California, like many other states, is entering its fourth year of severe drought. In response, the state government has enacted new emergency water conservation regulations to safeguard California's remaining water supplies. There's only so much to go around so we need to stretch our precious water supply as much as possible. By presenting you with the flowing facts, this blog is intended raise awareness about how much our everyday activities cost relating to water use.
The good news is we can still garden this year if we water efficiently. In my own garden and landscape, I've lost or replaced a number of plants that require more water than I'm willing to give them. The reality is it's time to change our concept of what makes a yard beautiful; or at least broaden our definition to fit the times.
"this blog is intended to raise awareness about how much our everyday activities cost relating to water use."
Some water districts are paying their customers to take out their lawns. Nearly 60% of a person's water footprint can go toward lawn and garden maintenance. One way to eliminate that cost is by replacing that lawn with a hardscape (also know as a xeriscape) that uses rock, gravel, permanent ground covers, and drought-tolerant native plants that require little water. This is where drip irrigation really shines, giving you pinpoint placement of water directly to the roots, not the weeds. Add a timer and you can approach 100% watering efficiency.
Saving water (and money) in Your Home
Twenty years ago, devices such as low-flow shower heads, faucets, low-flush toilets, and energy and water efficient washing machines and dishwashers began to appear. A low-flow showerhead can save you 15 gallons during a 10 minute shower. A low-flush toilet uses half the water of a standard toilet. If you don't have a low-flush toilet, placing a brick or two in your toilet tank can save the average household up to 20 gallons during the course of a day. A front loading washing machine uses 20 gallons per load versus 40 gallons for a top loading machine. Whichever type you own, make sure to adjust the settings on your machine to the proper load size. Dishwashers in general, and Energy Star dishwashers in particular, can reduce usage to about 10-20 gallons of water each washing cycle. In addition to the large volumes of water required to fill them, homes with swimming pools use 49% more electricity than average, making them a questionable luxury in these water scarce times.
Fuel Economy and Airline Travel
A gallon of gasoline takes nearly 13 gallons of water to produce. When you take all the errands you run each day, commuting to and from work, and the pleasure trips you may take, it quickly starts to add up. Driving 15,000 miles per year uses almost 200,000 gallons of water. Airline travel is even more expensive. Flying from LA to San Francisco ( about 700 miles, round trip) costs nearly 9,000 gallons of water. A cross country plane trip is the equivalent of 1,700 standard toilet flushes!
Cloth and Paper
It takes 100 gallons of water to grow and process a single pound of cotton. The average American goes through about 35 pounds of cotton each year so you might ask yourself:
Do I really need another t-shirt? It takes about 6 gallons of water to produce a dollar's worth of paper, so recycling a pound of paper saves nearly 3.5 gallons of water.
Diet and Food Production
It takes approximately 1,000 gallons of water to produce the average daily American diet, more than the 900 gallon global average water footprint for diet, household use, transportation, energy, and the consumption of material goods. One of the easiest ways to lower your dietary water footprint is to eat less dairy and meat. A pound of beef costs 1,800 gallons of water to produce. One way to cut this cost is by eating more grass fed, rather than grain fed, beef, since it takes added water to grow the corn and other feed crops that cattle require. In contrast, a serving of
poultry takes about 90 gallons of water to produce. Meanwhile, traditional pork production costs 576 gallons of water per pound, not counting the hidden cost of water pollution from pig waste that often seeps into local water sources.
It takes nearly a gallon of water to produce a single almond. That morning cup of coffee takes about 55 gallons of water to make, most of which is used to grow the coffee beans.
We urge our readers to conserve their water use and and do what they can to lower their water footprint today. If you're watering a lawn or garden, don't water between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm if possible and always keep a vigilant eye out for leaks inside and outside the house. It's time for us all to become water wise. Our future depends on it.