Many parts of the world are in the midst of an ongoing drought of historical proportions. This has led many communities to implement water restriction measures and other ways to conserve this precious necessity. Even those who live near plentiful sources of water need to take steps to curb usage to make sure there is enough to go around. In other words, we all need to learn to be more water wise.
In order for these measures to successfully reduce water consumption and carry us through the prolonged drought, all of us are going to need to play our parts. If you have generally gone about your life without worrying about how much water you and your family use on a daily basis, that means taking inventory of your current usage and identifying realistic ways to cut it down. So, why is it important to conserve water? Let’s take a look.
Why is Water Conservation Important?
In a world that’s over 70% covered in water, many see the abundance of this essential resource as an endless supply. This is not the case. As much as 98% of that water is far too salty to drink or water plants with, and water pollution has left much of the remaining supply of fresh water equally unsuitable for safely sustaining life.
We combat these water problems with desalination plants and water treatment facilities, but they are costly to operate and we don’t currently have the capacity to generate enough fresh water to support our growing population. The best way for us to ensure we have enough water is to become more water wise and practice water conservancy.
Tips for Becoming More Water Wise
Considering the gravity of the situation, we want to make sure everyone has a leg up in becoming more water wise. Giving people the tools they need to make meaningful changes that won’t affect their quality of life is a good place to start. Let’s look at some sustainable behavior changes that will make a big difference for your community now and in the future but won’t substantially alter the way you currently live.
Don’t Let your Water Run Endlessly
One common habit people have that wastes a lot of water is letting faucets run endlessly while we perform tasks like washing dishes, brushing our teeth or taking showers. The truth is, we only need a fraction of that water to complete them. Reducing your water consumption by turning off the water while you lather and scrub and turning it back on when it comes time to rinse is one of the simplest ways to conserve water without leaving things dirty or letting the lawn go dormant.
Many people find the idea of turning off the shower while they wash to be too big a sacrifice IF you live in a colder state, this can be even more significant. No one wants to freeze in the shower before rinsing off. A good water wise compromise is to simply take shorter showers. You can save 5-7 gallons per minute of reduced shower time and stay warm throughout by doing so. If you live for your hot showers and can’t bear the thought of a 5 minute tease, installing low flow shower heads can allow you to enjoy your longer showers while cutting down on your water usage.
By using less hot water, you’ll also gain the added benefit of reducing energy consumption by reducing the workload on your water heater. This will save you money on your energy costs, and that’s something we can all get behind.
Run Water-Consuming Appliances Only when Full
Running your dishwasher or washing machine with partial loads also wastes a lot of water. Try to avoid starting a cycle until you’ve got enough to wash a full load. If you’ve got older, inefficient appliances, upgrading to a newer model can save a good amount of water and energy.
If you must run a less than full load, make sure you set your load size and water level settings appropriately. By paying attention to this seemingly minor detail, your water conservation efforts can save a ton of water each month.
You don’t even have to be running any water to waste a significant amount. A leaky faucet or toilet can take a huge bite out of your water conservation efforts. In fact, a leaky faucet can waste more than a gallon a day, even if it only drips ten times a minute, and a leaky toilet can quickly waste 200 gallons per day. Consider these stats alongside the fact that water damage to your home can result in mold and very expensive repairs, and you’ve got more than enough reasons to take care of leaks as soon as you notice them.
Leaky pipes are usually easy to spot, but not always. If you suspect you’ve got a leak that you can’t see, you can use your water meter to find out for sure. Turn off all the water in your home, and if the flow indicator on your water meter (usually a small black or red dial) moves at all, it means you’ve got a leak. If it turns out you are losing water somewhere but you can’t find the source, hiring a professional to have a look can save a lot of money in wasted water and home repairs over the long run.
Focus your Landscaping Plan around Drought Tolerant Plants
Not all of our water is used inside the house. Landscaping looks great and allows us to fully enjoy the outdoors. It can also use a ton of water when environmental conditions deliver little rainfall. By making the water wise switch to drought tolerant plants in your landscape, you can greatly reduce the need for watering between rain days.
As an added benefit, many drought tolerant plants are native species, meaning they attract pollinators and deliver a host of natural benefits to the local ecosystem. When it comes to supporting your environment and conserving water, drought tolerant and native plants are a sure win.
Use Recycled Water when Possible
When we do use water for things like washing and watering the lawn, using recycled water can be a big help in reducing the amount of fresh water that goes down the drain. Putting your dishes in the dishwasher and taking your car to the car wash are two great ways to save water. These machines use a good deal of recycled water in the process of cleaning, and use significantly less than we do when we hand wash them. If you prefer to wash your dishes or vehicles by hand, make sure you turn off the flow when you aren’t filling your bucket or rinsing.
You can also use recycled water for your landscape by installing a rain barrel on your property. By capturing excess rain that runs off rooftops on days when we get a lot, we can store it in the rain barrel and use it to water the grass, gardens and decorative plants on drier weeks without tapping into the city supply.
Also, if you’ve got fresh water in your bedside water glass, don’t dump it down the drain. Even if you no longer want to drink that water, your houseplants would certainly appreciate it. By using that water to satiate our thirsty houseplants, we can effectively recycle it.
Teach Water Wise Principles at a Young Age
It’s much easier to adhere to water wise principles if we aren’t battling bad habits. By getting young people into solid habits early on, they will have the knowledge and discipline to ensure we all have enough water to sustain our way of life. Here are some ways to get them started.
Teach Sustainable Water Solutions in Schools
Since we rely upon schools to prepare our nation’s young people for their futures, it can become an important place to teach water wise principles. Teaching students to be more water wise will not only provide fresh drinking water for generations to come, but it will help them develop a sense of purpose and caring for their communities. We can further that sense of community pride and responsibility by getting them involved in community outreach initiatives.
Bring Knowledge to the Community
There are a few better ways to facilitate a full understanding of a topic we are learning about than to teach it to others. By getting our students out into the community to teach the water conservation facts they are learning in school, they make new connections and spread their newfound knowledge.
Community outreach initiatives engage school-age children in becoming advocates for water wise behaviors in their homes and social circles. NTC’s educational programs for K-12 schools inspire young people to adopt water wise behaviors and other environmental actions that make a real difference in their communities.
Make it Fun
We learn best when we’re enjoying what we’re doing. Kids like it when hands-on projects and games are mixed into their learning. By tailoring activities and challenges around sustainable water solutions, we can keep kids excited about protecting future generations from a world without clean water.
Don’t Stop Encouraging Water Wise Behaviors
The importance of water is hard to overstate. It’s one of the few things we actually require to survive, and without it, every living thing on the planet is in for a real hard time. By teaching and encouraging water wise habits in everyday activities, we can be sure future generations don’t have to pay the price for the activities we take part in today.