I like to think that my relationship with water has been a pretty conscientious one ever since I became an adult. I’m mindful of running the dishwasher only when full, try my best to take quick showers, and water my garden judiciously. The relationship took a serious turn this past December, however. Following the first heavy snow, on December 19th, that dumped 17″ in one day, we lost power. As the forecast had only been for anywhere between 3-10″, we were left completely unprepared for the five days without electricity that would ensue.
I live a mile down a dirt road, tucked into a forested cove that abuts a large parcel of undeveloped land. Rurally-situated folks like myself aren’t usually first on the list to have their power restored, as the general assumption, I suppose, is that we have the supplies, robust constitution, and wood stoves necessary to make do until power can be restored. While that is true (at least, it is in our home), what I hadn’t really considered, living remotely for the first time, was that without power, we wouldn’t have water. We have a well, and the well needs electricity to pump water up from the ground and into the house. And so it was that I came to learn the art of melting and gently warming snow. I used the melted snow to wash dishes, for bathing, and to provide my animals with water. The water’s scarcity augmented its importance. It is a resource that we absolutely cannot live without and one which we so often overlook. When you turn on the tap and no water comes out, everything changes.
CLICK HERE for the rest of Ashley’s article, along with resources for water conservation education and tips for conserving water at home and in the garden!
Over 70% of our planet is covered in water. It’s a wet, blue planet. Everything we allow to travel down the plumbing pipes of our homes, offices, and places of recreation eventually makes its way into our oceans. So much more than mere locales of unspeakable beauty and vehicles for golden tans, these oceans and their coastlines provide food for massive amounts of organisms, including humans. A large number of Earth’s human populations live in coastal areas and rely heavily on foods from the ocean to sustain themselves, as well as for their livelihoods. Oceans also provide buffers from storms, which have increased in intensity as the Earth has warmed.
In the remarkable documentary film “Acid Test”, narrated by ocean activist and actress Sigourney Weaver, we learn about the “other CO2 problem,” the rise in carbon dioxide levels in the oceans. This increase in CO2 is adversely affecting the ability of marine organisms to grow their exoskeletons. Traveling up the food chain, as successive organisms loose their food sources, the problem eventually becomes a human one. Similarly, the multi award-winning documentary film “Flow” assesses the world’s growing lack of access to fresh water. According to the film, of the 6 billion humans on Earth, over 1.1 billion don’t have regular sources of fresh drinking water. Furthermore, the fresh water that is available is running out.
Annie Leonard, a sustainability proponent perhaps best known for her animated film “The Story of Stuff” about the life cycle of processed goods put out a new film this week on bottled water. “The Story of Bottled Water” examines the multi-million dollar industry, from what motivated its creation in the first place to its claims of purity as well as the waste that it generates. As this past Monday marked the 2010 World Water Day (an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro), and this year’s theme is “water quality”, it seemed only fitting that this week’s small measure should address water conservation, preservation, and stewardship.
The following lists offer ideas for water conservation in the home and in the yard:House water saving tips:-Install a water filter on your tap and use a stainless-steel water bottle instead of plastic water bottles. -Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth.-Consider taking a shower instead of a bath (showers use 1/3rd the energy of baths).-Install low-flow shower heads (which regulate the amount of water dispensed). -Consider taking a foot bath or having a mug of herbal tea for evening relaxation instead of taking a shower.-Be certain your home has no leaky faucets.-Insulate hot water heater pipes, permitting taps to run for shorter periods of time before the water becomes hot.-Shower or bathe with someone! -Consider taking shorter showers.-Use an electric razor outside of the shower. -Flush the toilet only when necessary (uses a great deal of energy to operate, as well as carry waste away).-Run the dishwasher or washing machine only when full. -If you are a homeowner, consider installing grey water systems (“grey” water is that left after showering, or using the washing machine or dishwasher; “black” water is that generated by use of the toilet); grey water can be used in watering non-edible outdoor plants.
Garden water saving tips: -Situate plants in beds according to their water needs; water only those requiring lots of moisture.-Use a good amount of organic matter to aid in water retention.-Mulch heavily. -Water only as needed, based on physical moisture level.-Consider giving up your lawn for an edible landscape (“Gaia’s Garden” and “Landscaping with Fruit”; are both wonderful resource books). -Water 1-inch at a time to soak roots.-Utilize drip irrigation or soaker hoses to control water flow. -Consider rain barrels to collect rainwater runoff from roofs.
In addition to conserving water, it’s important to preserve the fresh water supplies we do have available. There are a number of ways this is achievable: Water preservation:-Minimize or eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides.-Use only plant-based, additive-free dish and laundry detergents, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, and any other personal product which ends up going down the drain. -Campaign and educate yourself on ending ocean pollution (via mercury from land-based industrial manufacturing plant runoff, oil spills, unsustainable aquaculture practices, shipping emissions, and cruise ships-some cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, should be lauded for installing advanced wastewater treatment technology onboard). You can learn more about advocacy being done on behalf of the oceans via the non-profit organization Oceana (actor Ted Danson is a big supporter). -Read up on the work being done by 5 gyres. Gyres are large, massive, slow-moving ocean whirlpools. Inside these currents, plastic debris has begun to accumulate. There are 5 gyres, with the North Pacific Gyre (also known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”) being the most heavily researched to date. -Know that many, many talented and creative people are working tirelessly on solving the world’s water problems. These suggestions, submitted for consideration at the annual Buckminster Fuller Institute Challenge, are remarkable in their vision and scope.
I welcome your own water conservation and preservation suggestions. -ashley