How to Make a Big Impact: Water

water, conserve

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As we discussed a few weeks back in How to Make a Big Impact: Energy, with all the restraints put on people, money, time, access, the secret to making change may be to focus on the big stuff. So, if you only invested in one green initiative this year, what should it be? What actions make the biggest impact?

We started with energy, and in this installment, we tackle the issue of water. An object of abundance for some and a much needed, rare commodity for others, water is a huge part of our lives. Unlike energy, water is literally a necessary part of our daily survival.

It Does a Body Good

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90 percent of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60 percent of the human body is water, the brain is composed of 70 percent water, and the lungs are nearly 90 percent water. About 83 percent of our blood is water, which helps digest our food, transport waste, and control body temperature. Each day humans must replace 2.4 liters of water, some through drinking and the rest taken by the body from the foods eaten.”

With such an important need comes a large demand. A large portion of  the world’s population does not have access to healthy, safe water. This lack of access for some makes water conservation and protection a priority for all.

Penn State professor Bill Sharpe compares the importance of water conservation to that of global warming or carbon offsets. Just as we look at our carbon footprint, we should also look at our water footprint. Not only does the amount of water used need to be considered but also the quality of what we return to our water supply in the way of pollution and chemical run-off.

“There are two kinds of water use: consumptive and nonconsumptive,” Sharp says. “Consumptive is when used water evaporates into the atmosphere, which reduces the quantity. Non-consumptive use is when water is returned to rivers, streams or aquifers as treated water, but it changes the quality.”

Continue Reading: The Daily Drip

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  1. Excellent points…as follow-up….

    Just turn the dial on your washer…

    Simply heating the water to wash clothes amounts to 90% of the washing machine’s power consumption. The best way to save money when you are doing the laundry is to wash clothes in cold water. When used with cold-water detergent, washing in cold water is actually better for your clothes. Oily stains that require hot water for removal can be switched from hot to warm still saving energy and doing a good job of cleaning your laundry.

    Green or Greedy?

  2. Great article. My understanding though was that outdoor water usage contributed the most to our wasteful water habits. The article stated that 69.3 gallons is from indoor water usage, but what do we use outside?

    1. Great Question Erica!

      According to the EPA “Outdoor Water Use in the United States”, the average American family of four can use up to 120 gallons of water for outdoor purposes a day!! That is a huge amount and a lot of simple things (proper watering schedules, rain-delay systems and region specific planting) can help cut that down. Check out the EPA link for more info on how to save water outdoors.

  3. Good Info. I would like to know what options we have for getting hot water to a faucet sooner, without wasting about 5 gal of water down the drain( in my case).

    1. Good Idea Bob,

      During my research I came across this – “According to one study, done in Southern California, a typical family of four can save up to 10,000 gallons per year by installing a hot water circulating system. Grundfos, a major manufacturer of hot water circulating systems states on their website that homeowners can save up to 16,000 gallons per year with a circulating system.” –

      I would check out these systems to save water and energy. Good luck!

  4. 26% of the indoor water is being flushed. It may sound weird but I don’t think you need to flush every time you tinkle. If you absolutely have to flush every time, try keeping a gallon pitcher of H2O in the bathroom and use that to flush instead of dumping gallons from the toilet tank. Japanese toilet flush levers swing two ways “small” for urine and “big” for poop; much more efficient.
    There are so many ways to reduce your water consumption, Americans just think they have a never ending supply of everything.

  5. If you are going to replace your faucet aerators with low flow you should consider going even lower than 2.5 gallons per minute flow rates. There are aerators that go as low as .5 gallons per minute. You may need higher flow rates in the kitchen but in the bathroom faucets I would consider going lower than 2.5, it’s a personal preference. Here is a link to some examples you can not buy on the site but it will give you an idea of what to look for at the hardware store.

  6. Pingback: How to Make a Big Impact: Water - | H2O Report

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