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With 70 percent of the Earth’s surface covered by water, it is hard to believe that there is a global water crisis. But with total global demand for water doubling every 20 years, water is a precious resource.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) states that “more than 2.8 billion people will be living in either water-scarce or water-stressed regions of the world by 2025.” By using water wisely, people can help reduce the need for additional resources and alleviate some of the stress placed on water systems.
Outdoor Water Conservation
The average American home uses 100 gallons of water or more per day. Approximately 30 percent is used outside. In the summer months, outdoor water usage spikes and can account for more than 50 percent of total use. By controlling outdoor usage the impact to water systems can be minimized and homeowners can save money. The following are eight things that can be done outside to conserve water:
- use a broom – Rather than use a hose to clear driveways, steps and sidewalks of dirt and debris, sweep them clean with a broom.
- water efficiently – Much of landscaping water is lost through evaporation. According to the City of Dallas’ Save Water program, make every drop count by watering in the early morning (before 9 a.m.) when the sun is low and the wind is calmer. “The most efficient hose-end sprinklers throw large drops of water close to the ground. When you use misting sprinklers or sprinklers that throw water high into the air, the water often evaporates before it hits the ground.” Consider using soaker hoses for planting beds and drip-irrigation for more valuable plants.
- install a rain gauge –Rain gauges measure the amount of precipitation received. Most lawns and gardens only need one inch of water per week. By monitoring how much water Mother Nature provides, a person can determine how much additional water is needed, if any. Rain gauges are simple, inexpensive tools that can be purchased at any home improvement store.
- improve soil – Good soil can help homeowners avoid over-watering. According to the City of Dallas, “most soil will benefit from adding organic matter such as compost. This will improve drainage, moisture penetration and the capacity of the soil to hold water.”
- choose plants wisely – Use native and drought-tolerant plants that thrive on natural rainfall and don’t require as much additional water. Consider planting ground cover or shrubs instead of grass, which guzzles water. Grass is more appropriate for wet climates.
- use organic mulches – Slow weed growth, and reduce soil water loss and erosion by using organic mulch in beds and gardens. Try common mulches such as pine bark, shredded trees, composted leaves, and shredded landscape or lawn clippings.
- raise lawn mower height – Make lawns more drought-tolerant by cutting grass at least three inches high to shade the roots. Accomplish this by raising the height of a lawn mower.
- install porous pavement – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests using porous pavement such as gravel instead of asphalt for driveways and sidewalks. This allows rain to be absorbed, recharging groundwater supplies rather than running off and contributing to erosion.
Water Pollution Prevention
While it is imperative that individuals learn to conserve water to help ease the burden on water systems, it is equally important that people minimize water pollution. According to USAID, “freshwater ecosystems and environmental services from water resources and watersheds are increasingly at risk from human pressures including water withdrawals, dam diversions, and urban and industrial development and pollution.”
By being more conscious of outdoor water use, individuals can save time, money, water and energy; and prevent water pollution. Here are some suggestions for how people can reduce the pollution risk:
- fertilize in moderation or go natural – According to the City of Dallas, “Excessive fertilizer increases plants’ water needs and can be washed away by rain, polluting our rivers and streams.” Reduce the amount of fertilizer used or use organic products available at most home and garden stores. Another simple solution for grass is to leave clippings on the lawn as a natural fertilizer.
- wash cars at a car wash – Rather than washing a car at home, wash it at a car wash. Chemicals in soaps and car care products are washed into sewers and the water system when cars are hosed down. A car wash cleans and recycles water preserving and conserving the water supply.
- avoid over- watering – Over-watering not only washes away soil, but yard and garden chemicals too. This chemical run-off pollutes water systems. Watch for signs that plants need water and use a rain gauge to determine how much additional water is needed.
Careless outdoor water use wastes time, money, and water, and increases the risk of pollution. Problems such as over-watering also damage plants by encouraging shallow root zones and increasing susceptibility to disease. By becoming more water-wise outdoors, people can help to conserve and preserve this most precious resource.