Although almost 80 percent of Earth is covered with water, only 3 percent of the planet's water resources represent fresh water. Less than 1 percent of all water is available for human consumption; the rest is ocean saltwater or freshwater that is bound up in glaciers and polar ice caps. Of the water available to humans, animals, and plants, only a tiny fraction is used as drinking water. Most of what is consumed is used to create electricity, grow crops, run factories, and for household and sanitation needs.
If we all work together to conserve water, we can help assure a bright and prosperous life for future generations.
Few people realize that washing our cars in our driveways is one of the most environmentally UN-friendly chores we can do. Unlike household waste water that enters sewers or septic systems and undergoes treatment before it is discharged into the environment, water runs off from your car goes right into the storm drains. After all, that water is loaded with a witch’s brew of gasoline, oil and residues from exhaust fumes -- as well as the harsh detergents being used for the washing itself.
What can you do?
- Go to the car wash - Most locations reuse wash water several times before sending it to a treatment plant. Also, a commercial car wash use up to 60% less water than the average homeowner.
- Choose your soap wisely - Use biodegradable, phosphate-free, water-based cleaners only. Wash soaps contain what are known as "surfactants". These are used to help break the surface tension of the dirt particles on your car. While your car may look great when you're done washing, one must consider where all that soapy water has gone.
- Play on the Lawn - Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel, or grass. This can filter water before it enters groundwater, storm drains, or creeks. Grass and other plants absorb the chemicals and other contaminants, thereby reducing the amount of pollutants that ends up in the storm drain.
- Raise Funds a Better Way - One last caution: Kids and parents planning a fundraising car wash event should know that they might be violating clean water laws if run-off is not contained and disposed of properly. When planning a car wash fundraiser, try developing a partnership with a commercial car wash facility, or use a safe location. Consider a fund-raisers to sell tickets redeemable at local car washes, enabling the organizations to still make money while keeping dry and keeping local waterways clean.
- Clean it up -After washing your car, always empty wash buckets into sinks or toilets where it will filter to the sanitary sewer for treatment. Also, try to sop up or disperse those sudsy puddles. They contain toxic residues and can tempt thirsty animals.
- Check for leaks by adding food coloring to the tank. Color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes if there’s a leak.
- Check for worn out, corroded or bent parts.
- Consider purchasing LowFlow toilets that can reduce indoor water use by 20 percent.
- Install a toilet dam or a bottle in the tank to reduce water needed for each flushing.
- Avoid unnecessary flushing. Dispose of tissues, insects and other waste in the trash.
- Adjust or replace the flush handle if it frequently sticks in the flush position and lets water run constantly.
- Replace your showerhead with an ultra low-flow version, saving up to 2.5 gallons per minute.
- Take shorter showers.
- In the shower, decrease the flow to achieve a comfortable temperature instead of increasing the hot or cold water.
- For baths, close the drain before turning the faucet. To balance the initial burst of cold water add only hot water later.
- Turn off the tap while shaving, washing your face or brushing your teeth.
- Kitchen sink disposals require lots of water to operate properly. Start a compost pile for food waste instead.
- Store drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting the tap run for a cool glass of water.
- Use the refrigerator or a microwave instead of running water to thaw frozen foods.
- Consider an instant water heater on your kitchen sink so running water heats up quicker.
- For hand washing, fill one sink with soapy water and quickly rinse under a slow stream of water from the faucet. Use the dirty water to run your sink disposal if necessary.
- Fully load automatic dishwashers; they use the same amount of water no matter how big of a load.
- Look for water and energy saving options with new dishwashers.
Watering the Lawn
- Lawns only need watering every five to seven days in the summer. A hearty rain can delay this up to two weeks.
- Water lawns during the early morning when temperatures are lowest to prevent evaporation.
- Make sure sprinklers water the lawn and shrubs, not paved areas.
- Look into water-efficient sprinklers, such as micro/drip irrigation and soaker hoses.
- Regularly check sprinkler systems and timing devices to be sure they are operating properly. Turn off when storms are approaching.
- Make sure water is turned off when you’re done. Your garden hose can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours. Use a kitchen timer as a reminder.
- Raise your lawn mower blade to at least three inches. A higher cut lawn encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system, and holds soil moisture better than closely-clipped lawns.
- Avoid overfertilizing your lawn. This increases the need for water and is a source of water pollution.
- Mulch to retain moisture in the soil. This helps control weeds that compete with plants for water.
- Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. Check with your local nursery for advice.
- Group plants based on similar water needs.
- Use a hose shut-off nozzle so that water flows only as needed. When finished, turn off at the faucet instead of the nozzle to avoid leaks.
- Minimize the grass areas in your yard; less grass means less water.
Other Outdoor Water Wasters to Watch
- Check all hoses, connectors and spigots regularly. Replace or add washers if you find leaks.
- Avoid the installation of ornamental water features unless the water is recycled.
- If you have a pool, consider a single backflushing with a traditional filter, that only uses 180 to 250 gallons of water.
- Ask if your car wash recycles water.
- If you wash your own car, use a bucket with soapy water and turn off the water while soaping.
- Avoid purchasing recreational water toys that require a constant stream of water.
Saving Water at Work
- Promote water conservation at the workplace. Have water conservation tips put in the employee orientation manual.
- Support projects that will lead to an increased use of reclaimed wastewater for irrigation and other uses.
- Promote water conservation in community newsletters, on bulletin boards and by example.
- Report significant water losses (broken pipes, misdirected sprinklers, abandoned or free-flowing wells, etc.) to the property owner, local authorities or your water management district.
- Encourage your school system/local government to promote a water conservation program.
- Make sure your visitors understand the need for, and benefits of, water conservation.
- Conserve water because it is the right thing to do. Don’t waste water just because someone else is footing the bill, such as when you are staying at a hotel.