March 22nd is UN’s World Water Day. This year the theme of World Water Day is water and energy. The goal of WWD is to get citizens, professionals, governments and grassroots organizations examining the link between water and energy. When we think of water issues that are facing people around the world we often think of scarcity of clean drinking water. If we look a little deeper at the issue of scarcity we see it is tied to availability of energy. Energy is required to clean water and to pump clean water to those in need. The same can be said of energy. Water is required to generate most forms of energy (hydroelectric, nuclear and thermal). Thus, if energy is scarce, clean water will be scarce. The hope is that WWD will shine a light on this connection and get stakeholders thinking about the importance of the link between water and energy and it’s impact on people living around the world.
How does this fit into our Family Eco-Challenge? Well, there was one key message from World Water Day, that really spoke to me: Saving energy is saving water. Saving water is saving energy. Water conservation and energy conservation go hand-in-hand. The less water we waste, the less water is needed to be cleaned and transported to our homes. Simply put…only use the water you need. So, I’ve put together 5 ways to conserve water in your home. Some of these ideas I have touched on before, but they are worth repeating.
5 Ways to Conserve Water in Your Home
Install a Backyard Rain Barrel Do we really need to use clean drinking water to feed our lawns and gardens? An alternative exists. It’s time to disconnect our downspouts and set up a rain barrel. A rain barrel collects the rain that would typically run along the eaves troughs on the roof, down the downspout and into city’s sewer system. It is possible to disconnect the downspout from the city sewer system and allow the rain water to drain onto the lawn. This removes the rainwater from the city’s sewer system and lets the rain feed your lawn…this is a great first step. Setting up a rain barrel is the next step. Simply attach a rain barrel to our downspout. The rain will collect in the barrel and can then be used to water a garden. After using a rain barrel for a few years now I have found that more often than not, we have enough water in the barrel to feed my gardens. I know that you might be living in a place where rainfall is scarce, a rain barrel would still be an effective way to supplement your outdoor watering needs.
Toothbrushing Water Waste We just looked at this issue a couple of weeks ago. I was amazed by how much water is actually wasted when you keep the tap running while brushing your teeth. Take a look at our toothbrushing tap water experiment that I did with my daughters to see what we learned.
Kitchen Counter Water Collection We are a water drinking kind of family. I have raised my daughter to opt for water over juice. All these glasses of water often lead to my pouring the last dregs of water in people’s glasses down the drain. Instead of pouring this clean water down the drain we now collect this water. I placed an empty pitcher beside the kitchen sink where we pour any excess water into the pitcher. We then use this water to care for our indoor plants in the winter and take it outside to care for our container gardens.
Run A Full Dishwasher This suggestion comes from my youngest daughter. Her class has been discussing water conservation at school. Every time I move to start the dishwasher she asks me “Is the dishwasher full?” Dishwashers use water and energy so running the dishwasher less often and when it is completely full makes sense. By the way, the same is true of laundry washing machines…make sure that the load is full, not just one outfit at a time.
Showers and Baths Okay, right now this one is easy…my daughters haven’t reached an age when they want to spend hours in the bathroom…but I know the day is coming. For now, keeping their showers around 5-10 minutes is easy. If baths are popular in your house there is a simple way to conserve water. Put the plug in the drain immediately, adjust the temperature after the plug is in. A typical bath uses 35 gallons of water and a 7 minute shower with a low flow shower head will use about 25 gallons of water (source: EPA).
Double Duty Water My daughters come home for lunch every day. A few months ago, as I was making my daughters some pasta for lunch I decided to drop a couple of eggs into the pasta water…while the water boiled. The pasta water did double duty…cooked the pasta for my kids and cooked the egg for my lunch. I’ve gotten in the habit of doing this more often. Another great example of this is when boiling eggs, use the water to water plants. Really when you fill a pot to boil anything…stop and think if that water could be used in another way?
The challenge for this week is to think about the ways that we are using water in our house. Are we using our water fully? Are we wasting water? Could we be doing a better job conserving water? This week is about coming together as a family to examine how we are using water.
Would you like to learn more about the Family Eco-Challenge? Head over to the Family Eco-Challenge main page and see what other eco-changes we have made in our home and how you can make changes with your family.