For the privileged lot living in cities, especially in a developed country like the United States, water is available at the turn of a faucet. Easy access and low rates give us the impression that water will keep flowing like this forever.
As water is one of the essentials for the sustenance of life, access to clean water is a human right as per the UN declaration as well as international laws. However, it is no longer guaranteed in the US, one of the most prosperous among world countries.
Millions of Americans do not have access to clean water or live in areas with poor or no sanitation. Others cannot afford to use the water available to them as the rates have increased by almost 80% in a decade.
Even as many regions are getting flooded when rains come pouring down, clean water availability continues to worsen with each passing year. Now, even the government has joined the chorus of scientists and environmental activists in issuing the warning to the public – “America is fast running out of water”.
As a concerned citizen and someone who would be soon affected by the water crisis, you are perfectly justified in feeling alarmed by all these grim predictions and warnings. In this land of plenty, how did we manage to reach this level of desperation? Where did we go wrong? Why are we still not getting it right? Can we avert the disaster?
Read on to learn more about the reasons for the water crisis and what you can do to improve the situation as an individual. This article explores the water conservation methods you can adopt at home. This will go a long way in helping avert the crisis. If nothing else, this will prepare you for the future. When water is scarce, it always helps if you know how to survive on less.
Why is the US facing a water crisis?
“The US is in a water crisis far worse than most people imagine” – Erin Brockovich
The story is the same almost all over the world. Sustained droughts, disappearing water basins, expanding population, lax standards, poor monitoring, lack of awareness, and industrial runoffs all contribute in equal measures to this looming threat.
Water quality is a major issue making the water crisis worse. Various human activities result in polluting the existing freshwater supplies. Awareness is the key to avoiding this.
Water scarcity cannot be treated just as an environmental issue. Though global warming and climate change have affected the freshwater supply, the skyrocketing demand and mindless wastage are more to blame for the crisis. The ever-widening gap between water supply and demand is definitely aggravating the issue. As the potable water supplies available to us is beyond our control, all we can do to mitigate the water problem is to bring down the demand and eliminate wastage.
For some areas of the US like the southwestern states, water scarcity is already a stark reality. This situation is expected to spread to other areas if nothing is done to improve the situation.
How can an individual help with the water crisis?
Without becoming aware of the severity of the crisis we are facing or are about to face, we may not be able to appreciate the importance of water conservation and the need to follow them. Just a glance at the latest statistics is enough to jolt us awake from our slumber and get us moving in the right direction.
Water conservation is not very hard if we realize its significance and make it a part of our lifestyle. Here are some simple water conservation methods that can really make a difference.
5 Simple ways to save water in daily life
1. Take a shower instead of a bath
This may come as a surprise to you but showers use up less water than baths. Considerably less. As per the US Environmental Protection Agency data, you will need almost 50 gallons of water to fill a bathtub, while a shower consumes anywhere between 10 and 25 gallons.
A regular showerhead has a water flow rate of 2.5 gallons/minute. This means a 4-minute shower will consume 10 gallons and a 10-minute shower uses up 25 gallons. This means a saving of 50-80%!
2. Limit your shower time
With leisurely baths becoming a luxury because of time constraints and water scarcity, most of us are guilty of indulging in this simple pleasure – long relaxing showers. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go well for the environment as well. Studies reveal that long showers can also use up as much water or even more than baths.
In a household, when we consider the showering needs of the entire family, the water consumed on this account is enormous. Since showering is one of the unavoidable daily rituals for humans, choosing it wisely and with care can go a long way in conserving this precious resource.
Reducing shower time is one of the simplest ways of saving water at home. You can also install a water-saving low-flow showerhead to help the situation further. Standard showerheads typically have a flow rate of 2.5 gallons/minute but the older models may use up to 5 gallons/minute.
The WaterSense label is issued by EPA to showerheads that use no more than 2 gallons/minute. By replacing older showerheads with WaterSense labeled ones, you can save 2,700 gallons in a year. So, now you know what to look for when you are replacing the showerhead.
3. Install a low flow toilet flush
This is another main water-consuming device in homes. Each individual will be using the flush multiple times a day, making it the most apparent reason for domestic water wastage. The quantity of water consumed in each flush can make a huge difference.
