Water Conservation Mandan ND
West Fargo, ND
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Saving Water at Home
Water is a resource we often take for granted - until there is a drought. About 80 percent of Earth's surface is covered with water in some form, yet only 1 percent is fresh water that we can easily use. The rest is either saltwater or water frozen in glaciers. For most of us, water is as close as the nearest sink or toilet. It always seems to be there when we turn on the tap. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Throughout history, there have been cyclical patterns of too much or too little rain. Before development began to spread, the effects of either were relatively minimal, since natural vegetation moderated the impacts. Lack of rain or snow for an extended period can have significant social, economic and environmental implications. A few rain-free weeks at the wrong time can shrivel crops and increase food prices. We are told to stop washing our cars, cease watering the grass and take other water-conservation steps. Vegetation dries out and may catch fire or die from lack of water. Severe droughts can even require mandatory rationing.
This country has suffered droughts throughout its history. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s affected 50 million acres of land and rendered farmers helpless. In the 1950s, the Great Plains suffered a severe water shortage when several years passed with rainfall well below normal. California suffered a severe drought in the 1970s that resulted in catastrophic wildfires. The worst drought in 50 years affected at least 35 states during the long, hot summer of 1988. Crops and livestock died, and 4,100,000 acres of forests were lost to fire. And now some 20 percent of the country, including much of the East Coast and a wide area in the West, is in a drought. Although the average person uses between 65 and 100 gallons of water per day, only about 1 gallon is actually consumed. The rest is used for toilets (which account for 40 percent of use), bathing (30 percent), washing and outdoor watering. This leaves a lot of opportunities to save water on a daily basis. While most of us are familiar with basic steps like not watering the lawn or washing the car, there are also less obvious water-conservation practices that can save 10 to 40 percent, or about 40 gallons per day per person. Here are a few:
1. Test for leaks: Leaking faucets can waste as much as 20 gallons per day, while a leaking toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons per day. A leaking faucet can usually be repaired with a new washer or seat. You can check your toilet by adding food coloring to the tank. If any color appears in the bowl after 30 minutes, then your toilet is leaking. You can usually repair it by replacing the flapper in the tank.
2. Buy a new toilet: If your toilet is old, replace it with a new one. Older toilets use between 3 and 5 gallons per flush, while newer ones use 1.6 gallons. If you don't want to replace the toilet, add a water dam in the tank, which will save about 1.25 gallons, or put two filled half-gallon plastic water bottles in the tank. Do not use bricks or other objects that can deteriorate and clog the pipes.
3. Go low-flow: Adding flow-restricting aerators (rated at 2.2 gallons per minute) to your sink faucets can reduce sink water use by up to 60 percent. Also, turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, washing or shaving. Low-flow showerheads are also big savers. Regular showerheads can use up to 10 gallons per minute; a low-flow model will only use 2.5 gallons, reducing the overall flow by 75 gallons for a 10-minute shower. A low-flow showerhead has the added advantage of saving you between $20 and $50 a year in energy costs.
4. Wait for a full load: Run your dishwasher and clothes washer only when they're full. If you need to do a smaller wash, make sure that you set the flow levels appropriately. The shortest cycle on a dishwasher can save about 8 gallons per cycle.
5. Turn off the tap: Dishwashing by hand can consume 5 to 20 gallons per wash. By filling the basin to rinse and wash, you can cut that amount to about 2 gallons per wash. Also, since garbage disposals use a lot of water, dispose of table scraps in the trash or compost pile.
6. Don't pre-rinse dishes: Modern dishwashers do a good job of cleaning dishes without the need to pre-rinse them in the sink. Consumer Reports, in fact, estimates that you can save as much as 20 gallons per dishwasher load.
7. Use your meter: Your water meter is a good tool. Look at it when all of the faucets and toilets are off. If it is running, then you have a leak somewhere.
8. Don't throw it out: Use dishwashing water, rinse water from washers (avoid using borax), and air conditioner or dehumidifier condensate to water both indoor and outdoor plants. Washer rinse water will work best for outdoor plants, since the soil bacteria will break down the detergents and bleach.
9. Mulch: Spread organic or inorganic mulch around the edges of lawns, under trees and bushes, on flowerbeds and in gardens to hold in moisture and reduce the need for watering.
10. Plant wisely: Plant bushes, trees and other plants that are native to your area and drought-resistant. Native plants are used to the natural amount of precipitation that occurs in the area and usually don't require any additional watering. While these individual suggestions only save relatively small amounts of water, the cumulative impact of each person conserving up to 40 gallons per day can easily add up to trillions of gallons of water savings annually. In addition, practicing water conservation saves money in user and energy costs. This drought will pass, but we will undoubtedly find ourselves in this situation again. Learning to conserve now will help ensure that future generations have the same resources we do.