Back in January, California governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in his state, appealing to citizens to lower their water consumption by 20%.
Fast forward 6 months to see that residents have trimmed their water usage by…a paltry 5%. The epidemic is so severe that California lawmakers just approved fines up to $500 for wasting water. Yet throughout the state, sprinklers are still being set and cars are still being washed.
Sadly, it’s a common tale, and not just in California. It’s not that residents intentionally turn a deaf ear, oftentimes, it’s that they don’t think their usage is significant enough to make an impact or don’t know what changes to make or how.
But experts warn that a scarcity crisis could occur if Americans don’t change how they use water. And a recent paper published by the PNAS showed that Americans use twice the amount of water than they think they do, further solidifying the fact that many of us have misconceptions about our own water use.
Our water usage statistics are shocking. Americans use around 99 gallons of water a day, and the electricity used to power other activities adds up to be an additional 250 gallons a day. This pie chart from the EPA breaks down exactly how we’re using water:
On a legislative level, cities and states need to reevaluate how they use water. Orlando, Florida, recognized that they would need increased water services to meet the needs of farmers as well as corporations, so they expanded wastewater treatment. Their integrated water reclamation program provides reclaimed water for crop irrigation. In Texas, grants are being administered for desalination, aquifer storage and recovery, and rainwater harvesting. And Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas and Los Angeles—all cities which get their water from the Colorado River—are piloting a program that pays farmers, industries and municipalities for decreasing usage.
This interview from NPR showcases a high-tech solution happening in the Silicon Valley, using state-of-the art water filtration. The interesting approach? The water comes from a wastewater treatment plant from across the street. This recycled water won’t be for consumption, however, but for other uses.
What Can I Do Now?
Many believe that it’s out-of-the-box thinking that can stave off a crisis. So, in addition to supporting legislature that would support innovative conservation efforts, what are some creative ways we can save water on an everyday basis?
- Make it a habit to never pour water down the drain. Instead, use it to fill dog’s bowls or water plants.
- Lower your home’s water pressure. A family of four can save about 20,000 gallons of water per year if they replace their showerheads with 4.5 gallon a minute models.
- Try low-flush toilets. Toilets alone account for 40% of our indoor water use. Low-flush toilets only use 1.6 gallons of water or less, compared to conventional models which use up to 5 gallons.
- Only run your dishwasher when it’s full.
- Water your lawn as little as possible. When you do, do so in the early morning hours to avoid evaporation.
- Find a car wash that uses recycled water. A 10-minute car wash uses about 100 gallons of water, so finding a spot that’s committed to conservation makes a difference.
When it comes to conserving water on day-to-day level, think small. Small changes, that is, that can lead to a big overall impact.