TIP OF THE MONTH – March 2012
By Rachel Egan, Sustainable Danville Area
Have you ever wondered where your water comes from? Of course you know that the water comes through your pipes and into your sink every time you turn on your faucet, but did you know that every time you flush the toilet, brush your teeth, take a shower, water your lawn or run your dishwasher you are using a portion of the world’s minimal potable water?
Potable water is that which is available for human and animal consumption. Although the earth is comprised of over 70% water, 97% of that is salt water, 2% is frozen in ice caps and glaciers, which means that only about 1% is fresh water available for human use. Some even argue that, at the rate at which we use fresh water, we will run out of the resource within the next 20 years.
That really puts your water usage in perspective, huh?
In winters as dry as the one we are having now, it is especially important to conserve water so that the water that is available can be allocated to areas such as agricultural land and other industries that require water in order to thrive.
There are, however, steps you can take in order to reduce the amount of water you use in your daily life. Don’t worry; you don’t have to go as far as collecting rainwater off your roof, instead there are smaller, more manageable steps you can take in order to conserve water and make sure you aren’t overusing this limited resource. Not to mention, using less water saves you money too!
Here are some tips for water conservation in your home, especially through this dry winter, but also throughout the rest of the year:
- Water your lawn deeply instead of daily,and do so in the early morning hours before dawn. By watering your lawn early in the morning, you are giving the soil and plant roots adequate time to absorb the water without it being evaporated by the sun first. For more helpful instructions, check out this helpful guide from EBMUD: http://www.ebmud.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/WateringGuide_0.pdf
- Reuse water from cooking to water plants inside and outside of the home (using water from cooking spaghetti, rinsing vegetables or boiling potatoes are wonderful places to start).
- Wash your car in carwashes such as Sponges or at gas stations rather than in your driveway. Car wash stations have special draining systems that prevent pollutants from soap and car grease from entering into the groundwater and fresh water supply – they also recycle their water and use just the right amount of water needed to rinse your car (instead of letting the hose run while you’re not using it.)
- Turn off the water when brushing your teeth. If you brush your teeth twice a day for the recommended 2-3 minutes and leave the water running – even using a low flow faucet – you would be wasting up to 3,285 gallons per year. Imagine a family of four could fill an average backyard pool instead of letting this water ‘go down the drain’.
- Make sure all of the pipes and taps in your house are tightly sealed so as to prevent leaking and water loss. According to the National Environmental Services Center, one drop of water per second can add up to 2,700 gallons per year. (Hint: put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. If you start getting color in the toilet bowl without flushing, there is a leak.)
- Only do laundry if you have a full load – when washing laundry, do so in cold water (this reduces the amount of electricity used, as well as prevents colors from bleeding).
- Take shorter showers. (You may even want to try turning off the water when you are lathering up with shampoo, soap, or conditioner.) On that note, you might also want to take a look at the gallons-per-minute (gpm) ranking on your showerhead and if more than 2.0 gpm, then new models provide wonderful pressure for a wonderful, relaxing experience.
- Compost organic waste instead of using the garbage disposal – this will reduce your water usage and you can use the compost as fertilizer, all at the same time!
- Don’t use water to wash porches or decks; instead, use a broom.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and East Bay Mud (EBMUD) have many more water conservation resources on their websites. To learn more about how you and your family can conserve water, please visit http://www.epa.gov and http://www.ebmud.com, respectively.
Want to know more about this precious resource? We do…so Sustainable Danville Area and San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club are bringing you two events in March to help us learn more about global and local water issues.
Join us on Tuesday, March 13th at 7pm at SRVHS’ Performing Arts Center 501 Danville Blvd. for a screening of the award-winning documentary Blue Gold that sheds light on the approaching crisis of dwindling water supplies. Suggested donation $5.
And to compliment movie night, join us on March 21st at 6:15pm at San Ramon Valley High School in Room S3 in the Administrative Building (upstairs). Our speaker, Leslie Dumas, Hydrologist and Senior Project Manager with RMC Water and Environment will help us gain an understanding of our local water resources and future vulnerabilities.