Learning to Conserve Water Now Helps Prepare You For Drought

In 1979’s The Muppet Movie, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew showed off one of the most brilliant water-saving devices ever devised: a “musical rotating rain barrel.” Think of it: simultaneous conservation and outdoor entertainment.

The western ghost town where he’d set up shop was a good place for it. Of the ten states with the highest per capita water use, nine are in the west. The main reason: landscape irrigation. In western states, which see less rainfall, residential water use averages almost 130 gallons per person per day. In the rest of the United States, residential water use averages about 89 gallons per person per day.

So, in the west, the easiest way to conserve water is to water less. Lawns only need about a half inch of water per week and less in the autumn and winter. If water’s running down the gutter, you’re using too much. Ready.gov has more tips for landscape watering, including planting drought-tolerant plants and grouping plants together based on how much water they use.


Conserve Water - via American Water Works Association Research Foundation


A dripping tap showing water being wasted - conserve water

The next-easiest way to reduce water use is to repair leaks.

“One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year,” ready.gov said.

Often, the repair is as easy as replacing a washer in the faucet. Also check plumbing for leaks and have a plumber repair them.

The next step to reduce water use is to monitor indoor water use. The average family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. About 70 percent is used indoors.

The largest indoor uses are flushing the toilet and bathing, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Most new toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush. Older models use about 4 gallons. Either model uses more if it leaks. If you hear water running between flushes, check for a leak. It may be as simple as a loose-fitting stopper in the tank, a truly easy fix. My husband, who is not at all mechanically inclined, recently replaced the stopper in our toilet. It took him about 20 minutes and cost less than $12.

Faucet - conserve waterLook closely on a faucet or shower head. It will say a number, like 1.0 gpm or 1.5 gpm. That’s the maximum flow – 1 gallon per minute, for example.

Old show heads allow flow of up to 5 gallons of water per minute. Water-saving shower heads use about 2 gallons per minute, according to the USGS. To save water, replace old shower heads with water-saving ones and take a shorter shower. Also, a full tub of water averages about 36 gallons of water, so take a shower instead of a bath.

If you have a dishwasher, use it. New dishwashers use 6 gallons of water per cycle, while old ones use 16 gallons. But hand washing dishes uses between 8 and 27 gallons of water, according to the USGS. Either way, scrape food off dishes into the trash. Kitchen sink disposals use a lot of water to run correctly.

Run full clothes washer loads. Even new, efficient washers use 25 gallons per load. An older washer might use 40 gallons per load.

The United Nations estimates that in 15 years, at the current rate of usage, the world’s fresh water supply could be 40 percent less than what people need. Parts of the U.S., especially in the west, are in drought now. Others, like Flint, Mich., must deal with human-caused water shortages. The best way to prepare for water shortages is to conserve water beforehand, said ready.gov.

“If we plan for drought, then we can enjoy the benefits of normal or rainy years and not get caught unprepared in dry years,” the site said.


Drought conserve water

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