No Impact Week, Day 6 – Friday: Water
Soak up the personal benefits of using less water!Posted Jan 11, 2011
This is the sixth in a series of eight blog articles chronicling my experience participating in the 2011 No Impact Week, a global challenge to lower your carbon footprint as much as possible over eight days, initiated by Colin Beavan’s No Impact Project.
Day 6: Water
Friday morning I sat down and spent some time online, reading up on the global state of drinking water so I could better understand just why it was important to conserve it. Although I try to be conscious about how much water I use, it’s hard to see the scarcity as I live in a very wet, rainy, water-soaked region.
The April 2010 National Geographic Magazine cover story on water opens by stating that although most of the planet is covered in water, 97 percent of it is salty, and 2 percent is fresh water locked in snow and ice – leaving less than 1 percent for us to use. Even in Canada, which is ranked as the third most abundant country for renewable water, we face scarcity in many areas. 60 percent of Canada’s rivers flow into the arctic, which is away from the most populous areas of the country.
Just a short way out of my city you can view the Cleveland Dam and the Capilano Lake water reservoir, which provides around 40 percent of Vancouver’s fresh water. Over a 10-day period in 2006, a series of landslides into the lake caused the turbidity of the water to rise tenfold, and the city was forced to issue an advisory to boil water. Sales of bottled water rocketed, and suddenly people began to think about how they use their water. Apparently almost all of the watersheds in my region have been seriously compromised by heavy logging in the past, leaving them susceptible to landslides. It’s interesting to see just how fragile our freshwater supply is, even in areas where it is seemingly abundant.
While conserving water is practical (a lower hydro bill is great!) it’s also responsible. The less water that flows through a municipal waste system, the less chance there is of pollutants ending up in the environment. Many cities are faced with waste systems that can no longer handle the demands of the population, which often results in overloading that leads to untreated sewage flowing into lakes and rivers. By being conscious of your water use you are also helping save the environment and reduce your city’s costs. It’s win-win-win!
In our apartment we have lowered our water use by installing a 0.5 GPM faucet aerator in the bathroom sink, and a 1.5 GPM dual-setting swivel faucet aerator in the kitchen sink. I am particularly fond of the dual setting swivel faucet aerator, as it allows you to “pause” the flow of water with a little lever – making it really easy to rinse your dishes efficiently when washing. We also use a 1.5 GPM low-flow showerhead with “showerstart” technology, a little device that prevents the water from coming out of your shower until it reaches the right temperature (no more wasted water down the drain while you wait for it to get hot!).
For our toilet we scrapped the “let it mellow” policy in favor of a dual-flush conversion kit. For only $25 you can install one of these devices that give you the option of a normal flush for solids and a 70 percent lower volume flush for liquids. Combining this with an adjustable toilet flapper allows you to significantly reduce your toilet water usage, without compromising the air quality or cleanliness of your washroom.
We complement these relatively inexpensive household water saving products with a few good habits, such as taking shorter showers, washing dishes in a small tub of hot water in the sink, and not letting the tap run when brushing teeth or shaving. It’s actually quite easy to save a lot of water with a few simple actions. It all adds up…
“A year after doing the No Impact Experiment the first time, I can see how it changed my life. I was reminded how important community is, and since then I have become much more active in my city and group of friends. I am happier because of it and I find myself compelled to do it again. I can’t recommend a better way to kick off the New Year.”
– Aran is a partner at Eartheasy.com.