Earth Week Day 6: Calculate Your Water Footprint & Reduce It
While 70% of the earth is covered by water, ultimately about only 1% of that water is available for consumptive purposes such as irrigation, drinking, and bathing to supply a growing population of 7 billion people.
Utah is the second driest state in the nation. We use a lot of water for irrigation – both for commercial farms and for watering our landscapes at home. For the average family, two-thirds or 67% of our total home water use is used outdoors – mostly to irrigate lawns and landscape. Accordingly, finding smarter ways to use and conserve water outside is one of the most effective ways to conserve precious water resources and save money on our monthly water bills.
Follow these steps to reduce your outdoor water use.
- It’s April and we’ve had a lot of snow and rain this year. If you’re tempted to start watering, DON’T! As the State’s conservation coordinator for the Division of Water Resources stated in this article, Yellow spots in your yard can actually be caused by too much watering and not enough nutrient uptake.
- Wondering when to start watering? The State has put out this handy guide.
- Don’t kill it with kindness. Over-watering doesn’t help lawns—they are more prone to disease, weeds, and pests when over watered. Check out this lawn watering brochure for more information.
- Check for leaks at the connection points between pipes, hoses, and sprinkler heads. A leak can cause as much as 6,300 gallons of water to be lost each month!
- Timing is everything. Avoid watering during the heat of the day or when it’s windy because water will evaporate before reaching the root systems of plants. What is the ideal time to water? Between the hours of 2 and 6 am, but watering anytime between 10 pm and 8 am is also a good strategy.
- No pressure. Opt for sweeping to clean your driveway and sidewalks over a pressure washer or garden hose. A broom can be just as effective as it’s water-chugging counterparts.
According to the American Water Works Association Research Foundation (AWWARF), average indoor water use nationally is about 70 gallons per person. That water use adds up, too!
Here are some simple ways to use less water indoors:
- Take a short shower instead of a bath. A 5-10 minute shower uses less water than a full bathtub. Also, shower in bursts: get wet, turn off the faucet to lather, and then turn it on again to rinse.
- Wash your dishes the right way. Use a dishwasher if you have one and only run the washer when full. Many new dishwashers have energy and water saving modes – selecting these will save you more of both! Scrape food residue off plates into the garbage before placing in the washer instead of pre-rinsing in the sink.
- Launder less. Check your clothing for signs of wear after each use – often times your clothes aren’t dirty enough to require a launder. Pants, sweaters, shirts worn over other shirts, and skirts are examples of clothes that can stand multiple wears before washing.
Upgrade your appliances. When it DOES come time to replace your aging unit, buy the most energy/water efficient model you can. The price premium you pay for a high-efficiency model will quickly pay for itself in water and electricity savings. To learn more about high-efficiency appliances, visit https://www3.epa.gov/watersense.
Don’t forget about your “virtual water” footprint, which is all the water that goes into producing the food you eat, the energy you use, and the products you buy. Even though you can’t see it and don’t pay for it directly, this portion of many people’s water footprint is the largest!
You can lower your virtual water footprint with these steps:
- Eat less meat. One cheeseburger requires 698.5 gallons of water to produce! In general, fresh fruits and vegetables are much less water-intensive to produce than animal products.
- Minimize your energy consumption. Drive less, weatherize your home properly, and switch to energy-efficient fixtures. Visit this page for tons of ideas on how to reduce your household energy use.
- Recycle. Recycling gives new life to plastic, paper, glass, metal, and more, avoiding the water that would be needed to produce these products from scratch.