About 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by water and yet, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that it “will be the biggest environmental issue of the 21st century, in terms of both quantity and quality.” When talking about water availability, most people would think of drinking water. While this is vital, water is also used in numerous other everyday activities. Agriculture accounts for 65% of global fresh water withdrawals (www.theenvironmentalhandbook.com). In addition, the average person in the U.S. uses 98 gallons of water per day for domestic uses, which includes drinking, bathing, cooking, washing clothes and dishes, flushing toilets, watering lawns, and washing cars. Although water usage is a big issue, there are some steps that the everyday person can take to help the cause:
- 1)Consciously monitor your personal water usage: This is perhaps the simplest and most obvious tip I could give. Leaving the sink running, whether it’s brushing your teeth or doing the dishes, is very easily avoidable. Turning the faucet off will save both water and money and is extremely easy to do. A typical, 5-minute shower can use 20-50 liters of water. A way around this is to purchase a “water saver” showerhead, which only uses approximately 7.5 liters in 5 minutes (www.theenvironmentalhandbook.com).
- 2)Volunteer clean up: in today’s industrial society, water pollution is certainly prevalent; however, it can be significantly reduced. One way to do this is to avoid excessive use of household cleaners and other harmful chemicals. Chemicals that are drained often end up in our creeks, rivers, and eventually oceans and are hazardous to fish and other aquaculture in addition to humans. Instead, use baking soda to clean your kitchens and bathrooms. Another treatment would be to volunteer and participate in creek cleanups. A tremendous amount of trash finds its way to creeks and beaches. Both litter prevention and contributing to clean up your local water sources are simple remedies for water pollution.
- 3)Greywater system: this is a plumbing mechanism that can be installed in a household or building that separates blackwater from greywater. Blackwater consists of kitchen sink and toilet drainage; this water goes straight to the sewer and then to your local water reclamation facility for intense treatment. Greywater consists of anything drained from your bathroom sink, shower/bath, and laundry. This system takes the greywater, recycles it, and pumps it elsewhere; mostly used to water lawns, gardens, and to wash cars. Although installation and parts cost $1,000-$3,500, 50% of your household water usage will be reused and you will save an average of $300 a year in water bills (www.greywatercorps.com/faqs01.html). It saves a lot of water, it is better for the environment, and it will save you money in the long run.
While a greywater system may be less attainable then the first two tips, it is still important to be aware of how much water you use and of what you are putting down the drain. Remember, every little bit helps. Join the cause, help the environment, and save yourself some money!
Aaron Presberg is a 3rd year Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student with a concentration in Environmental Studies and Sustainability.