With less than 1 percent of earth's water suitable for human use, water is a precious commodity. In much of the developing world, people are concerned about having sufficient clean water for their needs, and usually don't waste household needs. The World Health Organization estimates that people in developing countries -- primarily women and children -- spend a combined 200 million hours daily carrying water for household use. In other parts of the world, such as the United States, clean water seems to be plentiful and is often wasted. There are several simple ways humans can conserve this vital but limited natural resource.
Bathrooms use lots of water, with about 17 percent of American daily water consumption going to showers, 26 percent to toilet flushes, and 2 percent to baths. Turn off tap water while brushing teeth, shaving, or soaping during handwashing. Take showers rather than baths. Time your showers to be less than five minutes, or about one song's playtime on the radio. Turn off the water while soaping or shampooing. Flush the toilet only when necessary, and don't use toilets for trash disposal.
Kitchen and Clothes
Laundry consumes 22 percent of household water use in the U.S. households, so run full washer loads and use the proper load size setting. In the kitchen, about 16 percent of daily water use is at the sink. Don't run water continuously when washing vegetables or doing dishes. Water-efficient dishwashers use from 4 to 6 gallons per load compared to an average of 20 gallons per load for hand-washing. Don't pre-rinse dishes before loading them in the dishwasher. Collect kitchen rinse water to put on house or yard plants. Keep a container of water in the refrigerator instead of running tap water for colder water. Collect and use the water that comes out while you're waiting for hot water to arrive.
In the Yard
Sweep sidewalks, patios, driveways, decks and porches rather than hosing them clean. Collect rainwater and use it for daily plant watering. Check yard and container plants daily for soil dryness and water them only as needed with occasional deep watering rather than shallow frequent ones. Water during the cool part of the day. Cover the swimming pool after use each day to prevent evaporation, saving thousands of gallons of water a month.
Beyond the Home
It takes water to produce the food you buy and the energy you use. Agriculture consumes about 70 percent of the water used worldwide. Meat takes more water than plant foods to produce. According to the United Nations, it takes 3,500 liters (925 gallons) of water to produce 1 kg of rice, and 15,000 liters (3,073 gallons) of water to produce 1 kg of beef. Diets with less meat conserve agricultural water.
Conserving energy also conserves water. A thermoelectric plant powered by fossil fuel uses up to 60 liters (16 gallons) of water to keep a 60-watt light bulb lit for 12 hours. Choose to consume items produced by companies that use water-efficient processes and equipment.
- Scientific American: Human Population Growth Creeps Back Up
- United Nations Water: Water Cooperation: Facts and Figures
- Water.org: Water Facts: Women
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Getting Up To Speed: The Water Cycle and Water Conservation
- Maryland State Government: The Department of the Environment: Water Programs
- Grace Communications Foundation: How to Save Water: Water Saving Tips: In the
- Grace Communications Foundation: How to Save Water: Indoor Water Use at Home
- Grace Communications Foundation: How to Save Water: Water Saving Tips: Outdoors
- Water.org: Water Facts: Water
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: Spectrum: How Much Water Does It Take to Make Electricity?
About the Author
Carolyn Csanyi began writing in 1973, specializing in topics related to plants, insects and southwestern ecology. Her work has appeared in the "American Midland Naturalist" and Greenwood Press. Csanyi holds a Doctor of Philosophy in biology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.