On average, each person uses about 80-100 gallons per day. Wow, that is a lot of water. Did that number surprise you? It surprised me. But then again, think of all the ways you use it. Drinking, cooking, washing hands, flushing the toilet, showering, washing clothes, washing dishes, etc. It adds up quickly, and that's only what we use inside. Outdoor use adds an additional 30%, half of which is used for watering lawns and gardens.
To be clear, I’m not saying watering your yard and garden is a bad thing. But there is plenty of room for improvement all around. When comparing the water use of Americans to those around the world, it is clear we are using more than we need. Reports show the average water use per person in France is 77 gallons a day, in India, it is 38 gallons, and in Mali, it is a mere 3 gallons. While there are many cultural differences between these countries, it is clear we can reduce our water use. We are already seeing the need for water restrictions in developed cities with economic significance, such as Cape Town, South Africa. Without making an effort now, we may find ourselves in a similar situation over the next 50+ years.
What is Water Conservation?
It is the strategy of reducing water use and waste in light of expected water shortages with a growing population. The problem isn’t necessarily a lack of water on the earth, as that number doesn’t really change. It is the amount of water that is actually usable to us that is raising worry. Of all the water on earth, only 3.5% is potable (drinkable). Of that 3.5%, 68% is locked into ice and glaciers, 30% is stored as groundwater, and 0.3% is stored in surface water locations such as lakes, rivers, and swamps (National Geographic).
In addition to more people using water, the delivery of fresh water is becoming less reliable. An area that typically receives plenty of rain to fill its reservoirs, rivers, lakes, ponds, wetlands, estuaries, and more can not necessarily expect that to continue over the next several decades. With changing weather patterns, it is important to learn to get by on less. As you use less water, you can also save the energy required to move what you are no longer using. Moving 8 pounds of water per gallon adds up quickly.
Ways to Improve Water Efficiency
Not only does fixing leaks reduce the amount of water unnecessarily wasted, but it can also save you some money as well. Keeping an eye on your water use each month can help you identify hidden leaks happening in your house and yard. Just a few years ago, my own parents were alerted of a leak because of the jump in water going into their home with no increased use by them. Come to find out, there was a pipe leaking from our Kitchen to the basement that resulted in mold, and damaged walls and flooring in an area that was not often used. On top of that, the mold that was protruding from the wall was being concealed by a couple of large bookshelves. You can’t always see a small leak until the problem grows and gets out of hand. Simply keeping an eye on the number of gallons used each month may save you a lot of headaches.
Efficient Home Appliances
Toilets, dishwashers, showers, and other home appliances can use a lot of water each day. Simply choosing water-efficient models can help cut back on water use by several gallons while still getting their job done. The Department of Energy can provide more ideas to increase water use efficiency, such as utilizing greywater (drain water), among other ideas.
When it comes to efficiency in the garden, irrigating with drip irrigation can save you 4,000 gallons of water per 250 square feet annually. Drip irrigation works by slowly dripping water at the soils surface. Ideally, the drip line is also covered with mulch, reducing the effect of evaporation. Drip lines can be used for bedding plants, trees, containers, and raised beds. Some people are also finding success by using it for watering lawns, although there is still some hesitancy to use it for this purpose with many unknown obstacles.
Water When Needed
With the introduction of smart watering systems, it is becoming much easier to monitor the moisture levels of your soils. Using this data along with local weather predictions, smart irrigation systems are able to put out only the amount of additional water needed as the soil needs it. Many people overwater their plants because they are only seeing the surface of the soil. Below the surface, soils hold more water that is still accessible to your plant’s root systems. Using technology to better monitor moisture levels in the root zone can help you not only save water but grow healthier plants.
Cover the Ground
In addition to using water-smart irrigation tools, simply keeping the ground covered with plants can reduce water loss through evaporation. Plants play an effective role in cooling the area around them. Utilize a variety of plants by growing trees, bushes, annuals, perennials, and groundcovers to see the best results.