following water saving tips from its National Disaster Education Coalition's "Drought Forum":
- Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it. Use it to water indoor plants or your garden.
- Check for toilet leaks by adding food coloring to the tank. If you have a leak, the color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes. Flush immediately to avoid stains.
- Consider purchasing a low-volume toilet that uses less than half the water of older models. Low-volume units are required by law in many areas.
- Install a toilet displacement device to cut down on the amount of water used for each flush. A one-gallon plastic jug filled with water and placed in the tank will displace toilet flow and save water.
- Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects, and other similar waste in the trash instead.
- Only operate automatic dishwashers when they are fully loaded.
- Store drinking water in the refrigerator instead of leaving the tap run while waiting for the water to cool.
- While waiting for tap water to get hot, capture it for other uses such as watering plants or heat the water in the microwave or on the stovetop.
- Clean vegetables in a pan filled with water instead of under running water. Re-use the vegetable cleaning water for watering plants.
- Only wash full loads of clothes in automatic washers or set the water level for the size of the load.
- Install aerators on household faucets.
- When washing your car or watering outdoor plants, use a hose with a shut-off nozzle and make sure there are no leaks at the faucet or at any hose connections.
- Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, provides shade for the root system, and retains soil moisture.
- Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses for watering landscape plants. They are much more efficient means of watering than with a hose.
- Use mulch to retain soil moisture around landscape plants.
- When choosing landscape plants, choose drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Once established, they require less water and can survive dry periods without watering.
When it comes to fresh water, the old adage "waste not, want not" means more today than ever before. Our growing population is creating an ever-increasing drain on our natural resources, and our water supply is no exception. Make a few simple changes to your everyday rituals and we'll move a long way toward insuring that an ample supply of water will be available for our future needs.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service—www.nrcs.usda.gov
Water Use It Wisely Campaign—www.wateruseitwisely.com