Even though 71% of the earth is covered by water, in many parts of our world, water is an issue. Did you know that 97.2% of earth’s water is in seas and oceans, meaning that it is too salty to be usable and that a further 2.15% is in ice caps? That means less than 1% of the world’s water is usable by humans and many other living creatures (National Geographic). As well as being so meagre, the fresh water that does exist is not distributed evenly. For some people, there are plenty of water sources but no infrastructure to get it, so usually women and children have to walk far to get water. In other countries, the infrastructure exists but the sources are extremely poor. In some other countries water is a cause of conflict and power struggles over who gets access to the water sources that are shared by these neighbouring countries.
Australia falls into the second group of countries. It is the world’s driest continent. Did you know that although Australia comprises around 5.6% of the earth's landmass, it has less than 1% of the world’s total available freshwater sources (Future Directions)? Having myself been born in rural Australia, I grew up with a scarcity of water, dry summers and sometimes even drought stricken summers. We were dependent on rainfall to fill our tanks and dams, which were our only source of water for drinking, showering, cleaning and even for the animals. Water was most of the times rationed. I grew up learning to save water and to use what we had wisely.
This past week was National Water Week so there has been lots of awareness raising of water issues in Australia through social media. So even though National Water Week has almost come to an end, I think it is important enough to constantly reiterate the things we can do to save our precious water. So what I would like to do here is remind us all of the things we can do to save water.
1. Turn off the tap while you are brushing your teeth or shaving (even in the shower) and don't clean vegetables with running tap water.
2. While the water is warming up in the shower or the sink, use a bucket to catch that cold water and use it to rinse the dishes that you hand wash or use it to water plants or wash vegetables.
3. Check all taps and toilets for leaks and get them repaired as soon as possible.
4. Wait for the dishwasher to be full to start it and don't pre-wash your dishes before you put them in. This just wastes water and eliminates the advantage of using a dishwasher. All modern dishwashers wash well without the need to prewash. If your dishwasher doesn't wash your dishes properly, that means it is time to buy a new one.
5. Check the star ratings on your washing machine and dishwasher and if it is time to upgrade then try your best to buy the most energy efficient and water saving machine that your money can buy. It will pay for itself and more with the money that you save on bills.
6. Put a nozzle on the end of your hose. This makes it easy to save water as you can turn it on and off and decrease the flow according to your needs without wasting water while you get to the tap to turn it off.
7. Only water your garden early in the morning or in the evening, so that you can reduce the amount of water that evaporates.
8. Put mulch and compost in your garden, thereby increasing the water retention of your garden and the soil and minimise the evaporation of water.
9. Plant drought tolerant plants or those that are specifically suited to the climatic conditions where you live.
10. Wash your car only when extremely necessary. Or even better wait until the rain comes and then continue the job (if it rains at the right time).
11. Change the cistern on your toilet so that you have a half flush. Half flushes use 5 litres whereas the full flush uses 11 litres. Calculate how many times your toilet is used a day and how much water that will save you and that would certainly cover the cost of the new flush.
12. Change your shower head to a more energy efficient shower head. Your present shower may use up to 25 litres a minute depending on your shower head. A 3 star shower head will use only 9 litres per minute, whereas a 4 star one uses 6 litres per minute. If you don't want to change your shower head then you can limit the amount of minutes you spend in the shower. If you currently have long leisurely showers, then start with 10 minutes and then go to 8 minutes. If you like challenges, you could even go down to 5 or 3 minutes!
13. Change your taps to low flow taps to save up to 66% of water normally used. It will cost you initially, but in the end you will save on your water bills and you'll be helping the environment.
14. Put the washing machine on when there are full loads whenever possible. A full load uses less water and energy than doing 2 half loads.
15. Get a system to capture rainwater and use that to wash your car or water your plants
16. This might seem radical, but I am going to suggest it anyway! Eat less meat and dairy. Did you know that the livestock and dairy industries are huge water users? Studies show that it takes 20 times more water to raise beef than it does to grow vegetables.
If we all endeavour to do many of these things most of the time, imagine how much water we can save. As Ryunosuke Satoro says, "individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean". So never think that your actions alone are meaningless. Those few litres that you save, turn into many over a day, 100s over a week, 1000s over a month. And if many people do the same, it will have a huge impact on our water sources, and therefore on the earth.
I would love it you can share. Are there any other ways that you can suggest to save water? Which is your most often used way to save water?
And by the way, in case you are loving this topic of water, I found a great water meditation by Barwon Water, it is pretty special so enjoy. Click here to listen.
Photos are taken from Unsplash. The cat is by Kazuki Akayashi, the hose Phil Goodwin and the shower in the desert by Jiggliemon Wilson