Conservation and water reuse is needed to save our fresh water supply. Our planet is three-fourths water, so we often forget that the water resources of our planet are limited. While the supply of water may seem abundant, only seven percent of the world's water is fresh water, and 90 percent of that supply is frozen in the Antarctic. The United States uses more water than any other country, and we often have wasteful habits in our water use. Water is a renewable resource and the same amount exists today as did thousands of years ago, but we need to ensure that the supply of fresh, drinkable water is not reduced by runoff and pollution.
Conservation strategies include:
- Take shorter showers and shallower baths. The average person uses approximately 10 gallons of water for an eight minute shower.
- Install low flow devices on shower heads.
- Do not leave the water running when brushing your teeth and save 1-5 gallons of water each time you brush.
- Install dual toilets that flush less water for non-solid waste, saving an average of 67% per flush.
- Fix leaks and dripping faucets. A faucet dripping at a rate of 30 drips per minute wastes approximately 4 gallons of water a day.
- Only run dishwashers and washing machines with full loads. Each washer load uses an average of thirty gallons of water.
- Don't water the grass excessively. While the American ideal is a lush, green lawn, watering is only needed every three to five days in the summer. Water early in the day to avoid evaporation. Sweep sidewalks and driveways instead of using the hose. When watering gardens and lawns, make sure that is all you are watering. Keep the flow off sidewalk and driveway areas.
- Do not defrost food under running water. Plan ahead and defrost in the refrigerator or use the microwave for faster results.
There are safe ways to re-use water around your home:
- If you are refilling water bottles, empty the old water into your garden or houseplants. You can also fill your pet's water this way.
- When waiting for water to heat up out of the tap, collect the warm water for pet's use or watering plants. Simple rainwater collection barrels can be made to collect rainwater that can be used in gardens and on lawns. You can even run drip lines to planters from these collection barrels.
Although household use of water only accounts for 1 percent of the fresh water use in this country, we still use more water than is needed. The average person uses 80 gallons of water per day in the winter, and increases to 120 gallons per day in the summer while we only need 2 quarts per day to survive. A large percentage of this water use is grey water, or the water runoff from showering and bathing, dishwashers, kitchen sinks, and laundry. Some municipalities are approving grey water systems that reuse the water for uses such as watering gardens and lawns, rather than sending it into the water treatment system directly. This keeps the water from being over-treated and returns it to the water supply in a more natural way.
While household use of water is a small part of the entire picture, efficient use of the fresh water available to us will help ensure our supply stays viable. Each person can take small steps to conserve and reuse our water resources.