“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner puts our present predicament so succinctly.
There is no dearth of water on this planet. The oceans are veritable sources of water. The trouble is that seawater is not potable, let alone fit for domestic or industrial use without processing. And, this is expensive.
This article takes a look at the looming water crisis we are facing. Here you will find some answers to why water conservation is important and what you can do as an individual to help this planet survive this challenge. This article lists 100 water conservation tips that are easy to implement.
Why do we need to conserve water?
Do you know that more than 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water? With global warming and climate change leading to ice caps melting, more and more landscapes are coming or will come under water in the future. But out of this, a meager 3% is freshwater!
Of this 3%, 2.5% is not available to us as it remains locked up in polar ice caps, glaciers, soil, and atmosphere. Or it remains too deep underground for us to extract it. Some of the freshwater available is too polluted for human use as well. Can you imagine the entire 8 billion+ world population is surviving on this 0.5%?
Therein lies the problem and the challenge. Every single drop of freshwater wasted may never be available back to us as freshwater.
The water cycle is nature’s way to ensure the availability of this precious yet limited resource to us. Though it helps in managing the water availability on earth, often the amount of freshwater is lost during the process.
Rain is the main source of freshwater. It replenishes the water we draw from rivers, lakes, and underground. However, when water evaporates and comes down as rain, most of it gets mixed up with saltwater in the oceans. All the more reason why we should conserve our freshwater supply.
As the world population continues to grow and the freshwater supply dwindles, there is bound to be inequitable access to water. This is dividing the world into two – water haves and water have-nots. Experts are predicting water wars in the not-so-distant future.
This freshwater issue is exacerbated by rising urbanization and industrialization. The water footprint is a major area of concern. Some industries use excessive amounts of fresh water such as in the manufacture and processing of paper, textile, leather, sugarcane, and pharmaceuticals. Again, when industries release the effluents into freshwater sources like rivers, it ends up contaminating this limited resource, worsening the crisis.
What can an individual do to conserve water?
You may agree with all the arguments lined up above. And wonder what you, as an individual, can do about this. How to conserve water? Isn’t it for the governments to draw up policies to prevent industries from misusing our freshwater resources?
The answer is both yes and no. Governments across the world are trying to do this. However, all the rules and regulations cannot succeed without cooperation from the people. Besides this, individuals can contribute positively to this cause, albeit in a small way. You can also be more impactful if you choose to be.
Let’s see how you can adopt simple ways to save water as an individual.
How can we save water?
Even as we follow good water practices, we can also raise awareness about the need for water conservation and water-saving techniques for individuals. As citizens, we can raise our voices against water wastage and contamination happening around us. The collective voice of individuals can force governments to sit up, take notice, enact existing laws and draft new ones to fight this menace.
Here are some suggestions for water conservation techniques. Most domestic water consumption happens in the kitchen and washroom. Laundry, gardening, swimming pool, and are not far behind.
In the kitchen
- Run the dishwasher only at full capacity.
- Do not pre-rinse dishes when using dishwater.
- When handwashing dishes, avoid doing it using running water.
- Fill up one sink with wash water and another with rinse water.
- Avoid washing the produce in running water. Instead, wash them in a water-filled sink.
- Avoid thawing food in running water. Instead, thaw them in the refrigerator.
- Soak the dirty dishes before washing.
- Run the dishwasher on a single rinse program. The latest machines can do a good job with one rinse.
- Use less water to cook food. It will also help in retaining the nutrients.
- Use a glass to collect drinking water from the faucet and remember to close it when done.
- When using a drinking glass, take only as much water as you need. In case there is excess, leave it for later use.
- If opting for a water-cooled ice maker, choose one that uses less water.
In the washroom
- Choose to shower instead of taking baths.
- Avoid showering for more than 5 minutes.
- Install low water-consuming flushes for toilets.
- Add food coloring to your toilet flush to identify leaks early.
- Plug the bathtub before turning on the water. Adjust the temperature instead of wasting the initial cold water.
- Run the laundry only on full load. In case you need to do otherwise, ensure that the water level is matching with the load size.
- Choose to run it with a single rinse cycle. Newer machines do a thorough job.
- Turn the water off while brushing, shaving, lathering your body, and shampooing.
- Ensure your toilet flush is not leaking. Check the toilet flapper and make sure that it remains closed after each flush.
- Install an instant water heater in the kitchen. This way you can avoid wastage of the water to heat up.
- Don’t use the flush to dispose of tissues. Instead, leave them in the trash.
- Wash your pets outdoors so that the runoff can water the ground.
- Install a dual flush for your toilet. Choose the half flush whenever possible.
- Use soap bars instead of shower gels as the latter needs more water to rinse off.
- Turn off the water while lathering your hands.
- Do not use the toilet for garbage disposal like cigarette butts.
- Switch to low-flush toilets that discharge less water in each flush.
- Set the sprinklers to water only your lawn and not sidewalks.
