Be kind to the environment. Those of us in California are well aware there’s a drought. Every time you take a slightly ‘too long’ shower or fail to turn the faucet off while you grab soap – your wasteful ways are met with judgmental eyes (although those judging eyes may or may not belong to someone who, while focusing on you, also fails to turn the faucet off quickly enough).
Regardless of whether you live in a drought ridden area or someplace that is currently well watered, water conservation is a crucial practice. Unfortunately, the water we use in our homes is only a minimal piece of the overall problem, yet the blame and responsibility to take personal action is placed on us as individuals.
The main issue: Agriculture
Agriculture accounts for nearly 80% of the nation’s consumptive water use and in some western states, more than 90%. It’s wild to learn how much water actually goes into the growing and raising of our food. Get this – a bacon cheeseburger requires more than 800 gallons of water. Most of this is in the producing of the beef, which has one of the highest water-footprints in agriculture. In California, 10% of the water goes to almond growing. We need to start shopping and consuming smarter. Be conscious of which foods require the most water, and vow to cut back on their consumption. Also, support the farms that are taking measures to conserve water. Your money talks.
The secondary problem: Us
Figures vary, but every individual is estimated to use between 80-100 gallons every day. Recent California legislation now limits outdoor watering of lawns and gardens to twice a week. Stating that this accounts for nearly half of the water usage in urban areas. Under this logic, I am (not)surprised that golf courses are still permitted to water their greens; although many golf courses are taking actions to limit their water usage.
Typical water use at home:
- Bath: 36 gallons
- Shower: 2-2.5 gallons per minute. Old shower heads use as much as 4 gallons per minute
- Washing at sink and brushing teeth: gallon per minute (newer faucets use about 1 gallon per minute while older models use more than 2 gallons per minute
- Dishwasher: 20 gallons per load (depending of efficiency of dishwasher)
- Washing machine: 25 gallons per load with newer model (older models use as much as 40 gallons per load)
- Toilet flushing: 1.2-1.6 gallons per flush for newer models, 3 gallons for older models
Drastic life changes are typically met with intense push-back, so instead of suggesting we all go vegan and save a crap ton of water, I’ll suggest these easy adjustments that do not require much effort:
- Be mindful of how much you turn on the faucet – do you really need it on full blast?
- Only run dishwasher if it’s full – none of this baby load BS
- Only wash clothes if it’s a full load
- When showering, stop the water in between shower tasks: wet hair, turn off water, lather up the shampoo; rinse, turn off water, apply conditioner; wash body, turn off water; rinse; shave and turn off water while actually shaving and use water only as necessary. Think of how much water you waste while in the shower.
- Get a water saving shower head – having it blast out with a pressure like you’re cleaning mud off of bricks isn’t necessary – plus old shower heads use up to 4 gallons a minute (that’s crazy!)
- Turn off water while brushing teeth
- While waiting for water to heat up, collect the water in a bucket and reuse- could be added to washing machine and adjust amount of water the machine will dispense; use to water plants, give to your pet
- Put a bucket in the shower with you and reuse the water on outdoor plants; you’ll be surprised at how much water that bucket actually collects
- When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water (place plastic containers in your sink if you do not have separate basins)
- Leave lawn clippings on your grass, this cools the ground and holds in moisture
- Weed your gardens and plants often since they compete with your plants for nutrients. Less competition means less needed water
- Shop smarter – slow your role with the foods that require insane amounts of water and support the farms and businesses with water conserving practices
- Replace old washing machines, faucets and toilets with new models. San Francisco is currently offering rebates of up to $500 for doing so. (Not a homeowner? Speak up and get your landlord to make the swap)
Yes, domestic use accounts for small percentage. Yes, us personally doing things to save water is sort of a drop in the bucket. But those drops add up – so everyone’s slight changes will make a difference. Don’t be a jerk – be kind to the environment.