Water Conservation on Earth

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glass of water

(image: Vinod Shankar)

Water is our planet’s most important resource. Here are some ways to keep water conservation a down-to-earth activity.

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As World Water Day approached on March 22nd, this tidbit came across my desk. I didn’t think much of it, because I love science, and the universe fascinates me. I was eager to read about the underground ocean discovered on one of Jupiter’s moons.

I thought this would be about colonizing other planets (which I am opposed to), but in the same nanosecond as that thought, I envisioned massive structures that had to be heated for life to be sustained. I knew it was too cold, but I read on about the process that was used to detect subsurface water so far away. Fascinating!

At the end, however, the author wondered if we should harvest Ganymede’s water when we have used up or polluted all that Earth has to offer. What?! What?!

Water use at home

Instead of the expense of exploration and transport, which would make a cup of coffee cost $100 (not putting inflation into the equation), why don’t we force the issue of water conservation at home? By the time anyone harvests any water from any other planet, moon or asteroid, it will be too late anyway.

Saving water at home is not expensive. It’s a good investment, because you also save on your water bill and the energy it takes to heat it. It’s a big win! Much of these are DIY projects, too.

Easy water conservation habits at home

Clean water going down the drain is wasted. The smallest drip wastes a lot of water. Repair can be as simple as tightening a screw on a handle or replacing a gasket. Even if you have to replace a fixture, it’s still inexpensive and easy to do. New fixtures should be water-saving, too. Do I really need to say that? Otherwise:

  • Fix leaks.
  • Turn off the water off when brushing your teeth or washing up.
  • Keep cold water in the fridge instead of letting it run until it’s cold.
  • The same goes for hot water. Save the water you run waiting for it to get hot, say for a shower. Put a bucket under the flow, and use that water elsewhere – watering the garden or flushing the toilet.
  • Do not install a disposal in the kitchen sink. If you have one, don’t use it. Compost the things you grind in there.
  • Take short showers. Water not used for washing is wasted.
  • New toilets are all water savers now. If you have an old one, replace it.
  • Consider a dual flush toilet that allows you to choose how much water to use for flushing.
  • If you can’t afford a new toilet, displace the water in the tank. Place a plastic bottle filled with water in the tank, keeping it away from the mechanism that flushes it. You may have room for two bottles.

Water catchment

Water Harvesting RainbarrelsI have seen off-grid homes that rely on rainwater for all domestic use. It can be done! Capture roof water in cisterns. Pump it into the house through a series of filters, and into a tank for use. Test this water regularly to be sure it is safe.

Drip irrigate vegetable gardens and fruit trees from cisterns or water barrels. They come with a spigot on the bottom to attach a hose.

Greywater from sinks, the shower, and the washing machine can be piped out to the yard to water landscaping trees and shrubs. Use non-toxic soaps for washing. Don’t use greywater on plants that produce food.

Indirect water conservation

No matter where you conserve, you’ll save water. Just about everything we use on a daily basis needs water for manufacture, transport or distribution. A simple lifestyle saves water around the world.

Whenever you buy something new, you create demand for more to be produced. Buy second hand whenever possible. Textiles take an enormous amount of water to make. Cotton is the most water intensive crop on the planet, so buying a used t-shirt saves resources.

Recycled furniture and paper save the felling of trees and the water used to produce finished products. Old wooden furniture is durable so you won’t have to replace it as often as something from man-made materials. Paper mills not only use a lot of water, they pollute it, too.

Reuse whatever you can in your home. Plastic tubs and glass jars can be used for storage, instead of buying storage containers new. Upcycle clothes into quilts or curtains. Your creativity can take a rickety dresser and turn it into a planter. Anytime you avoid the purchase of something new, you are saving water.

Hemp and bamboo

Look for products of plant-based materials. Hemp and bamboo make beautiful textiles, paper and furniture. Both of these plants use much less water than cotton. Growing them locally cuts down on transport.

Hemp was the raw material before plastic took its place. Push for the legalization of industrial hemp growing and manufacturing in your state. Hemp can be made into textiles, building materials, cosmetics, medicine, paper, rope, and fuel. Imagine how much water would be saved if everything were made of hemp like the old days!

Do your part. Let’s first take responsibility here on Earth before harvesting water from almost 400,000,000 miles away. What a waste of water!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.