Recently I watched a video from John Oliver regarding water shortage and it emphasized what I already knew and heard many times before, humans (especially in the West) waste a lot or precious resources – in this case water – without giving it too much thought.
I looked up how a typical western person uses its water and found the following graph:
There are other graphs but they all boil down to the same, we use a lot of water daily and most of it is used on showering and bathroom use.
If you’re interested in more data about water usage and stress on watersources, have a look at: https://ourworldindata.org/water-use-stress.
This was also a very interesting graph which basically says that due to the increase in worldpopulation there’s also a large increase in water usage:
So with all the watershortage, also caused by global warming and climate change, what are solutions? We can of course look at all the industries that use large amounts of water or talk about govermental policies or the price of water, but I rather focus (this time) on simple things that us individuals can do. Here are 10 things I am doing and still can do.
Nr 1: Brush your teeth before taking a shower
Let’s start simple, taking a shower uses the most amount of water. Brushing your teeth takes time (2-3 minutes), after which you still want to washup. On average people take about 8 minutes to shower, which means if you brush your teeth before (or after) you skip 3 minutes of showering, that’s almost 40% less time in the shower: saving 20 liters a day per person. Easy win.
Nr 2: Use dampner on fosset
A simple way to save some water is to use a dampner or restrictor for you fossets. Adding a simple ring will restrict the amount of water you use, still enough for daily use, just takes a bit longer to fill a glass.
Nr 3: Use bucket to catch shower water
This one is arguably the easiest to implement, just put a bucket next to you when you shower and use that water for flusing your toilet. It depends if you have used soap or not but you can also use it to water your plants. And you will be surprised how fast the bucket fills.
Also use the bucket to catch water when turning on the shower, the water is usually still cold and it just flows away, why not use it more efficiently!
Nr 4: Time your showers
As mentioned at Nr. 1, people take up to to 8 minutes to shower. If you time that to 3-4 minutes you can save more than 25 liters (according to the graph). I know it feels really nice to take a long warm/hot shower, especially in the winter but that’s more from a comfort perspective, you don’t really need it.
Second benefit of timing your showers is a lower gas bill which will help a lot of people. Give up your creature comfort to save water and money.
Nr 5: Catch & use rainwater for garden
This one is also not that difficult, might be a bit of work getting a barrel and hooking it up to a rainpipe but just let if fill up when the rain is falling and use it in times of drought.
Nr 6: Catch & use rainwater for flushing toilets and more
An extension of Nr 5 is to use a system to catch rainwater and use that for more that just your garden. There are plenty of systems and providers out there who can install this. Some even include filtering options so you can use it for showering and/or dishwasher and/or washingmachine.
It is more expensive that some of the other options but it’s a good investment for prosperity.
Nr 7: Eat less meat
Everyone knows the agriculture sector is a large consumer of drinkable water but meat from large animals is really the topconsumer. Although I’m all in favor of eating a decent piece of meat now and then, it’s not that hard to do the math: eat less (cow) meat > less cows are needed > less water is used. The graph below illustrates this well.
You could extend this to cheese, pork, chicken and eggs. And I’m not saying to stop eating them, just reduce your intake and replace with other types of food. We replaced meat a few times a week with meat-replacements which are getting better like the beyond burger. However we are a fan of eggs and use them quite a lot, but every little bit helps.
Nr 8: No swimming pool
It really amazes me sometimes when there’s news about drought all over the news and then people just fill in their (mostly inflatable) swimming pools with drink water. I confess I have done that myself, but at least we only did it once and then made sure we 1) only filled it once and kept it clear and 2) used the water afterwards for the garden. We also have just got rid of the pool as our kids are getting too big for the size we had but have no intention of getting a replacement.
A small inflatable pool for small kids when it’s really hot is ok(ish) but it seems like people are getting bigger and bigger pools, and since there are more people getting these pools, the amount of water used for this purpose is also growing.
As far as I’m concerned (local) government should be able to enforce a (temporary) ban on pools in case of severe drought, with a big fine for a violation.
Nr. 9: “If it’s yellow….”
Don’t know where I heard this first but the saying was from a person in an area (I think the US) where they have a continues drought and it was like this: “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s green or brown let it drown”. If you haven’t guessed it’s about the nr 1 and nr 2 when visiting the loo 🙂
It may sound a bit filthy but the graph at the top shows us that 33 liters of water is used by flushing the toilet onm a daily basis. In a 4 person household that amounts to a lot of water (about 120 liters). We are following this credo more and more, especially in the evening (and sometimes night) and is not filthy or smelly at all (unless you ate asperges). Just try it and see if your waterbill is smaller next time.
Nr. 10 Only reproduce yourself
A bit of a controversial one, but this math is also not hard. The more people there are the more water is needed and consumed. Now the projection is that the world population will eventually stabilize and even decline at the end of the century. But it will grow untill that time, mostly in Africa and Asia where it’s projected that 80% of the worlds population will reside.
We’ve always had this in mind when getting kids, to only ‘reproduce’ ourselves and have no more than 2 kids. Luckily the overall growth of the population in the West is stabilizing but it’s my opinion that the world would be in a much better state with no more that 4-5 billion people. However since people in the West (where the U.S. is with out a doubt the top consumer) use most water per head of the population, getting them to use less (and overall give up more of their Western comfort) is difficult.
So lots of big and small things to do to save water from an individual perspective. We’ve implemented 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10 (to various degrees), and are now looking to use rainwater in some way. But it’s really easy to use less water without giving up too much comfort. Give it a try!