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This Is A Turn Off This Is A Turn Off

This Is A Turn Off

by Siobhan O'Connor, Adam Matthews
July 29, 2010

We use more water than we need. Here's how to reduce your water footprint to fewer than 75 gallons per day. Read the introduction below or jump straight to sections on using less water in the bathroom, outdoors, and in the kitchen.

According to UNICEF, humans need about five gallons of clean water a day to survive.

In America, we can easily use 400 gallons per household, per day. That's two to three times more water as other developed nations. With landscape irrigation estimated at more than 7 billion gallons per day, the per capita numbers get even crazier. Why? Much of our waste stems from unsustainable planning and policies and a deep sense of entitlement: we want what we want when and where we want it. We grow crops and build cities on former deserts that require irrigation, which means diverting water from streams and rivers. And that much ballyhooed corn-based ethanol requires approximately 1,700 gallons of water for every gallon of fuel produced. Which means that even our great green gas isn't water efficient.

But it's not just big business and government that are to blame. We live in bigger houses than Europeans, drive bigger cars, have more clothes that need frequent washing in water-guzzling machines, and we pitch too many things into the trash instead of fixing them. All of this uses lots of water.

So while the public looks optimistically to the current administration for cues, it's a little busy, and we can't hire a lobbyist to rewrite U.S. water policy. What we can do is make some important choices. All it takes is a little bit of thought.

Why 75?

A few words about the number: We do not expect very many of you to convert your toilet into a compost bin with a seat on it, nor will we ask you to forgo your daily shower. However, the average American uses more than 151 gallons of water per day. And there are a lot of Americans. In the spirit of a slightly more equitable use of resources, we're asking you to turn off the tap.

We realize that the idea of halving your water use might deter too many of you. If you want to go crazy, we applaud you (and please let us know how it goes). If you want to start with baby steps, see what you can do about getting it down to 75. Once you realize how easy that can be, add on some other steps.

To help guide the transition, here are some explanations of where you're unknowingly hogging water, home hacks you can perform, and tips that might force you to alter your daily rituals, but won't have you living like a woodsman. Good luck!

Conventional Gallons, By Use*

Toilet: 3.5 to 6 gallons per flush for a conventional toilet

Shower: 2.5 to 4 gallons per minute for a conventional shower head

Bath: Up to 60 gallons per bath based on standard tub size, full

Dishwasher: 4 gallons per load if it is Energy Star rated, 6 gallons without

Running faucet: 2 to 7 gallons per minute for a conventional faucet

Watering your lawn:  5 to 10 gallons per minute for a running hose

*Water flow depends on your water pressure, obviously. These numbers reflect conventional water use and conventional tub and sink sizes, on average, without aerators, low-flow attachments, etc.  

Take action! Read more from the Good Guide to Reducing Your Water Use:

Part 1: The Bathroom

Part 2: Outdoors

Part 3: The Kitchen

 

Americans vs. Europeans  The average per-capita water use in the United States is 151 gallons per person per day-more than any other country in the world. The French, for example, get by on 71 apiece. The British, a paltry 37.



 

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