Water Conservation: Get the facts
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a family of four uses 400 gallons of water every day. Despite the majority of the Earth being covered in water, only 1 percent of it is useable - the rest is salty ocean water or permanently frozen. Water is a limited resource, and with the population continuing to grow, it is essential to practice water conservation. Here are some water conservation facts and ways to reduce the amount of water you use or waste.
Water conservation facts
Many of your everyday activities use water – from bathing and cleaning the house to drinking and cooking. On a broader scale, water is necessary for agriculture, power plants and industrial or mining. The American lifestyle requires a great deal of this precious resource. Here are some surprising water usage statistics from the EPA.
- The average American family spends $500 per year on its water and sewer bill.
- Treating and delivering water takes a lot of energy – letting your faucet run for 5 minutes takes as much energy as letting a 60-watt lightbulb run for 14 hours.
- More than 30 percent of household water is for outdoor use, such as watering lawns.
- Turning off the tap water while you brush your teeth can save 8 gallons of water a day – that equals about 200 gallons of water saved per month.
- A faucet that leaks 1 drip per second wastes 3,000 gallons of water each year.
- Leaky toilets can waste up to 200 gallons per day, the equivalent of flushing the toilet 50 times for no reason.
- Older toilets use 60 percent more water per flush as compared to newer high-efficiency model (look for the WaterSense label when buying a new toilet).
- The average bath requires 70 gallons of water while a shower uses 10 to 25 gallons.
- A running hose outdoors – for washing cars or watering plants – can waste 6 gallons of water per minute when left unattended.
- US power plants use 136 billion gallons of water each day.
- US agriculture uses 142 billion gallons of water per day for irrigation.
- US industrial facilities require more than 20 billion gallons of water every day.
- Lower water levels in fresh water reservoirs can contribute to concentrated levels of both natural and human-based pollutants in the water supply.
Water saving tips
Environmental advocate Lesley Chilcott, co-founder of Unscrew America and documentary filmmaker for former vice-president Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, recommends the following water-saving tips.
1. Shut the water off
Instead of letting the water run while you brush your teeth, shave, peel vegetables or scrub dishes, turn it off until you need it.
2. Shower efficiently
Don't run the shower for five minutes to warm it up while you are doing something else – adjust the temperature when you get in. And keep your shower time to five minutes. Turn the shower off if you need to shave or deep condition your hair.
3. Install energy-efficient appliances
Use an EnergyStar washing machine and dishwasher and only run full loads, or at the very least use the lowest water level setting you need for smaller loads.
4. Update your toilet
Install a low-flow or high-efficiency toilet to save nearly 2 gallons of water per flush.
5. Change your showerhead
In addition to shorter showers, install a low-flow showerhead, which will also reduce water waste. While you're at it, repair your leaky faucets.
6. Plant sense
Change your landscaping and house plants to low-water, native or drought-tolerant plants. Then do your watering in the morning or evening when there is less chance of evaporation. Additionally, use your broom instead of the hose to clear debris from your driveway and side-walks.
7. Become a flexitarian
The food production water usage for plant-based foods is significantly less than that of meat-based foods. A plant-based diet is healthier, too. (Click for more information on The Flexitarian Diet.)
8. Install a water filtration system
Instead of buying bottle after bottle of drinking water, install a water filter and use refillable beverage containers.
9. Use a bucket
Wash your car with a bucket of soapy water instead of letting the hose run.
10. Set up a rain water barrel
Collect rain water and use it later to water the garden. Another option is to install a gray water system.
11. Use biodegradable cleaning products
Take advantage of the growing selection of eco-friendly household cleaning products, dish washing soaps, and laundry detergents. Biodegradable products won't pollute the water.