With a growing global population and a changing climate putting more and more pressure on our water resources, the issue of wasted water is one that we can no longer afford to ignore. And while it’s certainly a very good thing that water recycling is becoming a more common practice, the best way to make the most of our water resources is to avoid wasting water in the first place.
However, it’s not always easy to tell whether or not you’re wasting water; or, if you are, how much you’re wasting. Most of us have learned to watch out for basic water wasting mistakes like leaving the tap running when brushing your teeth, but unfortunately, there are plenty of other ways that we waste significant amounts of water without even realizing it. Read on to learn about four ways you might be wasting water, and what you can do to change that.
How much water you use—and potentially waste—when washing your dishes depends on a number of different factors, including your dishwashing style (if you wash dishes by hand) and how you use your dishwasher (if you have one). This means that the most water-efficient way to wash dishes will be different for different people. For example, if you like to wash your dishes with the tap running, you’re using an average of two gallons of water for every minute of washing: in other words, you could use as much as a bathtub’s worth of water by the time you’re done. However, if you just run enough water to fill up two plugged sinks or basins, one for washing and one for rinsing, you can cut down considerably on this amount.
Dishwashers are the same story. Modern, efficient dishwashers, according to a survey by the American Water Works Association, typically need less than 10 gallons of water to wash an average load. But if you run your dishwasher when it’s not completely full, or if you need to pre-rinse your dishes because you have an older or less effective dishwasher, chances are good that you’re wasting water.
Watering the lawn
Many people think of watering the lawn simply as a chore that has to be done regularly, but few stop to consider that lawns are some of the biggest water hogs in urban environments. The UK-based water conservation group Waterwise estimates that the sprinklers typically used on lawns can consume as much as 265 gallons an hour. In addition, not only do many homeowners water their lawns in the afternoons—usually the hottest part of the day, when significant amounts of water are lost through evaporation—but the lawns themselves are often composed of introduced species of grass that are not always best adapted to their present environment and therefore need excess amounts of water to survive.
To help limit water waste from lawn watering, the first thing you should do is avoid watering between noon and 8:00 pm in order to encourage better water retention. If you’re feeling more ambitious, you might consider replacing water-hungry grass species with plants or grasses that are native to your area and thus won’t need as much water.
Swimming in your backyard pool
Your backyard swimming pool may be a refreshing place to be in the summertime heat, but it’s likely wasting more water than you realize. Depending on the local climate and the pool’s overall surface area, a swimming pool can lose up to 1,000 gallons of water every month through evaporation alone. Pools can also develop significant leaks over their lifetime as a result of cracks in the foundation, tears in the liner, or damage to the pipes; astonishingly, the Arizona-based company National Leak Detection estimates that 30% of all pools have a leak of some kind. Both these problems are of particular concern given that most pools have automatic refillers, so owners are likely not even aware that their pools are losing any water at all.
The best way to stop your swimming pool from wasting water is to opt for using your local community or municipal pool to cool off instead. However, if you’re not willing to give up your own backyard oasis, be sure to have it checked regularly for leaks and cracks, and always put a cover on the pool when you’re not using it to prevent evaporation.
Throwing away food
Food waste is a growing problem in some countries, and it’s made worse by the fact that wasted food translates to wasted water. That is, when you throw away that leftover beef stew or that milk that’s gone bad at the back of the fridge, you’re also throwing away all the water that went into producing those items. For example, the average American throws away 64 eggs every year, which is the equivalent of wasting 5,260 gallons of water (or about 105 bathtubs full). The “water footprint” of meat is even bigger; the 11 pounds of beef that the average American throws away each year results in 19,800 gallons of water (397 bathtubs) being wasted.
Fortunately, people are becoming more aware of the need to fight food waste, and there are plenty of easy ways that people and businesses can reduce the amount food they waste.