Clean, bountiful water is one of the most important resources around the world. With the current world population reaching towards 7.4 billion people, our rapidly growing use of water for industry, agriculture, sanitation, and drinking has led to freshwater consumption tripling over the last 50 years.
With added considerations of seasonal variability and accessibility, water is often not where we need it when we need it. With less than 1% of the world’s water accessible to humans to drink, it’s a shame that pollution has made it so 1 in 10 people lack access to safe water.
No matter where you are in the world, you can do your part to conserve water by both saving water from being wasted and protecting water from becoming polluted.
- First, calculate the daily water use online or on paper for you or your household.
- Second, follow our tips below to get started on the water-wise path to conservation.
- Lastly, celebrate UN World Water Day every March. Each year this event focuses attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources – this year’s theme is “Water and Jobs”. Stay tuned for local events around Whatcom County in our upcoming newsletters.
In the Bathroom
- Shorten your showers. The average person uses 17.2 gallons of water during their 8.2 minute shower, totaling over 6,000 gallons of water every year. You’ll save water, energy, and time when you shorten your shower to 5 minutes or less or skip out on a couple showers a week. Don’t think you could ever skimp out on your long, hot showers? Check out this list of other actionsyou can take that would save just as much water as cutting out showers altogether.
- Don’t Senselessly Soak. With upgrades to showerhead flow, filling up the bathtub for a soak is becoming more and more frivolous. If you can’t give up a nice, long soak at the end of a rough day, fill the bathtub partially, share the bathwater, or save it for reuse when you do laundry, pamper your pets, or flush your toilet. In fact, there are a ton of ways to use grey water from sinks, bathtubs, and clothes-washers.
- Be frugal at the flusher and faucet. Update to a low-flow toilet if you haven’t already. Depending on how big of an upgrade you’re doing, consider investing in a compostingtoilet that requires no water. And your faucet? Make sure to turn off the faucet when you scrub your hands with soap and brush your teeth. Install a faucet aerator to save even more water when the faucet is running.
If you live within the City of Bellingham, you can receive a free water conservation kit from the Finance Department in City Hall at 210 Lottie Street. The kits contain one low-flow showerhead, a kitchen and a bathroom faucet aerator, and toilet leak detection tablets.
In the Kitchen
- Do the dishes. While the jury is still out on what conserves more water – using a dishwasher or washing dishes by hand – either situation can benefit from a few simple tips to save water. First off, thoroughly scrape your dishes into the compost right after eating to lessen the need for rinsing and running the garbage disposal. Secondly, use water only when you have a full load – whether it’s going to fill the sink or dishwasher, you might as well use it to clean as many dishes as possible.
- Swap your food staples. Check in on what foods you are purchasing, eating, and possibly wasting. An average person “eats” over 3,000 liters of water a day – take a few minutes to find out how your favorite foods compare and make a pledge to trade out a couple of your main staples for more water-conscious alternatives. Make sure any food you do waste gets composted correctly through your own home system or through your local composting services.
- Use the excess. Whether you just boiled a pot of pasta or you can’t finish a glass of water, the leftover water doesn’t need to go down the drain. Use the water for plants, animals, or cleaning.
In the Yard
- Mulch, mulch, mulch. Use compost and mulch to conserve water in your yard and garden by allowing the soil to hold more water and keep it available for your plants. Purchase both from a local business or set up your own composting system to harvest it straight from the source. See our previous waste prevention blog to learn more about how you can reduce your waste output.
- Embrace the gold. During the summer, stop watering your lawn and allow your grass to lay dormant. In Whatcom County, from June 1st – September 15th, it is recommended to stop watering your lawn. If you must water, make sure to practice smart lawn watering – make sure you’re not overwatering or losing water to evaporation. Especially within the City of Bellingham, where water demand doubles in the summer due largely in part to lawn and landscape watering, reducing the drinking water we use outdoors can have a huge savings.
- Nurture the Natives. If you enjoy having a green, lively landscape around your home, swap out grass and bring in a variety of native plants. You can easily cut out your lawn and replace it with native and drought-resistant plantsand groundcovers. In the garden, practice water wise gardening to make every drop count.
- Harvest the Rain. Use landscaping techniques to passively harvest rainwater for your outdoor space or actively collect and store rainwater to reduce your reliance on tapping into our drinking water resources for your outdoor water use. If you don’t have a use for collected rainwater, install a rain garden on your property to reduce the impacts of stormwater.
- Use Nozzles and Cans. Rather than letting your hose run between uses, use a spray-control nozzle or watering can to get the exact amount of water you need every time with no waste. Take a hands-off approach and still save water when you use a soaker hose or install drip irrigation for your garden and flowerbeds.
Other Ways to Conserve:
- Fix Your Leaks. It is estimated that approximately 2.1 trillion gallons of purified drinking water is lost each year in the U.S. due to faulty infrastructure, including leaking pipes, broken water mains, and faulty meters. Check for leaks in your sinks and toilets and always remember to winterize your pipes correctly so you aren’t one of the contributors to this massive water loss. Now that all water service connections in Washington must be metered by 2017, many of you will soon have the ability to read your water meter and assess your water use. We suggest you check in with your water meter a few times a year, during different seasons, to get a rough estimate of your daily household water use, as well as check for any unseen pipe leaks.
- Stop Dirty Stormwater.Stormwater is rain that runs off hard surfaces (rooftops, streets, parking lots) instead of soaking into the ground. Most stormwater flows from these surfaces directly into a local stream, lake, or bay, carrying with it pollution – like oil, fertilizers, pesticides, garbage, and pet waste – without any treatment. Stormwater is the leading contributor to water pollution of urban waterways in Washington. Stop your contribution to stormwater pollution by adopting a few simple behaviors. For instance, scoop the poop!Pet waste, especially from dogs, washes into our local waterways when it rains and can have negative impacts on our water quality. Do your part: pick up after your pets and throw their waste in a garbage can.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The 3 R’s aren’t just for waste prevention. Everyday products that we buy, use, and throw away have already used thousands of gallons of water in production. Make conscious decisions to practice the 3 R’s as you shop for everything from clothing and food, to cars and furniture.
Need more tips? Check out all these awesome water conservation tip sheets:
- City of Bellingham Indoor Water Conservation
- Water and Energy consumption are Linked
- Whatcom Clean Water Program
- Home Water Works
- EPA Watersense
- City of Ferndale Water Conservation Tips
RE Sources is committed to promoting sustainable communities and protecting the health of people and ecosystems in our glorious little slice of NW Washington.
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