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Water is not only a precious resource but also used to produce energy. | Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/silverjohn
Every morning when you wake up, you head to the bathroom to take a shower and brush your teeth, start a pot of coffee, or fill up your reusable water bottle and head to the gym. Whatever you do it is likely you are consuming one of the earth's most precious resources: water.
Chances are that at some point in your life someone has told you not to waste water, but it's likely that you have never stopped to consider how much energy it takes for you to be able to use that water, how much water is used to produce energy, or the interaction between our energy and water systems.
Climate change is now affecting every region of the country according to the U.S. National Climate Assessment released last month. Water scarcity is becoming more of a reality as the population grows and climate change amplifies the need to manage water and energy systems. Earlier this week, the Energy Department released The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities, a report that gives an in-depth look at how water is used for energy and how energy is used for water.
The bottom line is this: each American uses approximately 80-100 gallons of water each day. According to the Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey Water Science School, taking a shower uses approximately two gallons of water per minute and older shower heads can use as much as five gallons per minute. A toilet flush uses around three gallons, outdoor watering uses 5 to 10 gallons per minute, and washing a load of clothes takes 25 gallons or more.
Now that you are aware of how much water you are consuming when you do certain activities throughout your day, consider ways you can limit that use.
Install Water-Efficient Fixtures
The U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that annually 3 to 4 percent of national electricity consumption is used to provide drinking water and wastewater services--that's equivalent to approximately 56 billion kilowatts, or $4 billion. You can purchase a low-flow showerhead for less than $20 that uses 25 to 60 percent less water.
Purchase Energy-Efficient Dishwashers and Washing Machines
Washing dishes by hand uses more water and energy than running an energy-efficient dishwasher—just make sure not to run it until it is fully loaded. Also think about how many loads of laundry you do each week. The average washing machine uses more than 40 gallons of water to wash one load of clothes. A high efficiency washing machine can use up to 50 percent less! When making a dishwasher or washing machine purchase, be sure to purchase one with an ENERGY STAR label.
Think When Landscaping
Everyone wants to have the lushest looking lawn in the neighborhood and as a result, the average suburban lawn consumes 10,000 gallons of water (not including rain water) per year! There are ways to cut down on this figure while still having a beautiful green space to enjoy. When landscaping, choose plants that are native to your climate and avoid those that need frequent attention or are difficult to establish. Typically native plants can withstand the local habitat and won't require as much watering. Also, consider purchasing a low water grass when placing turf.
The best way to cut down on water use is to educate yourself and your family on how much water you are using and the implications of such use. Remember, when you don't take steps to conserve water you are not only wasting water, but energy too.