Did you know that only half of 1% of Earth’s fresh water is accessible for human use? The remaining 2.5% of Earth’s freshwater is stored in glaciers, the atmosphere, or the soil – not cheaply or easily accessible.
With 7.9 billion people on the planet, all of whom require water to function, we have to be conscientious about our water usage.
Why Conserve Water?
We all need to form good habits now regarding water conservation. It will not get any better as the population increases, and as global warming increases with it. Of course, large corporations have a larger impact on water conservation than individuals, but it’s up to all of us to do our part.
The good news is, once good habits are formed, the hardest part is over. Consider doing the following tips to conserve water in your own life.
Ways to Conserve Water Indoors:
In the Kitchen
- Never waste good drinking water. Use your leftover drinking water to refill pet bowls. Have leftover boiled water from making pasta? Use it to water houseplants. Boiled water is clean water, so you can give it to your pet as well, once it cools down.
- It’s normal to rinse your dishes before placing them in the dishwasher, but if you find yourself thoroughly hand washing them, ask yourself if there’s a need to put them in the dishwasher afterward. Unless they’re extremely dirty, there’s no need to wash them twice!
- Soak and scrub your produce in a pot of water to clean it instead of running tap water over each fruit and vegetable.
- Get in the habit of enjoying a shot of espresso instead of a large coffee. It’s less liquid, but it packs a punch! And don’t pour old coffee or unused water for tea down the drain. Use unused water for tea to make ice cubes. Mix leftover coffee with vanilla ice cream in a blender and you’ve got a coffee milkshake!
- We love ice cubes: we put more ice in our drinks than folks from other countries. But we don’t need to make or use ice on autopilot – we should just do it when we know we’re going to use or need it. Opt for reusable ice packs instead of plastic baggies of ice to keep food cool or to ice an injury.
In the Bathroom
- Washing your hands prevents the spread of disease, but we love a full-fledged shower. We usually do it once a day, using between two and five gallons of water per minute. Save water by taking a sponge bath instead of a shower. And be honest about why you’re showering: is it to get the dirt off your body, or is it to get a few quiet moments alone? Maybe meditation will do the trick if you’re just looking to relax.
- Dee Glaser, a doctor from the dermatology department at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, says that a few showers a week is all you need (unless you’re rolling around in the dirt every day). On days that you don’t shower, you can always use dry shampoo, put your hair up in a distinct style, or wear a hat.
- Sometimes all you need is to use an oil absorbing sheet on your face, instead of a full face wash. This works great in a hurry or on the go, too.
- About 75% of the water we use per day goes down the bathroom drain. Turn the water off as you apply soap, shampoo, and conditioner, and as you shave. (Wet your body first, of course!) Make the switch to shampoo bars instead of liquid shampoos stored in plastic bottles. They save water, are travel-friendly, and last longer!
- This may come as a shock – but use a bidet! Even though bidets use water, they use less water than it takes to manufacture toilet paper. There are American-made, stainless steel options if you’re trying to avoid international shipping and plastic. But if you can’t cut the toilet paper habit, keep in mind that recycled toilet paper uses half the amount of water to manufacture as virgin toilet paper. If you’re up for the challenge and want that all-natural fertilizer, composting toilets conserve the most amount of water, since there’s no need to flush.
Ways to Conserve Water Outdoors:
In the Yard
- Don’t let the hose run when washing the car – use a few buckets of water so that you designate a finite amount of water for the task. Rain barrels are not only great for collecting water for your garden but that water can be used to rinse pollen off your car, as well. (Keep in mind that some states have restrictions around harvesting rainwater – be sure to check to see what your state allows.) Better yet, professional car washes are required to drain their used water into the sewage system, so that no toxic runoff goes directly into the watershed.
- Plant plants that require less water and irrigation, like succulents and cacti. Also, plant native plants to your area that are naturally adapted to the amount of rainfall you get. Consider a natural meadow instead of a lawn that needs a sprinkler. A sprinkler uses over one thousand gallons of water every hour, and most people use sprinklers multiple times per week. That adds up!
- Instead of playing with water guns or water balloons, go to the community pool to cool off in the summer. And remember that in many places, having your private pool is just a status symbol: don’t get one just for aesthetics or to fulfill expectations. Don’t install a private pool if you know you won’t get good use out of it.
- Keep track of your lawn irrigation costs by using the calculator at the bottom of this page. Check the weather before you water your plants and lawn. The rain just might do it for you! And make sure not to use a fertilizer that includes phosphorus, as it pollutes groundwater.
