Climate change and the natural variability of water’s distribution and occurrence are natural driving forces that, when combined with the pressures from economic growth and major population change, make the sustainable development of our global water resources a challenge.
A lot of people believe that the majority of water we use comes out of our tap. What we save at home represents only a small fraction of the water conservation possible.
This water conservation toolkit will explain why your choices matter and how you can help avert the global water crises.
Clean, safe drinking water is scarce
- 70% of the world’s surface is covered by water, 97.5% of that is saltwater.
- Of the 2.5% of that is freshwater, almost 68.7% is frozen in ice caps and glaciers.
- This means that only 1% of the total water resources on earth are available for human use.
As a result, today, there are an estimated 1 billion people worldwide without access to water and 2.7 billion people without adequate sanitation. For those of us living in these affected Countries, this situation is serious but, what about the rest of us? What about if you live in a Country where it rains all the time and you have access to water 24 hours a day?
Does this issue affect you?
The simple answer is YES because now, we live in a connected world. What you buy and the food you eat has a dramatic impact on water conservation around the world. Climate change is also altering patterns of weather and water around the world, causing shortages and droughts in some areas and floods in others. Today, it is not as simple as turning off the tap after you brush your teeth, we need to consider also the impact of our lifestyles.
Every year, our water resources are depleted due to increases in pollution, population, consumption of meats and other foods and an ever-increasing demand for resources.
We need to make more responsible decisions about water conservation.
Water Footprint Calculators
The water footprint is a measure of humanity’s appropriation of fresh water in volumes of water consumed and/or polluted. These Country specific calculators will not only highlight your water usage but the UK nd USA versions will also provide many examples of how to increase your water conservation.
- Australia – Water Footprint Network Quick version and extended version
- Taiwan and International – Water Footprint Network Quick version and extended version
- UK – Save Water Save Money (Including water saving tips)
- USA – Grace Communication Foundation (Including water saving tips)
There is also a free water footprint assessment tool, that provides clear insight into how water is appropriated for human uses and the impacts resulting from those uses.
Saving Water At Home
Our daily activities at home account for around 12% of total water usage in the world. We can have a tremendous impact on local water conservation by making a few changes at home. These changes will, quite often, save money as well.
Being clean is important but there are a lot of things we can do to increase water conservation without compromising our hygiene.
- Find a friend or two and share your showers 😉
- Don’t use the toilet to flush garbage – Use the bin
- Install water saving shower heads and taps – These products clean just as effectively using up to 90% less water
- Take shorter showers – Every minute in the shower is up to 4 litres of water wasted
- Don’t run the tap during washing, brushing your teeth or shaving.
- Make sure to use a 2 flush toilet – Longer flushes only for number 2’s!
- Plug the bath from the beginning. Once the water runs warm it will eventually heat it all up
- Don’t wash your towels every time. Once a week is fine and if they start to smell just hang them in the sun and they will be fresh again
- Check for leaks – Simple things like this can waste 5 litres or more a day
- Use full loads for dish and clothes washing – If there isn’t enough for a full load use the half load setting
- When peeling vegetables turn off the tap
- Eat less meat – Eating meat, especially beef and lamb, uses a tremendous amount of water
- When replacing washing machines and dishwashers make sure to install water efficient ones
- Soak food first – It makes it so much easier to clean after
- Line drying – If it is not raining, hang your clothes up
- Collect water in a sink bowl during washing up so you can use it for watering the plants later
- Plant native drought-resistant lawns, shrubs and plants – Try selecting varieties that are native as these will reduce the amount of effort needed to tend them
- Mulch – A layer of mulch around your plants not only prevents water evaporating but will soak up any rainfall much better.
- Water the garden late in the day – This will reduce the amount of evaporation from the hot sun and give time for the water to soak into the ground
- Sweep your driveways – Don’t use the hose!
- Install a gray water or rain catchment system, or both – You can use this waste water for all outdoor watering, guilt free.
- Irrigation – Correctly done, irrigation is much more efficient than hand watering
- Check for leaks – Did we say this already?
- Car – Don’t wash it at home. Go to a car wash that uses recycled water instead.
The Impact of Food on Water Conservation
Agriculture accounts for around 69% of total water usage in the world. Choosing what you eat is perhaps the most important decision you can make, in the fight for water conservation.
Global animal production requires about 2422 Gm 3 of water per year (87.2% green, 6.2% blue, 6.6% grey water). One-third of this volume is for the beef cattle sector; another 19% for the dairy cattle sector. Most of the total volume of water (98%) refers to the water footprint of the feed for the animals. Drinking water for the animals, service water and feed mixing water account only for 1.1%, 0.8% and 0.03%, respectively.
The Things We Buy
The things we buy make up the remaining 19% of the water we use.
It is difficult to know exactly how much water is used for each product. It will depend on the company who makes it, where they are located and the methods they use.
Unfortunately, there is no simple way of knowing which products are better than others? However, there are a couple of things that can help us with our decision.
- Buy less – It goes without saying that if you buy less your water footprint will be reduced.
- You can check online to see if the company is a member of the Alliance for Water Stewardship or one of it’s affiliates.