We are fortunate in our area to have access to abundant, clean water for household uses, agriculture and recreation, but that doesn’t mean we should take it for granted. We’re used to thinking of water shortages as a problem only in the West, but areas of the eastern U.S. are increasingly facing water shortages too, driven by growing cities, increasing irrigation and other localized factors. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American household uses 300 gallons of water per day, 70% of which is for indoor uses. In addition, we are also contributing to water use in hidden ways through our food choices, the energy we use, and other purchases we make. Throughout the week, we talked about ways to cut water use inside and outside the home.
Sustainable Blacksburg’s Fix a Leak Week
EPA’s Fix a Leak Week has already passed for this year so in recognition of this week’s action we’re declaring this Sustainable Blacksburg’s Fix a Leak Week. The average household’s leaks can account for nearly 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year and ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day. Fixing easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners about 10 percent on their water bills. Identify toilet leaks by placing a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If any color shows up in the bowl after 10 minutes, you have a leak. (Be sure to flush immediately after the experiment to avoid staining the tank.) EPA’s website contains many other resources to identify home water leaks.
EPA’s WaterSense Program
Similar to the Energy Star program for energy efficiency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established the WaterSense program to help consumers find and select water-efficient products. Look for the WaterSense label at your local retailer. These products are backed by independent, third–party certification and meet EPA’s specifications for water efficiency and performance. EPA’s WaterSense website has information about these products as well as a wealth of other resources about saving water, including a whole section for kids and educators.
Top Ten Water Wasters
The Virginia Department of Health has a great list of Top Ten Water Wasters at Home and What You Can Do About Them. These actions are free or inexpensive and will save water and save you money in the long run. Some were included in our earlier posts so check those for more information.
1. Check your home plumbing for leaks. A leaky faucet or toilet can waste thousands of gallons per year.
2. Install water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators, available at your hardware store, if you don’t already have them in place. A shower can use up to 7 gallons of water per minute. Don’t let the shower run too long while waiting for it to warm up or while soaping up.
3. Sweep, don’t wash, sidewalks and driveways. Instead of using a hose, use a broom or leaf blower, and save 3-5 gallons of water per minute.
4. If you need to water your lawn, do it every other day in the early morning hours. This will minimize evaporation and increase water penetration. (Note from SB: Take our earlier suggestion to reduce the size of your lawn too)
5. When you have to replace a water-using appliance, be sure to install a water-efficient model.
6. Landscape with plants that require little water and mulch around ornamental plantings to conserve moisture. (Note from SB: Take our earlier suggestion to add native plants to your landscape; once established, they require less maintenance. See EPA for more resources)
7. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. You probably only need the water in three short bursts – to rinse your toothbrush initially, to rinse it after use, and to rinse your mouth.
8. Flush only when needed. Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket.
9. Install a shut-off nozzle at the end of your hose. Use only the water needed for outdoor tasks, such as washing your car.
10. Only use dishwashers and washing machines when you have a full load. Water-saving models will allow you to adjust the washer’s water level.
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Keep a container of drinking water in the refrigerator. This will save running the tap while waiting for the water to cool. For good health, don’t scrimp on hand washing or washing fresh vegetables.
We All Have a Water Footprint
Did you know that our “water footprint” includes much more than the water use we see on our monthly household bill? In addition to the water we use inside our homes and in our yards, many other factors, including the food we eat, the stuff we buy and the energy we use, contribute to the water use resulting from our activities. Many of the other actions we have highlighted so far, such as Eating More Sustainably and Buying Smarter, as well as Using Sustainable Practices in Your Lawn and Garden, can help reduce our water footprint.
Learn more about how to save water at Water Footprint Calculator.
The Water-Energy Connection
If you checked out the water footprint calculator, you will have seen some of the less obvious uses of water than just what we use in our households. We were surprised to learn from the Virginia Water Resources Research Center that electricity generation is the highest single user of water in Virginia and that it is several times higher than the combined usage for public water supply, industrial use, mining, livestock, aquaculture, and irrigation. As highlighted in this article by the U.S. Geological Survey, “Reducing the use of freshwater and protecting it from contamination conserve energy. Reducing energy use, in turn, conserves water.” One of our future actions will be looking specifically at conserving energy, but it’s important to see how so many of these actions are interrelated and how taking one action usually has multiple benefits. You can learn more now by reading the article from USGS:
Week 12 starts tomorrow! Join us as we discuss ways we can Recycle Smarter and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook to see daily updates.