If all the water in the world amounted to a bucket, the freshwater available for human use would make up less than a teaspoon! According to the UN, by 2025 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population will live under water stress conditions. How to use as little of this precious resource as possible? Read further for useful tips and tricks!
Every form of life on Earth is dependent on water, and it is also the most important building material of organisms. A person can survive without water for 3-4 days, a lot less than without food. Although 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, 97.5% is salty. Out of the 2.5% that is fresh water, 75% is permanently frozen, thus leaving only 0.08% of all the Earth’s water available for human consumption. Without the icecaps and glaciers, 98% of freshwater is groundwater, that is very important to be preserved.
The Living Planet Report published by the WWF created the concept of water footprint, that is similar to the idea of the ecological footprint, but it measures water consumption. Water footprint makes it visible how much water we use while the goods we buy and consume are produced, in addition to our direct water consumption. According to the UN an average person living in a developed country uses approximately 5 million liters of water during his life, but out of that only 35000 liters is for drinking. You can roughly calculate and compare your water footprint, but the most important thing is to learn more about how you can reduce it!
First and foremost we use incredible amounts of water by the production of the goods we buy. On a global level, 69% of water withdrawals are agricultural, 12% are municipal and 19% are industrial. For example a glass of milk needs 200 liters of water, a cup of coffee 140 liters, a slice of bread 40 liters, an orange 50 liters. A ton of paper requires 27000 liters, a T-shirt 2000 liters, a microchip 32 liters, a hamburger 2400 liters. For example you can vastly reduce your indirect consumption by recycling paper, cutting out meat, or buying less clothes. Another way to care about freshwater is buying organic food and naturally made products: this way you won’t contaminate the water and the ground with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, that are very harmful for the natural waters.
On the other hand, we use water directly in our households, that is another place to improve your habits. An average household uses 2% of its tap water for drinking and preparing food, 7% for washing dishes, 38% for personal hygiene, 33% for flushing the toilet, 5% for household cleaning and car wash, 13% for laundry and 2% for irrigation of gardens. These proprotions show us exactly where we have to start to preserve this precious resource.
Let’s focus on these main areas! Approaching the water consumption of personal hygiene and dishwashing, you will have to take a closer look at your taps and showerheads. Typical taps discharge 12 to 15 liters of water per minute, and there is a solution to reduce that significantly: perlators. Perlators (also known as aerators) are great because they are really cheap and easy to apply, and they reduce water consumption in a way that is almost unnoticeable: by mixing the water with air. There are several variations of it, and you can save 60-85% depending on the type you choose. Of course you can save water by simply closing the tap when it is not necessary: washing the dishes in standing water in the sink, closing the tap when you are soaping your hands, or when brushing your teeth. Also: make sure that you don’t have any dripping taps, I bet you wouldn’t belive that 10 drops per minute can make up a bathtub amount of water in a month, that adds up to 2000 liters annually.
Another important field is showering. Perhaps it is needless to say, that showering is much more eco-friendy than taking a long hot bath, but there is more you can do! A standard showerhead uses about 15 to 25 liters of water per minute, compared with a water efficient showerhead that uses as little as 6 or 7 liters per minute. That means when showering for 8 minutes you use 72 liters instead of 120, that is a 40% save. In addition, you can also close the tap when soaping. If you find it uncomfortable, because you don’t want to adjust the water temperature again, just use this shower stop that makes it more convinient.
It seems really irrational to flush one third of the tap water we use in our household down the toilet, yet most people do it anyways. Let’s see how we can fix this. The best solution would be to use only greywater for flushing or eliminate water use of toilets completely by using compost toilets instead. This however seems unattainable for the average person living in a city. Tough there is an easy way to reuse greywater in the toilet: by installing a toilet tank that is also a sink. This product is great because it fills the toilet tank with the water that you used for washing your hands. Also it has two flushing options so it only empties the whole tank when it is needed. If you want to keep your old tank, then an insert can help you, that makes sure that the tank only flushes as long as you want it to.
Finally, you have to keep in mind, that the more dirty and toxic your sewage is, the more energy consuming it is to clean it in the wastewater treatment plant. Our next article will be all about how you can make your household free of toxic chemicals for the benefit of nature, your health, and your finances.