Reduce Your Water Use
By Dr. Lewis First
Earth Day is April 22, and perhaps because we are thinking about preserving our environment more this month, I’ve recently been fielding a sea of questions about water conservation and how to teach children about how to save water. Well, let me see if I can pour out some information on this topic.
The average American family uses about 300-400 gallons of water per day at home. Most of that occurs indoors and almost half in the bathroom. That is excessive when you realize that less than 1 percent of all the water on Earth can be used by people, the rest being salt water or permanently frozen water.
As our population grows, we need to be careful and not use up this limited resource. So water conservation is key, and I have some suggestions on how you and your children can do this.
For example, just by having you and your family turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth each morning and before bed can save up to eight gallons of water a day. The same is true if you are washing your hands or washing the dishes in the sink. Turn off the tap when you are scraping the plates and then put them into the dishwasher without water running throughout this process.
Keeping a pitcher of water in the fridge rather than running tap until it is cold also saves water.
Taking a shower uses only 10-25 gallons of water; filling up a tub takes 70 gallons. If you shower in under five minutes, you save even more. Installing a low-flow showerhead will also save water.
A toilet that keeps running or churns when flushed could waste 200 gallons a day, which is like 50 flushes for no reason. Likewise, a leaky faucet or one that drips can waste six gallons a day. To check your toilet for leaks, put some food coloring into the tank and if it spreads into the bowl without flushing, you have a leak.
As the weather gets warmer, washing a bike or car with a bucket and sponge rather than a hose saves lots of water. A hose produces six gallons of water per minute if left to run while a bucket uses only a few gallons.
Finally, talk with your children about why saving water is important. Ask them if they can think of other ways your family can cut back on water use so we can all enjoy the benefits of water in the years ahead.
Hopefully tips like this will not water down anyone’s efforts when it comes to making water conservation an important activity your entire family can work on together.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.