- Use sprinklers that have water jets close to the ground.
- Select the setting in the sprinklers to wider jets. With finer jets, water will evaporate before it reaches the ground.
- Water the lawn only as much as the soil can absorb.
- Adjust watering schedules to seasonal variations.
- Water your lawn only when needed. Walk across it and if you leave footprints, it is time for watering.
- Avoid closely clipping your lawn. Choose a higher setting in your lawnmower.
- Choose groundcover plants and shrubs and not turf in patches that are difficult to water.
- Choose to compost your waste and use it for your plants.
- Choose to plant in spring and not in summer when plants need more watering.
- Water plants in the morning to avoid wastage by evaporation.
- Cover the soil around plants with mulch to avoid evaporation.
- Collect the water used for rinsing produce and use it to water plants.
- Plan watering the plants to avoid runoffs and wastage.
- Use the water from the fish tank to water plants.
- Use sprinklers for large areas. Water smaller areas manually.
- Install rain shutoff sensors for your sprinklers.
- Install drip-irrigation systems for plants and trees. You can reduce water usage by as much as 50-75%.
- Use rock and granite mulching for trees and garden beds. This will prevent grass growth.
- Water the plants deeply and less frequently. It helps in saving water and is good for plants. Overwatering is the most common reason for plants dying.
- Check the soil with your finger or an iron rod to assess wetness before watering.
- When watering on steep slopes, use a soaker hose to prevent runoffs.
- Plan your garden by having plants with similar watering needs together.
- Consider xeriscaping your yard. Xeriscaped ground can survive on natural water resources.
- Remember to weed your garden and lawn regularly.
- Go easy on chemical fertilizers. Instead, promote plant growth with homemade compost.
- Choose plants that require less water for your garden.
- Choose plants that are suitable for the local climatic conditions.
- Prune plants only if necessary. It can make the plants grow faster, raising the water demand.
- Keep as much shade as possible by leaving lower branches in plants and trees.
- Allow fallen leaves to remain on the ground, preventing soil from drying out.
- Bermuda grass needs watering only once in 3-4 weeks. Lesser when it is raining.
- Dig small holes in the lawn ½-1 foot apart for aeration and for the water to seep into the ground.
- Use an empty can to measure the water output of the sprinkler.
- Use a watering can to water plants.
- If you are unsure of watering needs, install a moisture sensor to detect the level of water in the soil.
- Don’t throw away dropped ice cubes. Place them near plants.
Around the home
- Raise awareness among family members, especially children, about the need for water conservation.
- Teach children to close the faucet fully every time.
- Install and be aware of the location of the master valve to shut off the water supply to the entire house. In case of a major pipe burst, you can avoid water wastage.
- Keep track of your water usage by monitoring your water bills and meter readings.
- Check meter reading after 1-2 hour intervals when there is no water usage. If the meter reading is not the same, it means there is a leakage somewhere.
- Conduct an annual water audit to understand your water consumption and identify wastage.
- Recycle and reuse water as much as possible.
- Do annual maintenance for all appliances using water.
- Replace water-wasting old appliances with new water-efficient ones.
- Cover pools to prevent loss of water by evaporation.
- Stay alert to leakages in pools and get them checked periodically.
- Maintain the water level low in the pool to avoid splashing.
- Clean your driveways and sidewalks with a broom instead of hosing them with water.
- Use water-efficient plumbing accessories at home, including faucets and showerheads.
- Install an aerator for your faucets.
- Choose to have gravel, paving stones, or pervious concrete blocks for your driveway. This will prevent water runoffs.
- Channelize water from downspouts and driveway runoffs towards the garden.
- Use wastewater from coolers for gardening.
- Repair a leaky faucet without delay.
- Avoid installing fountains that spray water. Instead, opt for cascading or trickling ones.
- Install recirculating pumps for your water features like ponds and fountains as well as swimming pools.
- Winterize plumbing in areas where water freezes causing them to burst.
- Insulate hot water pipes to avoid the need to let cold water flow out.
- In case the pipes are not insulated and you need to let the cold water flow out, collect it in a bucket and use it in the kitchen or the garden.
- Use a hose nozzle/spray for car washing.
- Install water softeners only if necessary.
- Choose to clean your car with a bucket and sponge.
- Collect rainwater and use it for various needs.
- Ensure that the water pressure is below 60 psi. If higher, use pressure-reducing valves.
Outside the home
- Choose to get your car washed at the carwash that recycles water.
- Raise awareness about water conservation at your workplace and in the neighborhood.
- Take the initiative to implement water-saving practices outside your home as well.
- Lend your support to initiatives to prevent water wastage and reuse of water.
- Call authorities if you spot broken or leaking pipes in your neighborhood.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama
Don’t think that you, as an individual, are helpless or inconsequential in this fight to save our planet. Start in a small way and build it up as much as you can. Spread water conservation ideas in your circle and motivate others to take up water conservation.
Every little drop counts.