Water is one of the elements necessary for survival. Apart from humans, all living things need liquid water to function properly. An average human can survive up to three weeks without food – up to a week if a person has limited body movement – but can only survive three to four days without water. This is because at least 60 percent of the body is made of water, and every cell in the body needs water to function.
And yet, while more affordable compared to unnecessary luxuries, we aren’t treating our waters with care. Our waters are polluted every day, while clean water is wasted. In other countries, clean water is rare, and thousands of people get sick or die from water diseases or dehydration. We’re lucky to be in a country that has access to clean water, but how much of it are we really using? And can we do anything to decrease our daily consumption?
How Much Water Are We Using?
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Geological Survey, it may vary between several factors, but the rough average is that each person uses 80 to 100 gallons of water every day. This includes our daily water drinking intake, our bathroom activities, and activities that require water such as cooking or watering the plants.
Naturally, there are factors that affect the average. You could be using more water to water your plants if you live a state like California or Texas compared to states such as Washington and Alaska. You could also have more plants to water if you live in a traditional home with a lawn compared to living in a condominium with potted plants.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the average American family uses roughly 300 gallons of water, 70 percent of which is used indoors. They estimate an individual usage of 88 gallons a day, within the same range as the U.S. Geological Survey’s findings. Given that we’re advised to drink eight glasses of water a day, and the average glass is around 8 ounces, we’re drinking about half a gallon of water every day.
A full bathtub uses around 36 gallons of water, consuming a lot more than people who take showers. However, old showers use up to five gallons of water every minute. Brushing your teeth, washing your face, scrubbing your hands, or shaving while leaving the faucet is running can cost you at least one gallon.
In the kitchen, you could be using around 8 to 27 gallons of water by handwashing dishes, depending on the number of dishes you’re washing and how efficient you are at saving water. If you use a dishwasher, that will be around 6 to 16 gallons, depending on how much water your machine uses.
Outdoors, depending on the hose and faucet you use, you could be using two gallons of water every minute you are watering. The total amount used depends on how big your garden is and how efficiently you can water it.
How to Decrease Water Consumption
In times of drought or water crises, local governments are trying to promote water conservation. For example, Water agencies in Atlanta, Georgie offer rebates for water-efficient toilet systems, since each flush consumes three to four gallons of water (new toilets use 1.6 gallons). Other local governments regulate the kind of water fixtures used and only allow a certain amount of water flow per minute.
But if you want to continue conserving water, here are some ways you can decrease consumption (and can help you decrease your water bill!):
Fix Your Water Leaks
A drop of water may seem like a small and insignificant amount but drops of water could accumulated into perfectly good water that could have been used for another purpose. A leaky toilet can waste about 200 gallons a day per household. An average house with leaks could be wasting 10,000 gallons a year, or around 27 gallons a day, but the EPA estimates around 90 gallons or more for at least 10 percent of homes in the United States. This is enough to wash 270 loads of laundry.
By addressing all leaks, you are making sure each drop of water goes accounted for and is put to good use. Check your toilets, faucets, valves, and other exposed pipes. This could also save you around 10 percent on water bills.
Take Shorter Showers
Showers consume two to five gallons every minute. Instead of standing in the shower for a long time doing nothing (and we’re all guilty of doing this every now and then), being focused on cleaning yourself and turning the shower off when we’re scrubbing or applying shampoo or soap can shorten the time we take and the water we consume to get clean.
Install a rain barrel
Depending on how strong the rain is, you could collect rain water by having a rain barrel in your backyard. Some people install their barrels at the bottom of their roof drain pipes, but I don’t like the water mixing with the dirt and debris on the roof. I keep mine close to the back door.
Ever wondered why your car is dirty after it rains, or car owners get upset when it rains right after they get their car washed? It’s because the first rain drops are full of the dirty water that got evaporated and it picks up even more residue from the air on its way down. You wouldn’t use your rain water to drink, wash dishes, or take a bath, but I wait for five minutes before opening my barrel to keep the water I store as clean as possible. I use this water to water my plants and clean the floor. Also, make sure you cover your barrel once it’s filled with water to avoid mosquito contamination.
Upgrade Your Water Fixtures
Old fixtures don’t really have conservation in mind, which is why it uses more water. Older fixtures in your home may also be already worn down, cracked, or leaking. Some newer fixtures, on the other hand, promote water conservation, less water use, or are made of stronger materials that can prevent leaks.
If you live in an old house, you might want to consider replacing your water fixtures to newer ones. This is to ensure none of your fixtures are damaged and wasting a lot of water, and you get to use less water for many activities. Flushing, for example, could cost less water, while some shower heads make less water feel like high pressure due to the way it’s built.
Conserving water is an active decision, but it’s a task you can do to save on clean water resources. By changing the way you handle water and making sure none of it goes to waste, you are saving a valuable resource and helping prevent wastage.