8 Water Facts and 8 Tips For Saving Water Outdoors by Harriet Sugarman, Climatemama.com
The headlines and sound bits from thousands of media sources are blasting out at us and hard to ignore: hottest decade, month and day on record, crazy storms, devastating fires and floods – mind numbing. Our Climate Mamas and Papas see what climate change looks like at our homes, in our communities, at our parks, lakes, and beaches – but what’s a parent to do? Practically, what are some of the lessons we are learning and plans of action we can put into practice? How do we show our children and share with them that we are working to adapt to our new “normal” and mitigate the changes we see and feel before things get significantly worse? For us at ClimateMama, breaking it down into “bite size” pieces makes things easier to manage and put into practice.
One place to start that isn’t too difficult and is something many of us take for granted is our access and use of water. Begin by grabbing the kids in your life and sharing some interesting water facts with them. Then sit down together and develop a family water use plan! Not only can this directly help your family, your community and the world by managing a scarce natural resource, but it can also directly help your family save money too.
8 Water Facts:
1. 2005-2015 has been established by the United Nations as the “Water for Life International Decade for Action” with an ambitious agenda for a greater focus on water- related issues.
2. Only about 3% of the water on earth is fresh water and approximately 2% of that water is stored in glaciers, snow and ice. So, only about 1% of fresh water on earth is readily available for our daily water supply use. Yet if you are like our family and many of our friends, water still seems like an infinite resource, one that is only a “turn of the tap,” or a flush of the toilet away.
3. According to the UN, around 1.2 billion people live with water scarcity as a daily part of their lives, and many people in developing countries regularly walk on average 6 kilometers daily to get the water they need to sustain them.
4. The human body is more than 60 percent water. Blood is 92 percent water, the brain and muscles are 75 percent water, and bones are about 22 percent water.
5. A human can survive for a month or more without eating food, but only a week or so without drinking water.
6. According to the EPA, the average family of 4 in the United States uses 400 gallons of water EVERY day. You could take up to 10 baths with that much water. So, we in the US certainly have “room to save” when we are discussing water use!
7. WaterSense tells us that it takes a considerable amount of energy to deliver and treat the water you use every day. For example, letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours.
8. The US Department of Defense has identified Climate change and it’s impact on water supplies as key issues of national security.
For so many reasons, including the 8 above, we need to think more about where our water comes from and how we are using it. A great resource on “ways to use water safely and wisely” is WaterSense a partnership program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which looks at ways to protect the future of the US water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, information, tips and services.
Many of us our familiar with Energy Star, another EPA program which works to make our energy use more efficient. WaterSense works in a similar way by making us more “water wise.” WaterSense focuses on water-using products and services that don’t require energy to run, solely focusing on their water-efficient properties.
According to WaterSense, the average US household spends over $700 per year on its water and sewer bill. By making just a few simple changes to use water more efficiently, you could save about $200 per year. Also, when we use water more efficiently, we reduce the need for costly investments in water treatment and delivery systems.
As temperatures continue to soar and we work to balance our outdoor water use with keeping our gardens and lawns healthy, consider these 8 tips from WaterSense for Saving Water Outdoors:
1. Timing is everything: Know how much water your landscape actually needs before you set your sprinkler. Your local utility or garden center can recommend how much water certain plants need in your region and best times to water. It’s best to water lawns and landscapes in the early morning and late evening because large amounts of water can be lost due to evaporation during the heat of the day.
2. Look for the label: If your irrigation system uses a clock timer, consider upgrading to a WaterSense labeled controller. WaterSense labeled irrigation controllers act like a thermostat for your lawn, using local weather data to determine when and how much to water, which reduces waste and improves plant health!
3. Go with a pro: Contractors certified through a WaterSense labeled program can audit, install, or maintain home irrigation systems to ensure water isn’t wasted. Make sure you ask for credentials.
4. Tune up your system: Inspect irrigation systems and check for leaks and broken or clogged sprinkler heads. Fix sprinkler heads that are broken or spraying on the sidewalk, street, or driveway.
5. Play zone defense: When planting, assign areas of your landscape to different hydro zones depending on sun/shade exposure, soil and plant types, and type of sprinklers, then adjust your irrigation system or watering schedule based on those zones’ specific needs. This helps you avoid overwatering some areas or under watering others.
Even if your home doesn’t have a sprinkler/irrigation system, there are a number of simple steps you can take to promote a healthier lawn and garden with less water this summer:
6. Step on it: Grass doesn’t always need water just because it’s hot out. Step on the lawn, and if the grass springs back, it doesn’t need water. An inexpensive soil moisture sensor can also show the amount of moisture at the plant’s roots and discourage overwatering.
7. Leave it long: Raise your lawn mower blade. Longer grass promotes deeper root growth, resulting in a more drought-resistant lawn, reduced evaporation, and fewer weeds.
8. Give your hose a break: Sweep driveways, sidewalks, and steps rather than hosing them off. And don’t forget to check for leaks at your spigot connection and tighten as necessary.
For more tips on reducing outdoor water use, visit WaterSense Outdoor.