Water is one of those resources that we just have on hand, for the most part. If you are blessed enough to live in an area without regular drought conditions or poor water supply systems, then it is easy to forget how precious water is. Following that, it’s just as easy to take for granted how much water you waste doing very simple, everyday tasks.
But as populations increase and climates change, water and water supply levels are becoming increasingly tight, which means that we all need to do our part to conserve water wherever we can.
Here, we’ll talk about why it is important to conserve water, how saving water benefits you, and some simple things you can change to start saving water right now.
Water is Finite, and We Need Water to Live
Perhaps the most basic and easy-to-understand reason to save water is that our water supply isn’t unlimited.
Here’s something to think about: the world’s supply of water isn’t as large as we think. Roughly 98% of the water on the Earth is undrinkable salt water, and 2% of fresh drinking water is locked in polar ice caps. The rest of that 2% of global water is fresh groundwater that we can drink, and that is the water we use for everything.
According to Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, your typical American uses between 80-100 gallons of water per day. Because many of us get caught up in water as something we drink, we forget how much water we use for simple tasks like washing our hands, taking showers, using the lavatory, washing laundry, and other household tasks.
Think about it: using between 80-100 gallons per day means roughly 29,000 gallons per year. That isn’t 29,000 gallons of the total water supply in the world, but 29,000 gallons out of roughly 2% of global water available to us.
Makes you think differently about running the shower a few extra minutes, doesn’t it?
The truth is that as the human population grows, water is going to become a more valuable commodity. Ask someone who lives in a drought-stricken area, or in a place where potable water isn’t readily available.
Water Service Costs Money and Costs Add Up
Running your water isn’t just wasting precious resources: it is wasting money.
That’s because water doesn’t just show up on our doorstep. A complicated system of pumps, filters, piping, and drains carry water into our homes every day, and take away wastewater in a sanitary manner. Building, repairing, and maintaining those systems cost a pretty penny, and much of that cost is offloaded into monthly water utility bills and taxes from your municipal provider (if you don’t have a private water company).
So as you run your sink, shower, or garden hose, that provider is monitoring your usage by the gallon. Water meters at the source of your incoming water supply measure precisely how much you use, regardless of what you use it for.
So it doesn’t matter if you take a short shower and make sure to keep the faucet off if the sprinkler runs 6 hours a day–it’s all the same water and all the same waste, and you are going to be charged all the same.
So wastewater isn’t just bad for the environment… it is bad for your pocketbook.
Saving Water Also Means Saving Energy
Let’s talk more about savings.
Water utility costs sometimes come with additional, hidden costs that you may not notice. For example, taking longer showers (or more repeated showers) can cause your hot water heater to run more. When your water heater runs more, it uses more gas or electricity, which means a more expensive utility bill. The same logic follows for any water pumps or filters that you use.
Think about the bigger picture too: water needs to get to your house, and how it gets there can affect how much energy it uses. If you use well water, for example, then an electrical pump must move all the groundwater up to your house, potentially increasing your power bill. Larger-scale municipal water supplies use water towers and gravity to maintain water pressure, but electrical pumps are needed to get the water into the tower. And, if everyone is using water supply, then there will be more demand to pump water to maintain pressure, which means more power usage.
Water Saved Can Be Used for Other Purposes
While it might seem obvious, limitations on the water supply can have a severe impact on water usage outside of your home.
One significant example is that huge amounts of water are needed just to grow our food. In areas without many issues related to water, it is easy to forget this. However, drier areas or areas suffering from drought have to wrestle with the needs of their local agriculture and the needs of the residents.
For example, California has, for the past few years, been experiencing drought conditions that have facilitated extensive forest fires and that have necessitated severe cutbacks to water. One of the local industries impacted is the local almond industry. As NPR reports, the drought has impacted the industry by reducing the number of almonds that can be grown. Almonds already take large amounts of water to grow–estimates are about 10% of the California water supply–and many blame large-scale almond consumption on further limiting water availability in the state.
Municipal water is also used for industrial and governmental needs like cleaning, heavy manufacturing, and travel. When water is limited, the large-scale waste of water can severely limit these activities.
How Can You Save Water?
Saving water requires a two-pronged approach: a change in your habits and some upgrades to your hardware.
The first approach is easy, free, and will save you money. Some behaviors you can change include:
- Shortening the time you have water running for common household tasks. Take shorter showers, wash less clothing, and water your grass or garden less.
- Ensure that your fixtures don’t have any leaks that would cause water to run. Leaking faucets and shower heads are common culprits for lost water, but a running toilet is one of the worst offenders for wasted water over the course of the day.
- Make sure that you always turn off running water from the sink, like when washing dishes. A typical faucet can release 2.5 gallons of water per minute, which can add up quickly.
- Buy local foods that don’t require heavy water usage.
Outside of your current everyday habits, you can get some equipment to help you lessen the amount of water you are using:
- Modern washing machines are built to use less water overall, so invest in a modern, Energy Saver dishwasher or clothes washer.
- Buy WaterSense fixtures. These fixtures, which include shower heads and faucets, are rated for lower water usage per minute. Toilets in this category also use less water, and typically have multiple flush settings for liquid and solid waste.
- Use rain barrels if you live in a high-rain area. These barrels collect rainwater and store it in a safe space, and can provide an additional source of freshwater for cooking, cleaning, or drinking.
While this list isn’t comprehensive, it is a great way to start thinking about water conservation.
Modern, water saving fixtures don’t install themselves. If you are looking to put in new, water-saving appliances, then call your plumber to see what they have available. Also, consult with them about any of your sink or shower fixtures to see if they need upgrading or replacing. Don’t let leaking hardware wastewater, and don’t trust older equipment to stand up to modern water-saving standards without at least a bit of repair, if not replacement.
If you make some of these basic changes, however, you will help with global efforts to save a crucial natural resource, and you could end up saving money in the long run.