World Water Week: 10 DIY Conservation Tips

Although Americans have access to some of the cleanest, most prolific water supplies, we waste more than anyone in the world. Let's change that today!
water spigot
stockerre / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Chances are that by time you sat down in front of your computer to read this post, you took water for granted at least five times:

Your morning shower
Brushing your teeth
Your morning coffee
Watering your favorite house plant
Washing your breakfast dishes

Millions of people all over the world wake up without access to clean drinking water. For these communities, water is a precious resource that takes time and effort to secure, if they can get to it at all.

Consider this:

  • 1.1 billion people live without clean drinking water
  • As of 2004, 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation
  • 3,900 children die every day from water borne diseases

Daily per capita use of water in residential areas:

  • 92 gallons in North America and Japan
  • 53 gallons in Europe
  • 6 gallons in sub-Saharan Africa

This means that although Americans have access to some of the cleanest, most prolific water supplies, we waste more than anyone in the world!

Living a sustainable, self-sufficient life means ending this pattern of taking our resources for granted. It means living consciously and deliberately making decisions that minimize our negative impact on the planet and our community. It means acting in a way that considers future generations to be every bit as important as our own.

To that end, here are 10 water-saving tips that are easy to implement without expensive equipment or remodeling your home. Consider choosing one to focus on each week. You might be surprised how easy it is to make these conservation efforts part of your daily routine!

1. Test Your Water Sense: This interactive quiz from the EPA will help you discover just how much you know (and don’t know) about water-using behaviors and common water-saving opportunities.

2. Plug The Leak: Faucets, shower heads and spigots that leak can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water each year. If you’re unsure whether you have a leak, read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, you probably have a leak. The EPA also has a series of handy guides that will help you identify and repair water leaks around your home.

3. Fill It Up: Make sure washing machines and dishwashers are completely full before you wash a load. If it’s absolutely necessary to run these machines without a full load, be sure to choose “light” or “small” load options to conserve water.

4. Cease And Desist: Be conscious of every time you turn on a faucet. Don’t let the shower run while you use the toilet or brush your teeth. The average shower sends 10 – 25 gallons of water down the drain in five minutes. Likewise, a bathroom faucet flows at a rate of two gallons per minute. Turn it off while brushing your teeth or shaving your face.

5. Air It Out: Remember those flow rates in the examples above? There’s a way to ensure that your faucets waste less water, even while they’re running: an inexpensive little gadget called an aerator. These devices work by mixing air into the water stream, which gives you a nice even pressure, even though you’re using a fraction of the water.

6. Remodel Your Toilet: We’ve talked about low-flow and dual-flush toilets in the past, but for many these bathroom upgrades are just too expensive. But you can create a DIY low-flow toilet in just a few minutes using things found around the house. Earth Easy suggests putting an inch or two of sand or pebbles inside two plastic bottles to weigh them down. Then, fill the bottles with water, screw the lids on, and put them in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanisms. Or, buy an inexpensive tank bank or float booster. This prevents the tank from filling completely with water, and may save ten or more gallons per day

7. Let Your Lawn Grow: Landscaping and gardening are where Americans waste the most water. The typical single-family suburban household uses at least 30 percent of their water outdoors for irrigation. The EPA estimates that more than 50 percent of landscape water use goes to waste due to evaporation or runoff caused by overwatering. Remember the mantra, “water deeply and infrequently.” Watering twice a week, giving the lawn an inch or a half-inch of water each time is much better for the grass than watering for fifteen minutes every day. Also remember that grass is at its healthiest and greenest when it’s 2 – 3 inches tall. Don’t over-mow as this keeps the roots weak and demands more water.

8. Bust Out A Bucket: Try to keep water from going down the drain whenever possible. Use a shower bucket, set up a rain barrel, and if you wash dishes by hand, use a water tub in the sink. All of these efforts will help you to reuse water for watering plants or out door washing.

9. Compost: This might not seem obvious, but if you’re using your garbage disposal to get rid of organic kitchen waste, you’re probably wasting a lot of water as well. Composting those scraps instead of putting them down the drain could save 50 to 150 gallons of water a month.

10. Let It Mellow: This might be a little “dark green” for some, but if you’re comfortable with it, consider holding off on flushing the toilet unless there’s solid matter. Older toilets use about 3.5 gallons of water for every flush, which is hardly necessary when they only thing you’re flushing is water!

What other things have you tried to help conserve water at your home or business? Share those tips in a comment!

Other World Water Week Posts at Important Media

Image Credit: Flickr – Stockerre

Written by Beth Buczynski


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