Dig Deeper to Cut Back on Water

So, you’re in to this water-efficiency thing, eh? Really want to cut back, do you? We though you’d never ask…

1) Ease up on the meat. To produce 1 kilogram of boneless beef, it takes 6.5 kilograms of grain, 36 kilograms of roughage (coarse grains and pasture), and 155 liters of drinking water [www.treehugger.com]. Eating less meat (or not eating it at all) can be the most meaningful environmental lifestyle choice you make — a vegetarian diet requires only 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat eating diet requires 4,000 gallons per day. You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not showering for an entire year.
2) Get serious about greywater recovery. Whether it’s a sink [www.treehugger.com], or this sink [www.treehugger.com], a whole bathroom system [www.treehugger.com] or a butt [www.treehugger.com], or this butt [www.treehugger.com], there’s a lot of ways you can “re-use” water. TreeHugger has written about the Toilet Lid Sink [www.treehugger.com] which very sensibly lets you rinse your hands with the water that is filling the tank. Saves space too! The Aqus [www.treehugger.com] system does much the same thing but in an under-the-sink way. The Ban Beater [www.treehugger.com] lets you easily suck up bathwater and deliver it through a hose to your garden. As our “Weird” Eco Habits contest [www.treehugger.com] has elucidated, a woman in Hiroshima not only saves water, but gets her exercise while moving bathwater by bucket from the tub to the laundry. “Three rinse cycles of clean water just seems such a waste.”
3) Start with good green design. Building a house from scratch? Plumb it for greywater recovery with separate pipes from the toilets and the rest of the house. Design the roof for decent rainwater collection or incorporate green roofs, which mitigate and filter roof runoff. Put in big cisterns [www.treehugger.com] to hold water through the entire summer. Use permeable paving [www.treehugger.com] to let water soak through to the ground instead of washing away. If you or your architect is feeling like pushing the envelope, consider using a “living machine” to filter grey (or even black) water with natural plants and other organisms. And remember, if you live in the desert (California, we’re looking in your direction!), think twice before planting grass.

4) Get involved. Really. In the year 2000, the United Nations established that 2.64 billion people had inadequate access to sanitation. This value represented 44 percent of the global population, but in Africa and Asia approximately half of the population had no access whatsoever to sanitation. Every 10 seconds a child dies because of dirty water. 4 million children under five die terrible deaths each year due to water-born diseases. 1.1 billion children have no clean water close to their homes, but they could [www.treehugger.com]. Many children share the water they use to drink, cook and bathe with their livestock, but it could still be clean [www.treehugger.com]. Matt Damon set up H2OAfrica [www.h2oafrica.org] after he “saw firsthand the effects of one of the largest public health issues of our time, the world water crisis which is at its worst in Africa.” And the United Church of Canada [www.treehugger.com] has started a campaign to control the spread of bottled water.
5) Location [www.treehugger.com], location [www.treehugger.com], location [www.treehugger.com]. Many of us live in places where we cannot survive sustainably. You can’t live in Arizona without air conditioning and water resources that millions are trying to share. Perhaps we should be making our choices about where we live by considering the ability of the land to actually support us without artificial means. Florida’s reservoirs below and above ground are badly depleted and becoming briny with saltwater seepage. The water shortage is so bad in parts of the state, despite a recent tropical storm, that people have been hauled into court and fined for violating strict water rationing standards. Some major American cities in the Southwest, including El Paso, San Antonio and Albuquerque, could go dry in 10 to 20 years.

Don’t be bummed, though. Conserve a little now, and we’ll have clean water for a lifetime [www.treehugger.com], and beyond.