One area that everyone in the West needs to address is water usage. We in the West are profligate wasters of potable water. Beyond the use of potable water to drink and cook with, we use it for washing our cars, washing our clothes, washing our bodies, washing our dirty dishes, flushing away our bodily wastes, watering our lawn, watering our plants and gardens, and many other uses.
Only 5% of all potable water is used for food preparation, the rest is used for other purposes in the home. You only need about 8 cups of water per day to stay healthy, and you get a good portion of that from the food you eat. Every time you flush the toilet, you say goodbye to 1.6 to 2.1 gallons of drinking water. Which, if you pardon the pun, is a waste.
Public and domestic usage of freshwater in Washington State represents about 24% of all our freshwater supplies, compared to the national average of 12% of the total freshwater supplies. The biggest use of freshwater nation wide is in thermoelectric generation, primarily for cooling purposes, and it is about 48% of freshwater resources. Because we have a lot of hydroelectric power generation in the Northwest, we only use about 10% of our freshwater for cooling.
Based on national domestic water usages, Washington State uses more than twice the national average of 0.9%, about 2.6%. Now, 2.6% doesn’t sound like much, but how does 125 million gallons of water sound? That’s a cube 500 feet on a side. It would come up just below the saucer on the Space Needle. That’s a lot of water.
To reduce our usage of drinking water, we need to start reusing the water we already have. The more you can reuse a resource, the less of that resource you need to use.
Reuse rainwater and get a rain barrel for every downspout on your house and garage. Use that water to water your grass and plants. You can find out more about where you can get a rain barrel from the King County website.
Put a 1.5 liter soda bottle full of water in your toilet tank to reduce the amount of water you flush every time you use the toilet. The Northshore Utility District has toilet tank “banks” (vinyl bags) that you fill with water and hang on the inside of the tank, displacing .5 to .7 gallons of water.
Other things you can do to conserve water:
- Install a low-flow, water-saving showerhead that uses less than 2 1/2 gallons per minute.
- Replace older bathroom faucet nozzles (aerators) with new ones that are rated at 1.0 gallons per minute (gpm), or less. And fix any leaks in your faucets and toilets.
- Turn the water off when shaving or brushing your teeth.
- Shorten your shower by 1 minute. To really save, limit your shower time to 5 minutes or less.
- Take showers instead of baths. A bathtub holds up to 50 gallons of water. A typical shower uses less than 20 gallons.
- Collect water that runs until the shower gets hot and then use it to water your plants.
Of course, this list just scratches the surface; to get more information, visit the Saving Water Partnership.