Less Water Is More

Water is a luxury in the U.S.: The average American uses 170 gallons of water per day around the house. Contrast that with the fact that one billion people don’t even have access to clean water–that would equate to one in six US citizens. Millions of women and children spend hours every day walking miles to collect water–40 pounds strapped on their back–keeping them from school and work. Their water use: average of 5 gallons per day.

Water is a hot button for me. I was taught at an early age to take quick showers and turn off the water while brushing my teeth. But nobody really told me why. Maybe, in our case, it was to save money.

More recently, I became frustrated with the high rate of bottled water consumption and its impact on the environment–it takes 3-5 liters of water to make one 1-liter bottle of bottled water and, in the US alone, we toss out enough disposable water bottles to circle the equator every 2.9 days. The movies FLOW and Blue Gold expanded my concerns to the global water crisis. And Tapped pretty much put me over the edge.

Day Six of the No Impact Project challenged us to “soak up the personal benefits of using less water” (while continuing to work on the previous days’ goals). Since water usage was already an everyday conscious effort in our household, this day didn’t alter our routine, but still made us more conscious. Some examples of what we’ve already been doing…

  • Zero bottled water consumption: we fill our reusable water bottles from the tap. (It’s a good idea to get your water tested annually and choose a filtration system only if necessary).
  • We don’t flush the toilet every time we go ( if it’s yellow keep it mellow). This poses a bit of a problem in my son’s bathroom–if I don’t remind him, the toilet could sit for days without a flush, emitting an outhouse-like aroma. Another alternative: purchase a upgrade to a high efficiency toilet or, better yet, install a dual-flush system on your existing toilet! I like the Being Water kit –it has the Green America seal of approval and is available for less than $40!
  • Showers are not a daily ritual–this makes my son very happy.
  • We wash clothes in cold water 99% of the time
  • When washing dishes, we turn the water on only as needed.
  • We don’t water our lawn in the summer. We still need to take that extra step and hook up a rain barrel to our downspout–this would give us the water we need for the herbs and vegetables we grow.
  • I purchase concentrated cleaning and laundry products.
  • I’m able to reduce our laundry loads (and dry cleaning) by using a reusable, chemical free Refresh’n Dryer Towel–just toss it into the dryer with a few items and 15 minutes later you’ve got clean clothes! It can be used up to 20 times and then makes a perfect rag.
  • We only run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads.
  • When washing pots and pans, I use only the water I need–reuse soapy water from one item to the next and do the same with rinse water. The water is only on–as gently as possible–when absolutely needed.
  • We reuse the same glass throughout the day, careful not to mix them up!

Do we have room for improvement? Certainly!

  • Take colder showers. While I don’t shower often, when I do, I tend to luxuriate a bit more than I should and the water is toasty.
  • Install aerators on taps
  • Scrape dishes (don’t rinse) before putting them into the dishwasher.
  • If you wash dishes, stack and let them soak in hot soapy water then load into the sink rack and rinse by pouring hot water over hte top or using the spray nozzle.
  • Reuse all cooking water for making soups, stocks and other dishes as well as rinsing produce, watering houseplants and washing pets.

SIDE NOTE: Did you know? By reducing time in the shower, scraping instead of rinsing dishes and installing aerators on taps and using efficient appliances you can reduce your water consumption by over 25%? (Source No Impact Project).

Here are some other manageable tips:

  • In restaurants, only order water if you’re going to drink it!
  • Drink water instead of other beverages–it’s the least processed drink and uses less water (and energy) to produce and transport than any other drink. Better to go with tap!
  • Don’t use water to defrost items… think ahead!
  • Purchase products with minimal packaging – one pound of plastic = 24 gallons of water!

Calculate your water footprint at WaterFootprint.org.

What are some methods you’ve used to conserve water?

Day seven: Pay it forward

One Response

  1. [...] Fact from http://icountformyearth.wordpress.com – The average American uses 170 gallons of water per day around the house. Contrast that with the fact that one billion people don’t even have access to clean water–that would equate to one in six US citizens. (Click here for full article) [...]

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