The older toilet flushes use 5-6 gallons of water per flush and most of them don’t come with the dual flush system (half-full flushes). Continuing to use these monstrous water guzzlers is ridiculous and unforgivable.
The federal standard for toilet flush is currently 1.6 gallons/flush. However, to earn the WaterSense label, the water consumption needs to be 1.28 gallons/flush or less. In fact, the advancements in the field have made it possible to have toilet flushes that do the job as efficiently or better with low water consumption.
The EPA estimates that by replacing the older inefficient flush models with the WaterSense labeled ones, you can save up to 13,000 gallons in a year. This also means lower water bills and financial savings.
4. Turn off the faucet when not in use
Most of us are guilty of leaving the faucet on while we are brushing our teeth, shaving, and washing our hands or face. In the kitchen, we tend to do the same when washing dishes and produce.
The EPA estimates that turning the faucet off when brushing two times a day can save as much as 8 gallons of water each day. This adds up to 240 gallons a month and almost 3,000 gallons annually. This is just for one individual brushing teeth.
Consider the quantity of water that can be saved in the household by making this a habit for everyone! This is one of the water conservation methods that doesn’t need any structural changes or financial investment. In fact, this will lead to a considerable reduction in your water bill.
5. Install a water-efficient dishwasher
The older dishwashers may consume anywhere in the range of 9-14 gallons/cycle. The advancements in technology have brought down the water consumption in the newer models to 6 gallons/cycle.
The EPA-certified WaterSense label doesn’t certify dishwashers but Energy Star incorporates the water efficiency factor in its criteria for certification for dishwashers. To earn the Energy Star label, the water usage in dishwashers may not exceed 3.5 gallons/cycle. By replacing older models with Energy Star-labeled ones, you can reduce your water consumption by almost 65%.
Another important point to remember with a dishwasher is always run it on full load. And, load them the right way, keeping the water flow in mind. The latest range of dishwashers doesn’t require pre-rinse. Skip pre-rinse and conserve water.
Alternative Methods of Water Conservation
Adopt water-saving methods when washing dishes manually
Dishwashers are always a better choice for water conservation. In case you are not using a dishwasher, you can still avoid water wastage with these suggestions.
Remove the food waste from the dishes and scrape it well before leaving them for washing. Soak them well before washing. Warm water can help clean them faster. Choose the right cleaning supplies and tools.
Fill up the sink and wash the dishes in one go. If you still prefer to wash dishes one-by-one under flowing water, make sure that the dishes are ready for washing and are close by.
Be water-wise while doing laundry
Just like any other home appliance, the efficiency level of washing machines has improved over the years. While the older generation washing machines consumed too much energy and water, the recent models are more efficient than manual washing.
Front-load machines use up less water than top-load washing machines. Soaking heavily-soiled clothes help in reducing water consumption. Run the machine only on full load. Choose a model offering auto-load sensing and reduced load function. Select an eco-program or quick wash function whenever possible. Choose to spray rinse rather than full rinse.
Conserve water while cooking
Wash vegetables and fruits in a bowl or pan of water instead of washing them under running water. Defrost food in the refrigerator itself instead of dunking them in water. When cooking food, use just enough water for it to cook. Using less water also preserves the nutrients in food.
Use the water used for washing vegetables to water plants. Leftover water after cooking food may be allowed to cool down and also used for watering plants.
Avoid wasting water when filling your glass
In summer, the water coming out of the faucet will be warm. You may have to let the warm water flow out before it is cool enough to drink. If you do this every time you fill your glass, you are wasting water unnecessarily. Instead, fill a water bottle and keep it in the refrigerator. The same rule holds good in the winter months.
You may also consider insulating the pipelines in places with extreme weather conditions to avoid water wastage on this account.
Do periodical checks to avoid leaks
Leaking faucets alone can waste so much water without you being aware of it. Make it a habit to turn off the faucets fully every time. Ensure that every family member including kids understands the importance of this simple gesture.
Being a mechanical devices with moving parts, faucets are prone to leaks. Annual checks of all plumbing equipment can help avoid water wastage through unexpected leaks and breakages.
From composting your biodegradable waste and using it for your plants to choosing your plants and watering them wisely, there are a million things you can do to reduce your water footprint.
Once you manage to make it part of your habit, you can continue to enjoy the same kind of lifestyle you have always enjoyed. And, you will feel happier that you are doing your bit to save the planet.