By Scott Keeler
Perhaps our most vital commodity also might be the one most taken for granted. Water is such a basic part of our everyday lives it’s easy to not give it a second thought.
Until it’s gone.
When you turn on the kitchen faucet and nothing comes out, panic typically ensues. Your mind could start racing with thoughts of whether or not you remembered to pay the bill or if a pipe busted somewhere.
But what if it’s none of those things. What if we simply run out of water someday? Don’t worry, this isn’t a fear-mongering column predicting doom, but there is a growing global water shortage. Just because something is unlikely to happen in our lifetime here in the United States, it doesn’t mean we can’t try to make thinking about conserving water the new norm.
While 70 percent of Earth is water, it’s mostly saltwater. The human population growth track over the next 50 years will only put additional pressure on a shrinking supply of fresh water.
Why save water?
The simple answer is why waste anything? Water is easy to waste in a variety of ways. Some facts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
- Americans use an average 88 gallons of water a day at home. The majority of that can be traced to the toilet. Older toilets use anywhere from 3.5 to 7 gallons of water per flush, while newer and high-efficiency toilets average 1.28 to 1.6 gallons per flush.
- The average family can waste 180 gallons of water each week, or 9,360 gallons of water per year, on household leaks. That’s enough water for more than 300 loads of laundry. Leaks can waste nearly 900 billion gallons of water each year nationwide. That total would be enough to provide the average amount of water usage for nearly 11 million homes.
- Running a faucet for five minutes while washing dishes can waste 10 gallons of water and use enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 18 hours.
- Outdoor water use accounts for an average of more than 30 percent of total household usage. Watering an average size lawn in the U.S. for 20 minutes every day for a week is the equivalent of taking more than 800 showers in a week. As much as half of the water used outdoors is lost to wind, evaporation or over-watering resulting in a runoff due to inefficient irrigation systems.
In addition to helping the environment, conserving water can also help your bank account. The average household spends more than $1,000 per year in water costs. Upgrading fixtures with WaterSense and Energy Star appliances can save families more than $380 annually.
While maybe not as well known, WaterSense is a sibling of the Energy Star program. The EPA introduced WaterSense in 2006. It’s a partnership with businesses designed to encourage the creation, sale and installation of products that are at least 20 percent more efficient in using water than previous product lines.
How to save water
Retrofitting, the addition of new technology to older systems, fixtures in your home is an ideal way to save water and save money. Common types of retrofits for water conservation include faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads. The EPA estimates that just installing a low-flow shower head alone can save up to 20,000 gallons of water per year.
If you plan on retrofitting for water conservation, seeking out products with the WaterSense label could be ideal. In addition to toilets, faucets and shower heads, WaterSense can be found on irrigation controllers as well.
The average cost savings with a new, more efficient toilet is $130 a year, while showerheads have an average savings of $70 per year. New faucets can save $250 in water and electricity costs over the lifetime of the faucets. Using a WaterSense labeled sprinkler system can reduce an average home’s irrigation water use by 15 percent.
If a large retrofitting project can’t fit into a tight budget, the overhaul could be completed piece-by-piece over time.
Meanwhile, there are other ways to conserve water as well. Some of those are:
- Showers instead of baths. A five-minute shower uses 10-25 gallons of water, while a soak in a large bathtub uses up to 70 gallons.
- Turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth could save eight gallons of water. Having it off while shaving could save 10 gallons. Brushing twice a day plus five shaves per week with the water off equals 5,700 gallons of water saved per year.
- Having a single dripping faucet fixed can save 3,000 gallons of water per year.
- When it comes to your yard, installing drought-resistant plants reduces the need for watering.
All Clear Plumbing is a family owned and operated business that’s located between Mauldin and Simpsonville, but serves the entire Upstate. All Clear Plumbing is dedicated to excellence in service and quality. For more information, visit ACPupstate.com or call 864-979-7059.