Water is one of the world’s most precious resources. Although water makes up three quarters of the earth’s surface and seems to appear in endless quantities, less than 3% of the world’s water supply is freshwater, and around 74% of that is in ice caps or deep aquifers. Of the freshwater that exists, much of it is contaminated and requires treatment before it can be safely consumed by human beings.
There are many labor and energy intensive steps that treatment facilities have to take in order to purify water for use and consumption, especially in the United States. At the treatment plants Rochester gets most of its water from – the Hemlock and the Shoremont treatment plants – they use processes involving coagulation, filtration and disinfection.
During coagulation, chemicals are added to untreated water, causing the natural occurring particulates to clump together into larger particles called floc. The floc is removed by filtration, and the water is disinfected through addition of chlorine. It is also fluoridated for consumer dental health benefits.
As you can see, the way we purify water requires a lot of energy, both in the creation of the chemicals used and in the filtration of the water itself. Heating water uses even more energy, and normally takes place on-site in each building right before use.
To help save all that energy and freshwater, here are some things you can do to reduce your water consumption!
Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving. It will save 4-10 gallons a day! When water is left running it uses at least one gallon per minute, and most of it is waster. For shaving, a stoppered basin needs one-half gallon or so of water for adequate razor rinsing. Beyond that, you’re just watching the gallons drip away!
Never use your toilet as a trashcan. Save 3-7 gallons per flush. Some people flush away tissues and other bits of trash in the toilet. Using a wastebasket will save all those gallons of water otherwise going wastefully down the drain.
Say no to marathon showers! Five minutes (yes, just 5!) will get you clean, and saves 3-7 gallons per shower. Reducing showering time by even one minute can save 2,000 gallons of water a year.
If you wash dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running for rinsing. Use wash basins and fill one with soapy water and one with rinse water. Being mindful of your water use when washing dishes saves 8-15 gallons per day – and it saves on hot water costs too.
Wash vegetables and fruit in a basin. This will allow you to safely remove pesticides, fertilizers and dirt, while saving 2-4 gallons of water.
Run the washing machine only with a full load of laundry, and adjust the water level setting carefully. Washing machines use 22-25 gallons per load. Save the water for 1-2 loads per week. Setting your laundry to cold water also saves 80-90% of energy used!
Running your dishwasher only when it’s full could save up to 15 gallons per load, and saves in hot water costs since it uses the same amount of water for a normal cycle, whether it contains a full load or just a few dishes. Also, there’s really no need to fully wash dishes before loading them in the dishwasher. Just scrape the food off and save the extra water!
Do not use running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost food overnight in the refrigerator. This will actually save energy because the cold emitted from the frozen food will help cool your fridge. Do not defrost in your microwave or oven either, as this wastes energy unnecessarily.