Water use has soared to all time highs in recent years. In many parts of the United States, limited drinking water supplies have made water conservation practices mandatory. With water consumption rising sharply, the cost of water and sewer service also continue to climb. There is good news, however. Widespread reductions in water consumption could reduce the need for new or expanded water and sewage treatment plants.
According to the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Alliance for the Chesapeake
Bay (1993), only about 4 of the estimated 100 gallons of water each person
uses daily is actually necessary. Home water usage can be easily reduced
15 to 20 percent without major discomfort by implementing a water conservation program. Municipalities should establish public education and outreach programs to show homeowners how minor changes in water use habits can translate into smaller water and sewage bills.
Municipalities can help homeowners conserve water through community
education efforts. For example, a municipality can establish a
Check For Leaks program that teaches homeowners how to spot leaking
faucets, toilets, hoses, and pipes. A
leak as small as a 1/32-inch can waste
approximately 6,000 gallons of water per month. A continuous drip from a faucet
wastes about 20 gallons of water per day. Toilet leaks are usually silent, but they
waste up to 200 gallons of water each day. Recommend that homeowners check
water meters when no water is being used. For example, they can record the
number on the meter prior to leaving for a trip and then check the meter again
when they return.
Also, the position of the meter's needle can be marked and checked. If the
needle moves or the values change, there may be a leak. Municipalities should
emphasize to homeowners the benefits of this type of
program, benefits such as lower water utility bills and reduced municipal costs for
sewers and wastewater treatment.
Emphasize the importance of repairing leaks immediately upon detection. A Check For
Leaks program can be advertised in a utility insert, community newsletter, or
mass mailing campaign.
Municipalities can encourage good water-use habits by informing citizens
of daily activities that consume large volumes of water. Some recommended water conservation
- Run the dishwasher and
laundry machines only with full loads. Use the shortest wash and rinse
cycles and the lowest water level setting possible. Avoid the permanent
press cycle, which uses an additional 10 to 20 gallons of water.
- When hand-washing dishes, do
not let the water run continuously.
- Avoid using garbage disposal
- When buying a new washing
machine, choose a suds-saver model.
- In the bathrooms, place two
half-gallon plastic bottles filled with water in the toilet tank to reduce
the amount of flush water used.
- Take shorter showers and use
a water-conserving showerhead (less than 2.5 gallons per minute) rather
than taking baths, which use 30 to 50 gallons of water.
- When shaving, brushing teeth,
or washing your face, do not let the water run continuously.
- Use a
bucket when washing your car, and wash and rinse sections individually. Use a high-pressure,
low-volume hose with a nozzle.
- Water the lawn only when
absolutely necessary. More water is consumed using sprinkler and
irrigation systems than if a hand-held hose is used (International Turf
Producers Foundation, no date). (Trickle irrigation systems and soaker hoses are 20 percent more
efficient than sprinklers.)
- Water lawns only during the
coolest time of day to avoid evaporation of the water.
The following are example programs developed by municipalities:
- The Maryland Department of the Environment has created water conserving tips for
business and industry, households, and water utilities. .
- The City of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has developed incentive programs to encourage
the public to conserve water. They offer a rebate of up to $125 per toilet if residents convert to a low flow toilet. Residents may receive a rebate of up to $800 if they convert their land to xeriscapes, which is the practice of using water efficient plants in landscaping. Businesses may receive a rebate for up to $5,000 for using xeriscaping. Residents who convert to a low volume washing machine can receive a $100 rebate per washing machine. The City of Albuquerque also offers rebates for using rain barrels, hot water recirculation units, sprinkler timers, and water-efficient dishwashers.
There are many resources for water conservation information, including the
- The Groundwater Foundation is
a nonprofit organization dedicated to informing the public about
groundwater. One of their education programs, Groundwater Guardian,
attempts to encourage communities to begin groundwater awareness and
protection activities. When
communities participate in this program, the Groundwater Foundation
supports the communities in their efforts and recognizes their
achievements. Communities that participate form a Groundwater Guardian
team, consisting of citizens, business and/or agricultural representatives,
educators, and local government officials. This team develops Result-Oriented Activities (education and
awareness, pollution prevention, public policy, conservation, and best
management practices) to address the community's groundwater protection
concerns. An annual conference
allows teams from all around the country to exchange success stories and
ideas (See Groundwater Foundation ) website.
