Tips for conserving one of Earth’s most valuable resources
This week is World Water Week, an annual event marked by a conference in Stockholm, Sweden where changemakers meet to discuss global water issues. Water management is at the heart of many larger topics, such as agriculture, food security, climate, and technology, so the conference attracts a wide range of professionals. The theme for 2022 is “Seeing the Unseen: The Value of Water.” Discussing the value of water brings up an important question: how do we hold onto that value? What are the best ways to conserve water?
Why is saving water important?
This year’s World Water Week theme is thought provoking, because water is perhaps one of the most valuable resources on the planet, but it is often taken for granted. This year, World Water Week is happening concurrently with droughts all over the world. It is hypothesized that Europe is currently experiencing its worst drought in 500 years. 64% of the continent is under a drought warning, with the crop yields expected to be about 15% below average.
The US is faring just as badly. Half of the mainland is currently experiencing a drought, and desperate times have led to desperate suggestions: there have been calls to find a way to siphon water from the Mississippi in order to provide California with an adequate water supply. That would mean transporting water about 1500 miles.
Aside from Antarctica, there isn’t a continent that has been spared from drought. Brazil is struggling, causing coffee production to dip. China has attempted to change weather patterns to bring rain. Madagascar’s infrastructure has been damaged by drought, leading it almost to the point of famine.
It’s clear that big changes need to be made, and water conservation needs to be at the heart of those changes.
How to save water at home
The changes that will have the greatest impact will have to happen at the top: Governments will need to make decisions that limit the amount of water that can be used for different purposes, global organizations will be required to put large scale projects in motion, and corporations will have to drastically reduce their water usage. But that doesn’t mean that individuals should give up on personal conservation efforts or ignore the global water shortage. There are still many meaningful ways in which households can save water and make a difference in their communities. We’ve highlighted seven different methods to save water in your home.
Even small changes can make a big difference over time. Each one of these water conservation tips has the potential to put a small but mighty dent in the problem of water shortage.
1. Use recycled or reclaimed water for your garden
Even though it may not be safe to drink rainwater, since it has been found to contain compounds like PFAS, bacteria, and parasites, it is still perfectly safe for your garden. Therefore, it’s an excellent idea to collect barrels or buckets of rainwater to use on your garden during dryer stretches.
Rain isn’t the only source of hydration for thirsty plants. For example, while wastewater from reverse osmosis isn’t ideal for human consumption, it’s a fine option for plants. While most reverse osmosis systems redirect wastewater away from your home, Wisewell stores residual water in an external tank, allowing you to recycle the water in any way you wish, including watering your garden.
2. Turn off the tap
It may seem obvious, but turning off your tap is one of the easiest ways to conserve water. If you shut off the faucet while brushing your teeth in the morning and at night, you could save 8 gallons of water each day. If you keep in mind all the activities that you usually do while the water is running, those gallons add up. For example, there’s no need to keep the water running while shaving, scrubbing your hands with soap, or lathering up dishes in the sink. All of these activities can be done with very little running water.
3. Wait for full loads
If you have a laundry machine or a dishwasher, it’s best to wait until you have a full load before pressing start. These machines are far more efficient than washing things by hand, but it’s still a waste of water to run them frequently for only a few small items.
There’s also no need to prewash or rinse dishes, especially with newer machines. Simply scrape food residue off the tableware and place it in the dishwasher without running your faucet. For laundry machines, be sure to set the correct load size so that the right amount of water is added.
This logic also works for toilets: it’s inadvisable to use a toilet as a garbage can. Flushing a used tissue, for example, uses a lot of water. It is better to dispose of waste rather than flush it.
4. Cover your pool
If you are lucky enough to have a pool, it is highly recommended that you cover it when it’s not in use, even in the summertime. Amazingly, using a pool cover in summer can reduce water evaporation by 95%.
5. Keep an eye out for leaks
Something that seems like a small drip could be wasting gallons of water each day. The EPA estimates that household water leaks account for 1 trillion gallons of water lost every year. That’s water that could be supplying 11 million homes. In general, a good way to check if you have leaks is to monitor your water usage during one of the colder months. If it’s over 12,000 gallons/month and the size of your household is about average (approximately 4 people), then you likely have leaks. You can also check your water meter after a 2 hour period of not using water. If the meter changes, you have a leak.
There are other ways to check for leaks, such as dropping food coloring in your toilet’s tank and checking pipes for external water, but what’s important is what to do about leaks once you find them. The EPA has a helpful list of ways to deal with leaks compiled by WaterSense. The list is organized based on type of leak (toilet, faucet, shower, etc.) and includes helpful tips for conserving water once the leak has been fixed.
6. Opt for showers over baths
As long as you monitor the length of time you spend under the showerhead, showers are much more efficient than baths. If you have the resources, it’s also a good idea to invest in a showerhead that has been given the seal of approval by WaterSense. By doing so, the average family can save 2700 gallons of water per year.
7. Invest in a water filter
Most tap water is not safe to drink. But that doesn’t mean that bottled water sources are a better option. Plastic water bottles are an irresponsible waste of water and other resources. Every 1L bottle of water requires 3L of feed water and 1/4L of oil to be manufactured. Additionally, the carbon footprint required to ship water bottles across the globe is unnecessarily large, considering that it’s far easier to purify the tap water that’s already in people’s homes.
One of the best methods for purifying water is reverse osmosis, but reverse osmosis creates a lot of wastewater. A traditional reverse osmosis system creates 4-5 times as much wastewater as drinkable water, meaning that the water that is discarded far outweighs the water that is enjoyed. Fortunately, Wisewell has turned that ratio on its head. Thanks to its ability to recycle residual water in its external tank, the Wisewell only produces 1 part wastewater for every 4 parts drinkable water. As mentioned above, you can then choose exactly what to do with that residual water so that it doesn’t go to waste.
Save water and save money
Conserving water is ultimately a win-win situation, because by saving water, you are often saving money. As water usage decreases, water bills also go down. For households that use a well, this could also mean a decrease in electricity bills, thanks to pumps being used less frequently.
In the case of using a water filter instead of water bottles, we’ve gone into detail about the exorbitant price of bottled water, and how it is far more financially responsible to drink filtered tap water. By investing in a Wisewell, for example, you are choosing the most inexpensive option over time for clean, delicious, mineralized drinking water. Learn more about how Wisewell can help you save water, save money, and save the planet here.
Seeing the Unseen: The Value of Water
Europe’s Drought May Be Continent’s Worst in at Least 500 Years
The current drought is worldwide. Here’s how different places are fighting it
Is drinking rainwater safe?
How much water does turning off the tap save?
Cal Poly Evaporation Study Demonstrates Water Savings
Fix a Leak Week
Five Reasons to Skip Bottled Water