The world’s water cycle contains all of the world’s water. Yet population and human use of water is increasingly placing demands on freshwater resources. To conserve water means to keep, hold, maintain, preserve and economize human use of water. Water conservation is both a local and a global issue. Did you know that on the average, most people in the United States use 50-70 gallons of water a day? All you have to do is open a tap and cold and hot water comes rolling out! But, not everyone has access to clean drinking water. Water is essential to life. Access to clean water is crucial for people to live and work and support themselves. Almost 70% of water consumption is for growing food. The rest is for domestic, industrial, and environmental use. Locally, water conservation starts with you in your own home, your school and your community. Globally, water conservation starts with organizations working with governments to facilitate water conservation measures.
Use water wisely!
Activity 1 – water use
Living populations of people and animals gather by bodies of fresh water to drink. For humans, the greater use of water was for irrigation, or watering of crops for food. Urban areas that had an abundant supply of good water through sufficient rainfall developed first. Areas that were able to irrigate or collect water from rain or underground aquifers expanded next. Indoor running water is a relatively new innovation. Alexander Cummings created the first flushing toilet patent in 1775 but it took general public awareness that poor sanitation causes disease to activate indoor plumbing. At first, indoor plumbing could be found only in the homes of the rich. Today three quarters of domestic water use is in the bathroom. The toilet is the largest consumer using an average 4-6 gallons per flush. Most people use the bathroom an average of 8 times daily. Do the math! 8 x 6 gallons = 48 gallons per person. A family of 4 might use 4 x 48 or 192 gallons of water even BEFORE showering, bathing, brushing teeth and washing clothes and dishes! Calculate how much water you use in one day. Record this in your journal. This is direct usage. Almost everything around you used additional water to produce the things you have to eat, dress in and use, such as your clothes, your furniture, your groceries.
Be aware of water!
Activity 2 – water conservation at home
You can reduce toilet flush use by inserting bricks or water filled plastic bottles in your tank. Low flush toilets only use 1.6 gallons per flush: this can reduce the typical 48 gallons to a mere 12 gallons. Leaking faucets can drain gallons of water daily. Most slow drips eventually become fast drips. Start by counting your faucets and making sure that none are leaking. Replacing the faucet’s washer usually stops the leak. A washer is a rubberized ring that seals the connect between the water delivery pipe and the faucet. Be sure to shut off the water when brushing your teeth, too! Low flow shower heads and faucets also conserve water. Low flow bathroom sinks move 1.5 gpm (gallon per minute). A low flow shower head also saves water. In addition, if an appliance breaks, you can replace your appliances with Energy Star rated appliances that use 30-50% less water (and energy). Outside, collect rainwater for irrigating lawns and plants. Water at night and when it is not windy. Take your car to a car wash; it actually uses less water than washing at home and treats the dirty water before it flows back into the water system. Make a one-week chart and record use of water in your home. Find where the largest use is. Find out who the largest user is! Make a water conservation plan for your family.
Save water every day!
Activity 3 – water conservation at school
How can students become water activists in schools? Take a look at the green school journey. Green schools become green by making changes in their school campuses, curriculum and communities. Come with ideas to save water, filter water, and collect water. Propose a rainwater harvesting system to collect rain for irrigation. Propose green roofs on flat surfaces to retain storm water. Propose rain gardens to absorb and filter runoff from parking lots and paved surfaces. Propose a restored natural vegetation area as an outdoor classroom. Propose an end to any pesticide use on lawn areas. Fund raise for a water filtering athletic field! Propose reusable water bottles for sporting events rather than water in plastic bottles. Think about all of your subjects. How could water be the subject of investigation in language arts, science, math, health and art? Ask your teachers to consider making water conservation a subject of study. Enter a water conservation competition!
Be water wise!
Activity 4 – water conservation in the community
What steps can you take to conserve water in your community? As a water activist, you can create an environmental club or a conservation coalition, or group. This group can collect best practices for water management, maintenance and conservation to educate and inform residents. Some communities are planting rain gardens. Some communities are prohibiting pesticides on school grounds. Promoting use of rain barrels for rainwater harvesting also helps collect, store and reuse ‘gray water’. Stopping plastic bags in stores or use of plastic bottles for sports teams can reduce consumption of water. Educating people about lawn and plant watering times can also save water use.
Spread awareness of water use!
Activity 5 – water conservation in the world
Look for water stress and water shortage maps of the world. Each year, the World Health Organization estimates that 1.7 million people die from waterborne diseases. Most of these deaths are in young children who drink contaminated water and contract diarrhea. Access to clean water and electrolyte rehydration could save many of these lives. In addition, water scarcity has a huge impact on food production. The International Water Management Institute reports that almost 70% of global water withdrawals are currently for growing food. This water use competes with the water we need in our homes, in industry and in the environment. Without water, people cannot water their crops and, therefore, cannot provide food for their communities. Water conservation includes best practices for water management. One of the best practices is collaborative partnership that form around water issues. Research three water management practices that can use water more efficiently for farming.
Be a water manager!
Activity 6 – water conservation in your country
Your water may come happily running out of your faucets at your command if you are near a fresh water resource. Yet in most countries, certain areas are considered water stress areas. A water stress area is an area that has a shortage of fresh, clean water to drink. Investigate areas currently that have shortage of water. Why do these areas have a shortage? What are the causes? Look at the Water Project’s U.S. Connection. What problems does the United States currently have? Which states are in water stress condition? What do you think people will do in areas that run out of water? Make a map of the United States. Color code water shortage areas. Write a paper about possible solutions.
- When is the best time to water plants outside?
- Which room in the house accounts for most of domestic water usage?
- Switching to what type of flush saves water?
- The majority of water used by people is for
- What measures can we take to conserve water?
- Constructed Wetlands Palette
- EPA Water Conservation
- History of Irrigation
- The Water Project
- UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
- Use Less Water Discover Water Project (Interactive)
- Video: Pipe Dreams Water Rights
- Virtual Water Infographic
- Water Saver House
- Water Use It Wisely
- World Health Organization