When you brushed your teeth this morning, did you think about the quality or quantity of the water you were using? Chances are, you did not. If you are like me, when the alarm goes off, you shuffle to the bathroom half-asleep and start your morning routine – one that depends on water! That routine of flushing the toilet once, brushing teeth, and taking a shower adds up to about 13 to 24 gallons of water used.
On average, Ohio receives about 38 inches of precipitation a year, enough so that we don’t have to think about water. According to the World Health Organization, 829,000 people are estimated to die each year from diarrhea as a result of water-related issues such as unsafe drinking water and lack of adequate sanitation – a sobering and frightening statistic.
October 23 is the fifth annual “Imagine a Day without Water.” Water is essential to life, and we are so fortunate that our local supply is reliable and safe. Because we just have to turn the handle to enjoy a plentiful supply of clean and delicious water (and water infrastructure is mostly invisible to us), it is easy to take it all for granted. The average American uses 64,240 gallons of water in a year. For a typical American household, water usage breaks down into the following:
• 17 percent is used in showering
• 27 percent is flushed down the toilet
• 15 percent comes out of the faucet
• 22 percent runs through the washing machine
• Miscellaneous needs take up 5 percent
• Leaks use up a staggering 14 percent
Water is vital to the U.S. economy. Forty six percent of the water consumed is used in manufacturing the products we buy. It takes 40,000 gallons of water to make a car, and 2,110 gallons to make a pair of shoes. Water is used in transportation of the goods we use and for the generation of power to make those goods. Another 40% of the water in America is used to produce the food we eat and the beverages we drink.
Seventy percent of the Earth is water, but most of it is frozen in the polar ice caps, too far underground to reach, or too salty. Imagine if all of the Earth’s water were only 26 gallons, our usable supply of fresh water would equal one half of a teaspoon. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a day without water. No chocolate, no coffee. No water for my dogs or the animals at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. No swimming pools or ice hockey rinks. No fishing, kayaking, sailing. No beautiful scenery to admire. No trees for shade. No sanitary sewer system. And … no humans.
Waste not a drop! Fix those leaks, turn off the water when you brush your teeth, and take shorter showers. Compost kitchen waste instead of running the garbage disposer. Run the dishwasher when it is full. Buy energy and water efficient appliances. Collect the water used to wash fruits and vegetables, and water your outdoor pots and indoor houseplants. More great water conserving ideas can be found at www.wateruseitwisely.com.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us.