Monday, September 22, 2008

Why being frugal with water is important

In looking at Google Analytics for my blog, I was intrigued by the search "why should i be frugal of my water usage". I was surprised a person was asking why should he or she be frugal regarding water usage, but decided to tackle the topic as part of my ongoing pursuit of green living and sustainability.

Water is a limited resource.
Freshwater makes up 3% of the total available water on our planet. Of that amount, nearly 68% is locked up in glaciers (Source: U.S. Geological Survey). In the United States, we have several regions experiencing water shortages from the south to the west. Even the Great Lakes region where I live, water resources of abundance are becoming more scarce. We are withdrawing more water than can be replenished in the groundwater. More of our lakes and streams and groundwater reservoirs are contaminated with chemicals including our own bodily waste. In a particular location, water may not be expensive, but careless use of water means fewer resources for all of us whether we are in the United States or subSaharan Africa. And regardless of where one lives, water is essential to life.

Americans use more water than the rest of the world.
Why do we need to use 100 gallons of water per day per person? We need to consume water to live, but do we need to take a shower where 2.5 gallons of water per minute rain down on our head? Do we really need to use drinkable water to flush toilets, using another 5 gallons every time? A green lawn may look nice to some, but all I see is water that could be used for drinking or growing food. Does the faucet really need to run to hot water before washing hands? Well-applied soap does well even without hot water.

Learn to love your rain barrel (or other water-collection device).
Lawns are a huge drain on water resources. I am always surprised Kentucky bluegrass is planted in places other than Kentucky. While it might be all right in Tennessee, I doubt it is well-adapted to Arizona. Instead of growing grass, create rain gardens to allow water to infiltrate back into aquifers, replenishing groundwater, rather than running off onto asphalt streets, collecting all the chemicals and debris on the road surface, and draining into lakes and rivers. Let the lawn go dormant when it is dry, and then revive with rain, or remove lawn and replace with xeriscaping. Native plants require less water than lawns. Who wants boring old grass when you can grow your own food, plant beautiful flowers or towering trees? And hey, less lawn means you can reduce the amount of time mowing. I'm all for that!

In the end, be more aware of your own water usage. According to my calculations, I use around 45 gallons of water per day. This is less than half the US average and is thanks in part to my conscious efforts to reduce my usage. Areas I need to improve: my showers and my dish washing. These are my biggest water usages. My rain barrels supply the water needed for plants outdoors and use of the initial water run in the bathtub helps flush my toilet. I even reuse gray water and the moisture collected by my dehumidifier in the basement.

Every little bit of conservation and reuse helps. Remember, other than for drinking and cooking, nonpotable water can be used for most things like watering plants, flushing toilets and washing cars. Turn off faucets when rinsing dishes, brushing teeth or soaping hands. Our water resources are precious and minimizing your own usage keeps us all appropriately hydrated and reduces ground- and surface water contamination.

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