- Think twice before water pressure washing your sidewalk, deck, or house. If it’s necessary, skip the chemical-based detergents. Use a green detergent, vinegar-based cleaning solution, or citrus oil instead of harmful chemicals that pollute the watershed. (Citrus oil doubles as a natural insect repellent, too!)
Around the House
- Reducing your overall water use in your home saves you money! Use the eco setting on all appliances, from the car to the dishwasher to the laundry machines. You’ll save both water and energy at no cost to perform. Look out for toilets with the WaterSense label – they use 20% less water per flush than regular toilets.
- Install a greywater recycling system in your home to reuse household water. About half of the water used in homes is clean enough to be reused for non-drinking purposes, like flushing toilets. Whether you opt for a simple or high-tech greywater system, it will soon pay for itself, thanks to how much water it conserves.
- On average, homes leak almost 10,000 gallons of water each year. Inspect your indoor and outdoor faucets for leaks regularly and fix leaky faucets immediately. Leaks can account for about 13.8% of your household’s daily water use per day – that’s water you’re not even using!
- If you live in a milder climate, consider turning off the water heater in the summer and cooler in the winter. Of course, it’s relaxing to enjoy a stream of hot or cold water, depending on the season, but consider using a community pool for relaxation, and just use your private facilities for efficient personal sanitation. Plus, using less energy to heat or cool your water will lower your monthly electric or gas bill.
- Think twice about how often you need to wash your clothes. A good rule of thumb is to wash tight-fitting clothes after every use (since they absorb body oils), but loose-fitting clothing, pajamas, and outerwear can go several days without washing. Of course, use your best judgment.
Think Outside the Box
- Get your school, company, and workplace to be aware of their water usage by conducting a water audit. There are a lot of water conservation charities out there – propose that your company or workplace consistently partners with one. Donate to Clean Water Action to protect water resources in the U.S., or to the World Water Council to support their international water conservation efforts.
- Make it a game! Initiate a school or company-wide competition to conserve water. Incorporate water conservation questions into your local bar’s trivia nights. Observe National Water Quality Month every August by organizing a stream cleanup, and World Water Day every year on March 22 by spreading water conservation awareness.
- Designate one day a month when you tally up all the times you use water. See if next month, you can lower your tally. Reward yourself if you do!
- Babysitters and caregivers: do activities that don’t require water, like playing with Play-Doh instead of watercolors. Explain to kids how the water cycle works, or take them to an aquarium to connect with the amazing creatures that rely on clean water for their homes.
- It might not be obvious that certain foods have higher water footprints than others. For example, it takes about 1,800 gallons of water to make one pound of beef. Of course, consult with a nutritionist or dietitian before making any major changes to your diet, but consider doing “meatless Mondays.” Eating local, plant-based, unprocessed foods uses up less water. And try not to waste food as well. Shop organic if you can, as organic farms contribute less groundwater pollution.
- Get clear on how much water you use by calculating your household’s water footprint here. You may be surprised!
- Be aware of how Native water protectors in the U.S. are fighting to protect water on their land and support their efforts here. And when you visit Native land, take care not to overuse water while there. While visiting destinations experiencing drought, like Las Vegas, do not overuse water as a tourist. In the summer of 2021, locals in Maui are being fined for their water usage to offset the massive amounts of water used by the tourism industry.
- Educate your kids and elders. If one generation protects water, and the following generation does not try to do so, we’re back at square one. All generations need to work together to conserve water to make consistent, lasting progress.
- Do you have a well-loved pond or lake in your area? Encourage your community to keep it clean for generations to come. A little positive peer pressure can go a long way! Ask what your friends, family, neighbors, social media network are doing for water conservation. Share ideas, inspiration, and resources!
- Educate yourself on your county or community’s wastewater treatment processes and advocate in town halls for more water conservation efforts. Pay attention to when your county is in a drought, and be sure to observe their water conservation directives during that time.
Final Thoughts on Ways to Conserve Water
Clean, accessible water is not something we can afford to take for granted. And it’s not just humans that need it: we must share clean water with plants and animals.
There is no replacement for water – we can’t cut it out of our lives like gluten or dairy. We need it for sanitation, hydration, and even entertainment!
Water is life. We cannot survive for three days without it. And we don’t want a future dominated by water wars because we couldn’t manage the supply we have to work with.
So which water conservation habits will you adopt? No one is going to save the planet by themselves. Get an accountability buddy and start making a difference today!
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