Go To It! Reduce Your Water Footprint

Depleting aquifers. This phrase should strike your heart with fear. It does mine…after I learned its meaning while reading Taking on Water by Wendy J. Pabich. Wendy, a devoted ecologist, educates us on our global water crisis and shares her journey of reducing her water footprint and conserving our precious resource.

In case you’re like me and are completely, blissfully unaware of the monstrous damage we are doing to our water supply, here are some factoids:

  • Globally, 12 percent of people lack access to safe water supplies.
  • An American taking a 5-minute shower (mine average 15 minutes) uses more water than an impoverished person in a developing country uses in an entire day. (Shame on me.)
  • While three-quarters of Earth’s surface is covered by water, only 1 percent of its water is available for human use.
  • Water is sensitive — the improper disposal of just one oil change can contaminate a million gallons of water!

Back to the depleting aquifers. An aquifer is a “permeable, water-bearing stratum of rock, sand or gravel.” Currently, we are sucking our aquifers dry by withdrawing water faster than it can be replenished. Cue visions of a dystopian young adult novel landscape.

In Taking on Water, Pabich hilariously and painstakingly calculates her water footprint, determining just how much water she uses doing everything. From eating a pizza (mozzarella contributes 235 gallons of water per pizza) to how much electricity she consumes.

I could go on, but why write what the author has already and in better words than I? I encourage you to pick up a local copy (to reduce the water footprint of having it shipped) so you can read for yourself the enlightening story of how we use water and the steps we can take to conserve it.

My immediate challenge was not just reducing my water use, but reducing my water use as a city-dwelling renter. I don’t have the option of replacing my toilet or dishwasher with a low-flow model. I don’t even have a dishwasher (and by the way, hand-washing dishes uses way more water). I don’t have a yard where I can direct gray water or collect rain.

But, I can be more conscious of how I’m using water. Here are some of Pabich’s conservation tips (with my own notes added):

  • When washing dishes, plug the sink and fill it up with water, which I use to soak and rinse dirty dishes. Only fill the sink up a third of the way so it fills as you rinse your soapy dishes clean with running water.
  • Don’t turn the faucet on all the way. I have a horrible habit of washing my hands in a gushing stream of water when, really, a third of the pressure would do the job just fine.
  • Take fewer showers. Even if you just skip a shower on the day you stay home and relax, you’re helping.
  • Don’t buy bottled water! Too many resources go into creating it, and tap water hydrates the same way.
  • Eat less meat. (Done.)
  • Waste less food. (There’s always something in the back of the fridge that I forget about, so I have to be extra conscious about this.)
  • Conserve energy. (Why wouldn’t I want to lower my utility bill?)
  • Be a responsible consumer — reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Be wary of the sprinkler. (No backyard. Points for me.)
  • Get rid of your lawn. (Major points for me.)
  • Fix leaks. (Just added “call super” to my to-to list.)
  • Use a water-efficient washing machine and run it full. (My laundromat is close, and I’m sticking with it.)
  • Replace traditional toilets with low-flow models. (Sorry, my landlord doesn’t cover this.)
  • Use a water-efficient dishwasher rather than hand-washing, and run it full. (Nor will he install a dishwasher).
  • Install aerators on your faucets. (Planning to look into this.)
  • Turn off the shower when you lather and the sink faucet when you brush. (I’ve got the brushing covered, but there’s no way I’m turning off my shower in the middle of it. I’ll just shower less often and faster.)

So, Go To It! I challenge you to reduce your water footprint, save electricity, and save money.


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Books About the Global Water Crisis
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