Written by: Nicole Miller
Water is often thought of as an infinite resource because of the vastness of the oceans, lakes and rivers and the great quantities of rainfall across the land.
In actuality, of all the water on this planet, less than 0.3% of it is accessible for human consumption.2 Of that 0.3% of accessible water, many regions are battling pollution in their local tap water, as well as water shortages.
In fact, in a 2014 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “40 of 50 state water managers expected shortages in some portion of their states under average conditions in the next 10 years”1.
This is a reality that we are seeing ring true 8 years later.
Groundwater in the USA is the main source of drinking water for almost 50% of the total population and “provides over 50 billion gallons per day for agricultural needs.”4 However, as shown in Figure 1 and described by USGS in “Groundwater Decline and Depletion,” many of the USA’s largest aquifers are depleting due to the outweighed removal of water from natural replenishing4.
1 “Map of the United States (excluding Alaska) showing cumulative groundwater depletion, 1900 through 2008, in 40 assessed aquifer systems or subareas….Colors are hatched in the Dakota aquifer (area 39) where the aquifer overlaps with other aquifers having different values of depletion.”4
Although, this is not just an issue with large aquifers and the ramifications on one side of the country will inevitably affect the country as a whole, as we share resources throughout from bottled water to crops and livestock watered with local aquifers. Not to mention, as we deplete our own resources, we are simultaneously depleting the resources for our surrounding ecosystems, which require clean water just as we do.
As with all environmental issues, there is a trickle-down effect that must be taken into consideration.
But as a society or individual, what can we do to help?
Firstly, if your local tap water is safe to drink, then choose that option before purchasing bottled water and taking away the local tap water from others. You can also install a whole-house water filter if worried about certain pollutants in the local tap water.
Secondly, opt to use a dishwasher and heated dry option instead of handwashing your dishes where applicable.3 Unless you are correctly hand washing dishes in a two-basin setup as described in Porras, Gabriela Y, et al article, it is more efficient in both greenhouse gas emissions and water usage, to use a dishwasher (with the only pre-treatment being scraping off food particles).3
Thirdly, when purchasing appliances and plumbing fixtures, only purchase those that are WaterSense® labelled. This ensures they are water efficient. Also opt for dual flush toilets if composting toilets are not an option.
Fourth, do not plant grass for landscaping and instead plant native flora that doesn’t require extra watering. If some form of grass is desired, try planting an alternative like wildflowers, clover, moss or sedum. These can give a similar visual and functional effect as grass but promote a more biodiverse ecosystem while also requiring little to no manual watering.
Lastly, if you do choose a landscape that requires manual watering, install a rain catchment system to supply the water instead of using potable water out of the hose bib. There is no reason to use clean drinking water on plants and lawns, when they will fair just fine with rainwater.
There are many other ways to increase water efficiency and reduce water consumption, however these listed are some of the easiest and best ways that you can make a difference just in your home.
At TC Legend Homes we understand the importance of water conservation through efficiency, which is why we have made it our standard to require WaterSense® labelled fixtures. We also encourage clients to landscape with only native flora and add rain catchment systems to their yard.
In actively reducing our water consumption and using water efficient solutions, we can help reduce the rate at which we are depleting the world’s accessible water, leaving more time to find a solution to the water crisis and help reverse the impact we’ve already had.
This in turn, will also reduce the impact that our water depletion is having on the ecosystems around us, as well as help reduce the inequity that comes with competition for draining resources.
“Freshwater: Supply Concerns Continue, and Uncertainties Complicate Planning.” GAO, U.S. Government Accountability Office, https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-14-430. 2/21/22.
2 Kimberly Mullen. “Information on Earth’s Water.” NGWA, National Ground Water Association, https://www.ngwa.org/what-is-groundwater/About-groundwater/information-on-earths-water. 2/21/22.
3Porras, Gabriela Y, et al. “A Guide to Household Manual and Machine Dishwashing through a Life Cycle Perspective.” Environmental Research Communications, vol. 2, no. 2, 12 Feb. 2020.
4Water Science School. “Groundwater Decline and Depletion.” USGS, United States Geologic Survey, https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/groundwater-decline-and-depletion. 2/21/22.