Dear Gerald: With 70% of the Earth's surface covered by water, it does seem a bit silly to talk about water conservation, doesn't it? But Coleridge was onto something when he said, "Water, water everywhere Nor any drop to drink,” in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Majority of the Earth’s water is contained in the oceans (salt water is not usable for drinking or watering crops), in ice caps, glaciers and permanent snow (also not very helpful for watering the garden!), or in aquifers so far below the Earth’s surface as to make it unreachable for human use. In the end, less than 1% of the Earth’s water is actually usable by people, and the number of people on Earth is growing while the amount of usable water isn’t. And while the Earth is a closed-loop system — meaning the water we use isn’t ever really lost — there’s no guarantee that used water will return to us in the same amount of the same form and quality.
It’s possible to purify or take the salt out of otherwise unusable water, but because the price in time, energy, and money spent makes it a costly proposition, we should try to conserve the water we have available to us.
Not only does saving water help keep clean fresh water readily available and therefore less expensive, it helps save the energy used to treat, transport, clean, and actually use the water, too — according to the EPA, letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 22 hours. Saving water = saving money on water and electric bills! Plus, the more water you send needlessly down the drain, the harder waste-water treatment plants, drinking water plants and the environment have to work to make it usable again. Low water levels can mean higher concentrations of natural and man-made pollutants. It can also mean less water available in our streams, rivers and lakes — and there’ll be no more fishing if there isn’t enough water for wildlife to survive, and no more water skiing either!
When you take small steps to conserve water, you help maintain cleaner, more abundant water supplies, all while saving you money, too. Here are some easy ways to conserve water at home:
- Fix leaks in your home.
- Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, and while shampooing/lathering in the shower.
- Thaw food in the fridge, instead of under running water.
- Water your lawn at night when evaporation will be lower.
- Plant your yard with native species — they’re used to the amount of water normally available, and won’t require as much care.
- Install low-flow showerheads and toilets.
- When replacing dish- or clothes washers, consider high-efficiency, low-water-factor ones.
- Only run a full load in the dishwasher/clothes washer.
- Use water from rinsing veggies, or leftovers in your pets’ bowls, to water household plants.
- Collect rain water and use it to water your yard and garden.
- Compost food instead of running a garbage disposal.
- Cover your pool to prevent evaporation.
- Sweep instead of using a hose to clean surfaces.
- Adjust your sprinklers so they water only the lawn, not the sidewalk or driveway.
- Use mulch in the garden to help conserve moisture around your plants.
- Shorten your shower by a minute or two.
- Adjust your mower — longer grass shades roots and helps the soil hold moisture longer.
- Designate a glass for drinking water and use it all day, rather than getting a new one.
- Soak pots and pans instead of scraping under running water for long periods of time.
- Use a hose nozzle to control water flow when washing the car.
- Reuse your towels at home and at hotels.
- Insulate water pipes so it won’t take as long to get hot water.
- Store pitchers of drinking water in the fridge so you won’t have to wait for cool water each time you refill a glass.