- The American Water Resources
Association (2001) sponsors WaterWiser: The Water Efficiency Clearinghouse ,
which provides links to books, articles, and websites related to water
conservation. Topics include
conservation tips, drought information, public education, irrigation,
landscaping, water reuse and recycling, efficient fixtures and appliances, water
savings calculators, water-related organizations and agencies, and links
to state and local water conservation websites.
- The Rocky Mountain Institute (no
date) created a resource for household water efficiency that contains
guidance for homeowners, utilities, and civic groups. Especially useful for municipalities is
the page entitled Civic Action: Promoting Water Efficiency, Protecting Rivers , which provides links
to information that can help watershed groups and municipalities inform
the public about ways they can reduce water use at home.
- The Chesapeake Bay Program
(2000) presents information on water conservation practices at a website
called Ways You Can Help the Bay .
the citizen, the greatest benefit of conserving water is cost
savings. Less water used means smaller monthly water bills. If homes with septic systems reduce their water use, they produce less wastewater needing treatment, which reduces strain on the system and improves pollutant removal efficiency. For the municipality, a successful water
conservation campaign can help reduce the frequency of sanitary sewer
surcharges, decrease the load on wastewater treatment facilities, and lessen
the need to expand the sanitary sewer system.
It is sometimes difficult to change the public's habits. Some people like long showers and strong water
pressure. Others might have older
appliances and plumbing that are difficult to retrofit with water-saving
devices. Still others might be
reluctant to change lawn-watering practices because they like the low-effort
sprinkler or irrigation systems and don't like watering by hand. However, in many cases, people are unaware of alternative practices and products that require little if any sacrifice to comfort and convenience. Education
programs should target people who may be willing to change
their habits it they were aware of alternatives.
Following these water conservation measures can reduce home water use by 15 to 20 percent (Chesapeake Bay Program, 1993). The
cumulative effects of using water conservation practices can also significantly
reduce the burden on water storage, purification, distribution, and treatment
Water conservation is not only "environmentally friendly," but very economical. Reducing water use can substantially lower
monthly sewer, energy, and water bills. Heating water requires energy. Less hot water requires less energy. Consequently, using less hot water results in lower gas and electric bills.
American Water Works Association.
2001. WaterWiser: The Water Efficiency
Clearinghouse. [www.waterwiser.org ]. Accessed September 8, 2005.
Chesapeake Bay Program. 2000. Ways You Can Help the Bay. [http://www.chesapeakebay.net/takeaction/howtotips/category/321 ]. Accessed September 8, 2005.
Chesapeake Bay Program and Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. 1993.
Baybook: A Guide to Reducing Water Pollution at Home. Chesapeake Bay
Program, Annapolis, MD, and Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore, MD.
The City of Albuquerque. 2005. [www.cabq.gov/waterconservation ]. Accessed September 8, 2005.
The Groundwater Foundation. 2003. The Groundwater
Guardian Program. [www.groundwater.org/gg/gg.html]. Accessed September 8, 2005.
International Turf Producers Foundation. No date. Water
Right--Conserving our Water, Preserving Our Environment. International Turf Producers Association,
Rolling Meadows, IL. [www.turfgrasssod.org ].
Iowa City/Coralville Area Online Resource. 1995. Drop by Drop, A How To Guide: Starting a Water Conservation Program.
[http://www.iowacity.com/city/water.htm ]. Accessed September 8, 2005.
Louisiana USA. 1997. Leaky Faucet.
September 8, 2005.
Maryland Department of the Environment. 2005. [Water Conservation Tips ]. Accessed September 8, 2005.
Rocky Mountain Institute. No
date. Household Water
Efficiency. [http://www.rmi.org/Knowledge-Center/Library/W98-07_WaterEfficiencyNextGeneration ]. Accessed September 8, 2005.
USEPA. 1999. Water Drop Patch Program. EPA 840/B-99/001. U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.