9 Ways to Conserve Water and Protect the Environment

Although it seems we are surrounded by water here on the Outer Banks, water use for daily life is a precious commodity. Yes, it is a renewable resource, but the rate at which we overuse water as a population can have devastating effects.  In this blog we share 9 ways to conserve water as we do our part to safe the planet!

Did You Know…

Just over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, but only about 3% of it is fresh water (not from the ocean).  Of that 3%, nearly three-quarters of it is trapped in glaciers and ice formations, resulting in 1% of the Earth’s water available for us to use. 

In Our Own Backyard…

Even though July was a particularly wet month for parts of North Carolina, cities in our area like Elizabeth City had 4.80 inches in July, which was 0.9 inches below normal, and it’s 3.6 inches below normal since the start of the summer (https://climate.ncsu.edu/blog/2022/08/a-warm-wet-july-extends-our-steamy-summer/, n.d.). Less rain water means less water all around.

Every Little Drop Counts…

We rely pretty heavily on that 1% of available water, and when we waste it (letting it run while doing dishes, brushing our teeth, soaping up in the shower, or filling the washing machine even with a small load, etc.), we are limiting the amount of water to use for farming, cooking, or drinking! And that’s not even counting the amount of water we lose from a toilet that runs constantly, leaky faucets or outdoor showers that drip. 

If everyone does their part to conserve, it will add up to big savings.  Being mindful about the water we use can provide immediate cost savings, and divert less water from rivers, bays, and estuaries. It can also reduce the amount of energy used in water and wastewater treatment facilities.

Here are 9 tips to get you thinking about ways you control the amount of water you use every day:

9 Water-Saving Tips to Live By

  • Consider a low-flow shower head. Low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by about 40%, and you get bonus points for energy savings since you’re probably using hot water as well.  For double-bonus points, shorten your shower time to under 10 minutes and you’ll go from about 75 gallons for a 15–20-minute shower to as little as 10 gallons for a 5–10-minute shower.
  • Replace your old toilet with a low-flow toilet. Today’s toilets are mandated to be low-flow or low-flush, meaning they require only 1.6 gallons (6 liters) per flush. Prior to the mandate, toilets used 3.5-7 gallons per flush!
  • Turn off the faucet while you brush. As mentioned earlier in this article, letting the water run while brushing your teeth is a big contributor to water waste.  According to the EPA, letting the water run while brushing your teeth twice a day can waste as much as eight gallons a day, over 200 gallons every month, and over 2,400 gallons a year.
  • Got dishes? Doing dishes by hand can waste as much as 9-27 gallons of water alone.  Most modern faucets can help alleviate that number, using as little as 1.5-2 gallons per minute (compared to pre-1992 faucets, which use as much as 2.5 gpm).  Turn off the water while sudsing up, then turn the tap to a low flow while rinsing. 
  • Prefer the dishwasher? Contrary to what you may think, it’s better to run the dishwasher if you want to use less water.  A single dishwasher cycle may use only about 4 gallons of water. Most modern dishwasher manufacturers suggest loading without rinsing for best results (if you prefer rinsing before loading, do a quick rinse of all dishes and silverware, then load them all at once).
  • Purchase a re-usable water bottle. Although plastic water bottles are generally one of the most acceptable recyclable plastics, sources say it can take more than a gallon of water to produce one single-use water bottle (including the water used to fill it).  So why not fill your own water bottle from the tap (or use a filtering pitcher like a Brita) and do your part to conserve.
  • Keeping your lawn green doesn’t have to be taboo.  Keep your system maintained on a regular basis and adjust your irrigation timer monthly – lawns require different amounts of water throughout the year.  Irrigating with the same amount of water results in an incredible waste of water. To maximize the irrigation process, it’s best to water before 10:00a.m. or after 4:00 p.m.
  • Capture Rainwater. When you can, capture rainwater and use it for outdoor chores (it’s not advised to consume rainwater).  It’s ideal for watering plants, washing cars, cleaning, etc.  Did you know that rainwater often contains nitrogen which provides a slight fertilizing effect for plants?
  • Water waste in homes can average 10% due to leaks. Regularly check your water sources for leaks.  Particularly in parts of the home that are infrequently used.  If you own a vacation rental, don’t assume your guests are going to mention a leaky faucet, running toilet or drips under the sink. Be sure to check your toilet and sink drain pipes for any rusted, worn or bent parts.  Most jobs are a quick DIY or contact a professional to have it done quickly and efficiently.

There are a lot of ways to help save water for you, your family, and the planet.  You may not have necessarily learned anything new here, these tips have been around for decades, but it’s always good to have a reminder.  Even one small step to change your habits can yield big results.