Yesterday I attended a presentation by Mary Ann Dickinson from the Alliance for Water Efficiency. The topic was "How to save water for the future" and her presentation touched on 10 trends in water usage. The presentation made me want to read more about water resources and conservation. Based on the fact that many states are already experiencing drought and that 40 out of 50 our states anticipate a water shortage by 2013, a "no-brainer" approach to improving this situation is striving for water use efficiency.
Some scary numbers:
The EPA estimates that our water infrastructure will require 533 Billion dollars to maintain and upgrade by the year 2020. The recent stimulus package (787 Billion) only budgets 6 Billion for water infrastructure and 2 Billion approved for drinking water. Yikes!
If one considers that the population almost doubled from 1950 to 2000 and the current population is expected to grow by 20% by 2030 (as per census projections) it is easy to see increased stresses on the water infrastructure.
So what can we do?
Promote awareness about water resources:
First, most Americans are unaware that the country has water shortage issues or considers how to be more water conscious. The average water use for an American is about 100 gallons of water per day per person. By comparison, the average Australian's water usage is 36 gallons per day per person. (Australia has been in drought conditions for the past 12 years and their education about drought has changed their attitude and behavior about conserving water and has resulted in a reduced per capita consumption of water.)
Save money and make an immediate impact on water resources by implementing a conservation program:
Implementing a conservation program is much more cost effective than upgrading and building new infrastructure. New infrastructure is built to meet peak demand which may only be needed 5 or 6 days per year. An easier way to make a bigger impact in a shorter period of time is by implementing a conservation plan.
Educate consumers about water efficient appliances, fixtures and water saving methods:
WaterSense is a new program sponsored by the EPA and promotes high efficiency water appliances such as toilets, shower heads, lawn irrigation equipment. These appliances are proven to have a 20% increased efficiency.
Monitor unmanaged residential outdoor water usage. This is a big one because lawn watering accounts for about 30% of residential water usage. EPA keeps a list of WaterSense partners by state that are certified in water-efficient irrigation technology and techniques. Did you know? Watering your lawn 7 times a week for 30 minutes each time will use 113 gallons of water per week or 452 gallons of water per month. Calculate your water usage here.
Charge more for water: Water is too cheap. Some communities such as Marin County, California (a community that has been in and anticipates long term drought) is imposing a multi-tiered pricing based on water usage. (Here is the rate chart) Starting on May 5, 2009, water used for basic living will be charged at a small increase, while water used for discretionary purposes will be subject to a larger increase. The funds raised by the increase will be used to update the delivery system and improve system efficiencies.
Native Plants are the way to go:
Consider planting plants that are native to your geographical area. They are well suited to grow in your area and most times will require less water. Here is a link to a chart of plants native to Westchester County, NY. (I personally think this is the coolest brochure - it even details the wildlife value for each native plant!)
The Domino effect: Use less water, reduce energy costs and reduce carbon foot print.
It is important to note that Water usage and Energy consumption are related. By maximizing residential and commercial usage efficiency, we reduce water usage, which reduces energy used to treat water, which in turn reduces energy bills, which ultimately reduces our carbon footprint. Also important to consider is timing water treatment to take advantage of cheaper off-peak energy costs.
Other methods to reduce water usage include: promoting green building practices, harvesting rain water and implementing gray water systems.
Since more severe water shortages are anticipated across the country in the near future, it is important that we promote and implement water saving techniques and technologies now. Most of the above opportunities are low cost to implement and will have an immediate and measurable impact on our water resources.