Winter is usually about snow and ice but, as our climate warms, all our seasons will increasingly be about water.
Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.
Those lines from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge describe a possible future for us since the United Nations Development Program reports that there is no longer any unpolluted water on earth.
While it looks like we are in the midst of abundance, we are really in the midst of scarcity.
Steven Solomon, in his book, Water, puts it well:
“Only 2.5% of Earth’s water is fresh. But two-thirds of that is locked away from our use in ice caps and glaciers. All but a few drops of the remaining one-third is also inaccessible, or prohibitively expensive to extract, because it lies in rocky, underground aquifers — in effect, isolated underground lakes — many a half mile or more deep inside Earth’s bowels. In all, less than 0.3% of total freshwater is in liquid form on the surface.”
An article titled Economics And Technical Change: The Water Resource Conundrum, published by Environment Canada, states, “The average Canadian per capita water use from municipal systems is 350 litres per day, second only to that of the U.S., and over double that of many European countries. Also, of the water pumped in many Canadian municipalities, less that 75% can be accounted for by deliveries to customers. Water use inside the home is excessive. The typical toilet uses 20 litres per flush, and showers use twice the water required for effectiveness.”
One billion of our fellow earthlings, many living in the areas indicated on the map below (source: http://www.grida.no/graphicslib/) have access to five litres of water per day or less, so let’s put our water consumption in their terms.
So fix that leaky faucet, and is it really worth the water allowance of 80 people for you to impress your neighbours with a clean car?
The Utilities Kingston Residential Flat Rate for monthly water use is $36.38, so the wise use of water is not so much about saving money as it is about saving water. Their website has some great tips for conserving water in the home, watering tips for lawns and gardens, useful links and information on their rain barrel program at http://www.utilitieskingston.com/Water/Conservation/.
Tips for Conserving Water In and Around Your Home
Toilets (33%of indoor water use)
Those 25-litre guzzlers are wasteful and unnecessary when one billion people have only five litres of water per day.
- Low-flow toilets use only 6 L per flush.
- Ultra low-flow toilets use 4 L per flush or less.
- Checking for leaks can save 1400 L per month.
Baths & Showers (25% of indoor water use)
- Low-flow showerheads save 8 L per minute.
- Shorter showers help conserve water.
- Filling the bath only half full saves 80 L or more per bath.
- Putting a stopper in the tub before starting the water saves 20L per bath.
Washing Machines (24% of indoor use)
- Full loads and shorter cycles save 95 L per load.
- Front loaders use 1/3 to 1/2 as much water as top loaders.
- Washing clothes only when dirty (not every day for teen jeans) reduces the loads.
Faucets (12% of indoor use)
- Turning the faucet off when it is not needed can save 10-40 L per day.
- Installing a flow restrictor or a faucet aerator can save up to 20 L per day.
- Checking for leaks can save 48 L per day (2 L per hour).
Dishwashers (6% of indoor use)
- Full loads on a shorter cycle save 28 L per load.
- Dishwashing by hand and rinsing in a dishpan can save 32-60 L per load.
Lawn/Garden Care (75% of outdoor use)
- Water your lawn sparingly. An hour of sprinkling uses 1,300 L of water and since no more than 2.5 cm can be absorbed, watering for longer is no benefit to your lawn. By changing from three hours of watering to one hour – 2,600 L of water can be saved.
- Walkways and driveways usually don’t need watering. With the correct positioning of your sprinkler, you can save 10-35 L per minute.
- Choose drought-tolerant plants; less water is required and savings can be 10-35 L per minute.
- A hose with the water running uses 23 L per minute; by using a spring-loaded nozzle you can save up to 16 L per minute.
- Water in the cooler (and shadier) parts of the day, so less water is lost to evaporation.
- If you aerate, weed and apply compost to your lawn, less water will be required.
Other Outdoor Water Usage
- Use a bucket of soapy water to wash your car and use the hose only for rinsing. The hose uses 23 L per minute and using a bucket can help you save at least 46 L of water.
- Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks.
- Use water toys and outdoor “kiddy” pools to cool off, instead of the sprinkler. A sprinkler uses 1,300 L per hour, so the savings can be astounding.
Although most water-saving measures come from simple changes in our behaviour, some require the latest technology. So, where do you get low-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads, flow restrictors and other useful gadgets in Kingston? They are widely available because most hardware stores, building centres, and plumbing fixture and supply centres carry a full line.
Another great program by Utilities Kingston is their promotion of rain barrels every spring. Rain barrels help protect the environment by reducing the amount of treated lake water used for watering plants and lawns, and diverting significant quantities of rainwater from the sewer system during storms, which reduces overflows. They help conserve energy by reducing the amount of water and waste water that needs to be treated and pumped throughout the city.
Rainwater contains minerals that make it healthier for plants than treated tap water. Finally, rain barrels save you money by lowering your monthly water consumption and reducing the volume of water that the city must build treatment infrastructure to handle.
Watch for the program announcement in the spring. Orders are limited to one barrel per household. Rain barrels will cost $35 including tax, and this charge will be added to your Utilities Kingston bill upon delivery. We can survive without many things, but water isn’t one of them. Saving water is not only easy, it’s essential, because living next to a big lake makes us think we have far more clean, fresh water than we really do.