We all know that water conservation is an issue. We’re well aware of the fact that there is a disconnect in terms of people valuing it the way they should. For those in the west, especially, it can appear to be a seemingly endless commodity, instead of the priceless necessity it is.
News stories bring it to light; for the last several years the crisis in Flint, Michigan has called attention to the issue of lead in drinking water, for example. But sometimes, even when we know there are issues, it can be easy not to pay attention to them if they don’t have a direct impact on our lives.
However, by making a concentrated effort to preserve, to conserve and encourage, and to lead by example, a difference can be made.
The current situation
Obviously, the issue here is not maintaining a water supply for the earth’s population, the volume of water on the earth’s surface remains consistent. What doesn’t remain consistent is the amount of fresh, clean water — water that is uncontaminated and is safe for consumption by people and plants alike.
The BBC’s Tim Smedley reported earlier this year, “Water demand globally is projected to increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050. Much of the demand is driven by agriculture, which accounts for 70% of global freshwater use, and food production will need to grow by 69% by 2035 to feed the growing population. Water withdrawal for energy, used for cooling power stations, is also expected to increase by over 20%. In other words, the near future presents one big freshwater drain after the next.”
We need more, and the problem is the amount seems to be depleting. In 2015, a NASA-led study found that the largest underground aquifers on earth are losing water faster than they’re able to replace them. Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and principal investigator of the University of California Irvine-led studies, told The Washington Post, “The water table is dropping all over the world. There’s not an infinite supply of water.”
What’s happening in your home
Understanding the significant amount of water needed is a crucial component that makes it clear why we need to navigate this topic carefully. The best place to make a difference is right where you are.
In your home, go through each room and both look for leaks and consider how you can conserve when you utilize that space and water.
In the bathroom: One of the most obvious, and yet most consistent forms of waste is the sheer amount of time the water is left running. Conserve by taking brief showers, and not letting the water run incessantly while brushing teeth, shaving, etc.
In terms of leaks, John Moore Services Senior Operations Manager Joe Bany says, “The number one place that water is wasted in the home is the toilet.” If your toilet is making a trickle or running sound all the time, it likely means there is an internal leak allowing water to run into the bowl around the clock.
In the kitchen: The same guidance applies to using the sink in the kitchen; make sure you’re not running the water unnecessarily. Don’t run water to defrost food. Don’t use more than required in the directions for a particular recipe, and use as little as possible when washing dishes.
Make sure to check under the sink and in the refrigerator/ice maker for leaks.
In the garden: The EPA asserts, “More than 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year and ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day.” So head outside and look for dripping spouts and leaking sprinkler systems. Don’t let a week go by without verifying that everything is in good working condition.
Go Big: Sometimes, we have the chance to do more than routine maintenance. If you’re in the process of renovating, you’re in the perfect position to actively make changes to the space you call home.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has provided the 203(k) morgaging option means for those interested in renovating homes in need of general improvement and modernizing, but also those specifically making “energy conservation improvements.”
In the words of current mortgage lender Abbie Ethun, “Fixer upper loans are the housing industry’s best kept secret.”
She says, “One of the reasons you may not have heard of renovation mortgages before is that these loans do take some extra effort for the mortgage lender to complete, so many simply don’t offer them and don’t mention them to potential buyers.”
If you are considering doing more than tightening a fixture on a pipe, there are financing options that will allow you to conserve in a more committed manner than ever before.
Whats happening in your community
One of the conclusions of the aforementioned NASA study was that the Central Valley Aquifer in California has seen the most concerning amount of depletion of any in the United States. The growth in what is already the country’s most populous state, coupled with the massive amount of agriculture that relies on the aquifer has caused a serious reduction in the groundwater source.
You may not live in a place like central California or Flint, Michigan. But even if you’re far from locations who have made headlines due to their water issues, the thing to remember is that believing a certain location is immune to future issues is the type of thinking that creates issues in the first place. The key to creating a community of people who respect the water they have access to is to see it as a resource that can be depleted.
Find connections: Most communities have local conservation groups that welcome any and all to participate. Not only do most states and many cities have grassroots movements, there are also organizations that operate at a national level like the The Nature Conservancy.
In a lot of ways, the way you choose to connect relates to how you want to be involved. If you’re looking for a hands-on, face-to-face experience, you’re likely to most enjoy a local group. However, if you lack the time or desire for that, but not the funds, donating and becoming a member of group like The Nature Conservancy will work better for you.
Be a leader: Being a leader can look like a lot of different things. But the main connective tissue here is that leaders are comfortable taking the initiative. They’re willing to foster conversation and to provide the groundwork for action.
This could be virtual; a social media page or a blog, curated to educate and promote understanding. But, it could also be an individual who begins a conservation project, in this case, specifically aimed at creating sustainable water goals in their own community, or in one that needs the work done.
For those who have a will, they will likely find a way, even if it’s something as simple as starting a Facebook page. Collectively, we’ve impacted the earth, and collectively, we can contribute to conserving the resources we do have. Ultimately, the effort begins as a personal desire. Beyond what you can do with your resources, there’s something to be said for the example that your effort will set in and of itself; you never know when the John Muir of tomorrow is watching.
It was Muir who wrote, “There is a love of wild nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties.”
Let us all recognize that love of wild nature, that we might see everything — from our bathroom leaks to what we tell our children — through its lens.