Last summer’s drought made many of us more conscious of the need to use water wisely. Though the drought is over for now, that does not mean we should return to our wasteful ways. Water is one of the most precious of our natural resources, and our supply of clean, fresh water is not limitless. It is up to each one of us to ensure there will be enough fresh water to meet our future needs. By changing just a few personal habits, we can do this. Water conservation begins at home.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about 70% of the average American family’s daily water consumption at home occurs indoors-in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. By cutting back on the amount of water that we use and by installing energy-efficient devices, we can greatly reduce our overall water consumption. For example, a ten-minute shower with a traditional showerhead uses about 70 gallons of water. Taking a shorter shower or using a water-conserving showerhead can significantly decrease that amount. Similarly, we can save water in the kitchen by running a full, water-efficient dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand. According to a National Geographic environment website, an energy-efficient dishwasher uses about 4 gallons of water per load. Washing dishes by hand can use as much as 20 gallons of water. Water-efficient washing machines help save water, too. Using a new front-loading washer and always doing a full load of laundry can significantly reduce laundry water use.
The other 30% of residential water use occurs outside the home. Some of that water goes into swimming pools, ponds, and fountains. However, much goes to keeping grass and other landscape plants healthy and green. Using native landscape plants that flourish in our dry climate can help lower water demands.
Finally, we can cut down on water demand by not wasting the foods we buy. Both growing and processing food require significant amounts of water. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that it can take 500 gallons of water to produce a pound of chicken and 400 gallons to produce an egg. It can take between 4,000 and 18,000 gallons of water to produce a hamburger. These figures include meat processing as well as the water used to grow the animals’ food and the water they drink. Given these numbers, some people suggest we should all follow a vegan diet, but that is a personal choice, and it is outside my purpose tonight. My point is that being careful to avoid wasting food will also help us avoid wasting water.
In conclusion, I encourage you to look into the amount of water you use and determine where you can change your habits to help conserve water.