Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thinking About Water

In the past few days, I've been thinking a lot about water. It started a few months ago when I read a glamour article about the grandaughter of that great sea explorer whose name I've forgotten. But she is a water activist now and is trying to teach people how to conserve water.It encouraged me to keep doing what I've been doing as far as pouring leftover drinking water (glasses of water etc) into my plants or the cat/dog bowl, but didn't really take hold of my thoughts. It was striking to me, however, and led me to muse about it now and again.

Then, yesterday, I read some articles about people in New Delhi around the Yamuna river who are upper-middle and middle class and don't even have consistent running water (even though they have pipes). 20-40% of New Delhi's water is lost from leakage due to poor pipe construction and old pipes. This woman has to be even more careful with her water usage and consistently reuses it for other things. She also pays over $45 US dollars (a week?) for 3 different sources of water - running water bill, tanker truck and neighborhood drilled well. She talked about how after she wakes up at 6a.m. she spends her day worrying about how she's going to get water that day.

Then you've got all the lower-middle and lower classes who have no access to running water. The women have to spend their days waiting for water tankers and fighting over water. One woman had to quit her job just so she could wait for water. And even then, a lot spills out into the streets from people filling their jugs. Not to mention the fact that they have open sewers flowing down their streets with unprocessed human waste in them. There are not enough treatment plants to process waste and also little to no restriction on dumping waste in rivers. All this stuff flows down into the Yamuna river, the river that New Delhi was founded on and, ironically, is still considered sacred and holy.  However, this river is pretty much a sewer itself with clumps of waste floating in it and methane bubbles coming from the surface.Despite this, people still bathe, wash clothes, play and work in it. A lot of children a year die from diarrhea and other feces-related deaths before the age of 5. But a lot of those people have no choice. 
Waste from New Delhi pouring into the Yamuna River 

But this is not unique to India.  One blogger talks about how stuff like this is even done in more modern countries like Spain making it risky to drink from the rivers there as well. (I got the picture at the beginning from his blog).  He states facts like "More than 800 million human beings don't have access to safe drinking water of any type, and more than 2.000 million people don't have access to water for sanitation purposes."

So, yeah, water is scarce, they've been telling us that for years, right? Well, right but that doesn't mean that we, in America, can't do something to help. Now I don't really know where our water comes from or goes (water tables and all that) but I do know that even though Colorado has gone through "droughts" we still have water coming out of our taps, our showers and our sprinklers. So the parks had to stop watering their very thirsty Kentucky blue grass? Who cares! We still are waaay luckier than most countries.

Now this is what I'm thinking:  why don't we work on conserving water as well? I know it'll be hard for y'all to give up your 20 minute long showers and that impossibly green lawn, but I think that if we at least cut back in a few ways, it will help. I have thought of some great ways to reduce your water consumption.

1). Don't throw water down the sink! You're finished with that glass of water and you've let it sit there for a few days.  I know that it will taste kinda gross now and I'd rather have a fresh one. But you know who doesn't care? The plant, that lawn, and the dog. Pour the water in there instead.

2). Try to do the 20 minutes showers only on weekends or special-occasion days. I think 7 minutes is what the experts say, but I would time myself to see how long it takes. If you feel that it takes you way to long for your normal routine, think about ways you can cut back. Like, I used to turn off the water when I shaved my legs and after a while I got lazy and stopped. (and I intend to start again, you hecklers!)

3). Make your loads of laundry as full as possible because fewer large loads take less water than many small ones (I read this somewhere, can't remember where now). 

4). Run the water lightly when hand-washing dishes instead of on full tilt. Only use that setting if you need the pressure for the spayer or something.

5). This one is for you PUBLIC WORKS people and BUSINESSES - don't water the grass when it's raining. I mean WTF? Really? I know we, like, NEVER get rain here but seriously. When we do, we should make use of it. Is there some sort of rain meter that can automatically shut of sprinklers when it rains? If there is, everyone should install one.

6). Maybe we could even get really crazy and use small buckets of water to wash and rinse sponges when cleaning counters and stuff? Then only run the water for the final wash....This may not work but I think I'll try it.

7). Ok, seriously, why do medians here have grass on them? Who the F cares about medians? Put some nice rocks or pretty local plants there instead, then you wouldn't have to waste water on something that a person's going to see for less than 5 minutes. 

Ok, this post is getting really long so I'll stop here. I'm sure I've missed stuff, so please post your water-saving strategies. But whatever you do, please keep thinking about water! C'mon ppl!


  1. I put a few water bottles into my toilet tank so it tricks it into thinking that it's full when it isn't. It makes my normally 1.6 gpf toilet into a 0.8 gpf toilet. I read that toilets are the biggest source of wasted water in a house and it's definitely true because since I did that my water bill has pretty much cut in half :-) And I think the explorer is probably Jacques Cousteau.. cuz I know Alexandra Cousteau is always on Planet Green haha.

  2. Oh man, word on medians... There are so many things like that in Colorado, where we decorate with non-native H20 intensive plants when more eco friendly options would be just as beautiful.

    Great post! water conservation is one of things that I'm truly bad at -- among other things I take absurdly epic showers. I've been trying to shorten them but we also got a showerhead that can switch to lower water pressure for when you don't need it full tilt which is pretty rad...

  3. The toilet tank thing sounds awesome! I'm going to try that! And also a low-water showerhead is something I had at my parents' house and it's something I want to look into again. =)

    My biggest challenge right now is teaching the little girl how to not waste water. When I told her about India, she actually got pretty sad, so I hope I can reinforce water conservation with her. =)