How to be More Water Wise

How to be More Water Wise

March 22 is World Water Day, and one of the best things we can do for the planet, one another, and future generations is to reduce our water consumption. In the spirit of world water day, I’m going to share what I do to reduce my water consumption and pollution.

Laundry

One of the easiest ways to reduce water consumption is to do fewer, larger loads of laundry. Older top-load washing machines use between 30-45 gallons of water per load, and this adds up quickly for a family doing multiple loads a week. Try and reduce the amount of laundry, by wearing clothes more between washes and doing larger loads.

When the time comes to replace your washing machine, try opting for a front-load washer, which uses 15 gallons per load on average, or a high efficiency washer.

Bathroom

There are many ways to reduce water consumption in the bathroom. One of the easiest thing we can do is to bath less frequently, and take shorter showers. If you bathe/shower everyday, try showering every other day instead. A damp washcloth can help keep you fresh between washes.

The second way to reduce water consumption in the bathroom is to let it mellow. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down,” although there’s a bit of a social stigma, practicing this does reduce water consumption through eliminating unnecessary flushes. Although it can’t be done all the time in all situations, letting it mellow when you can does make a difference in the long run.

What goes down the drain is important. My town advises against flushing any medications down the drain, since the water treatment plant cannot filter out medications, which then end up in rivers and streams. Check with your local municipality about what can be safely dumped down the drains, and the less products generally, the better.

If it’s time to replace your faucets or toilets, try and find low-flow replacements. Low-flow faucets and toilets use significantly less water than their normal-flow counterparts, which saves not only water but money.

Buy Less New

Water footprint of some common goods.

Every item purchased has an invisible water footprint. Phones, clothes, food — all of these require water to produce, and a lot of it. By simply buying less items new — and instead choosing to thrift or forego the purchase — you massively reduce water consumption and contribution to water pollution.

Clothes and electronics are some of the worst offenders. As mentioned in The Cost of Being Fashionable, the textile industry not only uses a lot of water, but is the second largest polluter of clean water worldwide — and there are plenty of good alternatives. On top of reducing your water footprint, buying clothing and electronics secondhand is affordable and keeps items out of landfills.

Aside from water footprint, it’s important to think where an item will end up once its job has been fulfilled. Plastic often ends up in our water systems and pollutes the environment. Avoid plastics and other non-biodegradable materials whenever possible, opting for compostable options instead.

Eat Less Meat

1,800 gallons of water is required to produce one pound of beef. In order to produce meat, not only is water needed directly for the animal, but water is required to produce feed for the animal while it grows. Water used to grow feed makes up the largest portion of meat’s water footprint, and by reducing meat consumption you significantly reduce your water footprint.

Plant products are far from equal in terms of water footprint. Water Footprint’s Product Gallery shows the water footprint of different food products, and breaks down the water consumption by green, blue and grey water usage. Grains, pulses and legumes all have relatively low water footprints, and are great to incorporate into one’s diet to reduce water consumption.

Personally, I tend to avoid tropical fruits, meat and almonds, since they are all water intensive are often shipped long distances to get to my pantry (mangoes and almonds don’t grow too well in Canada). Food items I eat often include potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, grains, pulses and legumes, since they have relatively low water footprints.

 

The water footprint of some common food items. Credit to Printage

Water is one of the most important resources we have on this planet, without it, we wouldn’t be here. Although we have oceans full of water, the amount of potable water is far smaller. The world’s population is expected to keep growing, as will the demand for water. If we want to have clean water for ourselves and future generations, we need to conserve what we have now. We all have a part to play, and small acts on a large scale add up.

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