Small steps can add up in a big way in ensuring a vital resource on Earth remains in ample supply for generations to come.
Those steps can also help ensure costly water projects are not needed as quickly.
There are so many reasons why it’s important to conserve water by whatever means possible.
Pamela Hannemann, Brazos River Authority water resources planner, recently learned that the city of Austin saw a 30 percent increase in population and during that growth period, water usage remained the same.
“It was just phenomenal that their water use hasn’t increased even with the growth in the population,” Hannemann said.
According to an Austin Monitor article, part of that is due to the city in 2016 limiting the use of automatic sprinkler systems to one day a week.
The city of Austin’s efforts are just one of many success stories in the area, she said. Committed to reducing water use, the city of Round Rock, has an employee dedicated and focused on water conservation efforts and education.
“They have a big outreach program,” she said.
The city also has a blog – The Water Spot – dedicated to water conservation, news, and program information.
Georgetown is another good example of a city working hard to help educate its residents on the importance of conserving water, Hannemann said.
Among the city of Georgetown’s water conservation efforts includes encouraging residents to use mulch to save water. The city’s curbside-collected yard trimmings are brought to the city’s Collection Station where it is ground into mulch and then given freely to all Georgetown Utility customers living inside the city limits.
Strains on the water supply mixed with aging water treatment systems can lead to higher water prices and increased summer water restrictions, according to the EPA. When local demand overcomes available capacity, that can led to expensive water treatment projects to transport and store freshwater.
Water is renewable but it is a resource shared by everyone, Hannemann said. Treatment operations are costly and building new infrastructure to treat, and then deliver, water creates a big bill, she said.
“It’s important to not forget about conservation efforts during times when it’s wet like it is now,” she said. “Every little thing adds up.”
What can everyone do to help?
Since, most people can’t afford to replace every appliance with a water-efficient machine; integrating new, efficient practices into the daily routine can make a tremendous difference in conservation efforts.
Those new practices don’t have to be difficult.
For instance, more than half of all water use inside a home takes place in the bathroom, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
How do we stop that?
Start by turning off the water while shaving or brushing teeth.
Choose a shower over a bath. But when you do, keep an eye on the clock. Officials recommend five minutes or less per shower. And, place a plastic bag or bottle filled with water in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water per fill.
Conservation efforts are so important. Less than 1 percent of water on Earth is available for human use, according to the EPA. The rest is either salt water in the oceans, frozen in the polar ice caps or too inaccessible for practice usage, according to the EPA.
To top it off, the average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home, and roughly 70 percent of the use is indoors, according to the EPA.
Other indoor water conservation tips include:
- Make sure the dishwasher is fully loaded.
- Scrape plates after use instead of rinsing before loading it into the dishwasher.
- No dishwasher? No problem. Make smart use of dual sinks. Instead of letting the water run while washing dishes, fill one sink with hot, soapy water for washing and the other with cool, clear water for rinsing.
- Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the faucet run until the water is cool.
- Designate one glass for your drinking water each day, or refill a water bottle. This will cut down on the number of glasses to wash.
- If you accidentally drop ice cubes, don’t throw them in the sink. Drop them in a house plant instead.
- Thaw food in the refrigerator overnight rather than using a running tap of hot water.
- Use every drop of water. Capture water beneath a colander used to rinse fruits and veggies. Repurpose that water by depositing it in the garden or yard. Do the same while you wait for the water from the sink to get hot.
- Wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate water level or load size selection on the washing machine.
No location is immune from drought and as local populations grow, everyone will have to be more mindful about how they use water.
There are also ways to conserve water while outside, including:
- Avoid watering during the hottest periods of the day to prevent loss through evaporation.
- Sweep leaves and other debris off driveways and walkways instead of hosing it clean.
- Find ways to save and store rainwater for use in the garden. Many cities offer rebates for rainwater harvest barrel use. Remember to cover your barrels to keep mosquitoes at bay.
- Have a pool? Make sure to also own a pool cover. The cover can help reduce evaporation, and therefore reduce the amount of times needing to refill the pool. The Department of Energy reports that a pool cover cuts the amount of replacement water needed by 30 to 50 percent.
- Look for drought-resistant plants that can live throughout the year. These hardy plants often rely on their own water reserves and don’t need to be directly watered as often as other species.
- Wash the dog with soap safe to plants and do it outside in an area of the lawn that needs water.
- Place mulch around the flowerbed and garden and under shrubs and trees. Mulch helps keep water from evaporating as quickly and ensures the water is getting down to the roots.
- While washing the car use a bucket filled with soap and water and a sponge rather than running the hose the entire time.
For more water conservation information, go here.