With heat advisories, drought, wildfires, and flooding ravaging our country and the world, you may wonder why we should be concerned about conserving water in our “neck of the woods.“ After all, we are experiencing record rainfall events and averages in Kentucky. Well, let’s take a look at the bigger picture.
While water covers 71 percent of the earth’s surface, only around 3 percent is freshwater, and of that, only 1.2 percent is potable or drinkable. We learned in science class that water IS a renewable resource and recirculates through the water cycle. But if one part of the cycle – such as groundwater, a drinking water source for many Kentuckians – is depleted or contaminated, it may take thousands of years to recover. This creates water shortages. And today, extreme weather events from our quickly changing climate are a major contributing factor. Thus, the need for everyone to conserve water.
Here are some ways you can conserve in your home.
¨ Don’t pre-rinse dishes before placing in the dishwasher. Let the machine do the work. If you must pre-rinse, fill an appropriate size container with just enough water for rinsing.
¨ When starting your shower and waiting for the water to warm, catch the cold water in a pan or bucket to water your plants. (Thanks to Vicki Lea for this recommendation.)
¨ Reduce your shower time by 1 minute and save more than 1,600 gallons of water per year. Better yet, take a “Navy shower” and save 15,000 gallons per year. Turn on the water long enough to get wet, turn it off to shampoo and lather, and turn it back on to rinse.
¨ When brushing your teeth, wet the toothbrush and turn off the water while brushing. This will save gallons.
¨ Check your plumbing for leaks. Use leak detection tablets or a drop or two of food coloring in your commode tank to detect leaks. Replace the washer if your faucet drips.
¨ Catch water in a rain barrel or bucket to use to wash your car or water your plants or garden.
¨ Reduce your food waste. It takes a lot of water to produce crops, and it is estimated that around 30-40 percent of all food in the U.S. is wasted. Plan your meals and use leftovers.
¨ Eat less meat. Raising and processing beef uses an abundance of water. It is estimated that it takes over 900 gallons of water to produce one 8-ounce beef steak, enough to fill 44 bathtubs. That’s a huge water savings if you eat just one less beef steak per year. Think of the savings per month or week. Also, much of the water used in beef production is for feed crops. Consider buying locally raised, grass-fed beef to reduce water usage.
Visit waterfootprint.org to learn how much water is used to produce fruit, vegetable and meat products.
A tip for those who are canning fruits and vegetables: Reuse water. The heated water used to dip tomatoes or other fruits/veggies in for easy peeling can be used for the water-bath or pressure canner. Just add a small amount of vinegar prior to canning.
While we seem to have an abundance of drinking water today, we may suffer from drought tomorrow. Let’s be vigilant today for the future. After all, our children are watching and learning from our actions!
For more information and to teach children about water conservation with games and videos, visit