Today is World Water Day!
Water is often forgotten when there is not an immediate crisis that impacts one directly. In almost all developed countries, people have the luxury of continuous clean water service whenever they turn on the faucet. As clean water resources deplete due to pollution, unsustainable withdrawal from reservoirs, and droughts, this luxury may no longer be available. Estimates say that half the world’s population could be under high water stress conditions by 2030 at our current rate of usage. Because water is such a valuable resource, it should not be taken for granted, currently over 600 million people do not have access to safe, clean water. As constant consumers of this life-sustaining resource, we can change our daily water consumption to maximize more efficiency in water use and waste.
While investing in eco-friendly appliances like low-flow shower heads, dual-flush toilets, and EnergyStar-certified dishwashers can greatly reduce daily water usage, smaller changes to your lifestyle can make a large impact as well. On average, a person uses 80-100 gallons of water a day. This estimate takes into account showering, washing dishes, flushing the toilet, and watering your lawn, and is only a small percentage of your daily water footprint (how much water is used and/or polluted in the lifespans of products you use in a day).
Taking an active role in improving your daily water conservation = preserving our quickly depleting fresh water resources + ensuring access to clean water for future generations. On a global scale, running out of fresh water means agriculture will suffer great losses in crop output and survival; social unrest, even possibly war, can occur to fight over water resources; destruction of eco-systems will hurt all types of plants and animals; and billions of people will struggle to get enough clean water to drink, cook, shower, and live. On a personal scale, consequences will hit your wallet hard, with water service becoming extremely expensive and food prices skyrocketing.
Ready to reduce your daily water footprint? Without spending thousands of dollars on new appliances, these things can result in massive, impactful amounts of water being saved per year.
In the Bathroom
The majority of water usage happens in the bathroom. Don’t worry, we are not going to suggest you stop showering or using the toilet completely – just to be mindful of how much water you are using. One way to reduce usage is to shorten your showers to 4 or 5 minutes (or even shorter!). An even better option is to take “navy showers,” where you turn off the water while you lather your shampoo and soap and turn it back on to rinse. An average 10 minute shower uses about 20-30 gallons of water, but a 4-5 minute shower reduces that amount in half, and a navy shower can reduce it even further to around 3-4 gallons of water. When using the toilet, you can implement selective flushing, which comes with a rhyme: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.” One flush uses around 1.6 gallons of water, so not flushing every single time you use the restroom can quickly add up to hundreds of gallons of water saved in a year.
In the Kitchen
Dishwashing can use up a lot of precious water when done inefficiently. If you own a dishwasher, you can save water by only running the machine when it is full of dishes. If washing by hand, the best technique is to fill your sink with water and soap, and scrub your dishes in the pool of water. Once all dishes are scrubbed, drain the dirty water and rinse off the soap and any remaining residue with either a small stream of water from the faucet, or refill the sink with clean water and rinse the dishes there. If washing fewer dishes, be proactive in turning off running water while scrubbing the dishes and use a small stream of water while rinsing.
If you have a pesky faucet that drips, now is the time to get it fixed! Leaking one drop per second adds up to approximately 85 filled bathtubs in a year. Fixing any leaks found around the house is effective in greatly reducing unnecessary water usage.
Food choices play a large role in personal water footprint. Meats use the most amount of water in their production cycle, with red meats having a larger water footprint over white meats. Choosing chicken over beef for meals results in approximately 1,300 gallons of water saved per pound of meat. Changing your diet to vegetarian or vegan results in an even greater reduction in your water footprint, because most vegetables use over 20 times less water to produce than chicken. See the table below for comparisons in water footprints of different foods:
The best way to quench your thirst with the smallest water footprint is to...drink water! Invest in a durable, reusable water bottle and refill it with tap or filtered water. Bottled water has a large water footprint from the production of plastic and actually has lower health standards than tap water. If you are thirsty for something other than water, consult the table below for comparisons in water footprints for some common drinks:
In Your Closet
It takes about 70 gallons of water to produce one cotton t-shirt. The dyeing process is water intensive and a huge culprit of water pollution. Manage your clothing’s water footprint by limiting your closet, purchasing clothing made from recycled materials, and recycling any unwanted items. Be sure to use the washing machine only when there is a full load and wash durable items, like jeans and outerwear, after multiple wears or only as needed. Companies like Levi Strauss and Nike, with their ColorDry technology, have improved their production processes to reduce water usage and pollution.
Small changes to your everyday life can result in immense savings in your water usage and water footprint without spending big bucks. Thinking about how to deal with the global water crisis can be overwhelming for one person, but starting with these small changes in lifestyle is the first trickle needed to add to larger scale solutions in protecting the precious water resources we have on our planet.
- Written by Vicki Chou