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Save Some For Tomorrow: Water Conservation Tips

Many of us take water for granted in this country. We turn on the tap and, whoosh, out it comes, a life sustaining substance that often costs less per year than a subscription to cable TV.

That's not true in some foreign lands. There, the water may come on at seven in the morning, then be turned off at two in the afternoon. There's just not enough to go around. And it may not be fit to drink.

Water isn't manufactured. We must wait for the rain and snow and hope enough falls to recharge our ground water supplies, replenish our reservoirs, and bolster flows in our streams and rivers.

In the Delaware River Basin, which drains portions of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, that hasn't happened lately. In fact, it's been so dry that some ground water levels and stream flows are at record lows. What little rain we've had has been mostly soaked up by thirsty vegetation.

We need your help.

Here are some things you can do to conserve until the rains return:

  • Take shorter showers and save 5 to 7 gallons of water per minute;
  • Fill the tub halfway and save 10 to 15 gallons;
  • Install water-saving toilets, shower heads and faucet aerators;
  • Don't run the water while shaving, washing your hands, or brushing your teeth;
  • Don't use the toilet as a wastebasket;
  • Position your downspouts so rain water runs onto the lawn or into the garden, not down the driveway;
  • When running tap water to get it hot, divert the initial cool water into a pot or bucket, then use it to water the plants;
  • Check your water meter or bill to see how much water you are using. Each of us should be able to get by comfortably on 50 gallons per person per day;
  • Repair leaky faucets.

Remember that awareness is the first step in conservation.

Consider these facts and hopefully you will think twice about how you use water, especially during dry times:

  • Up to 90 percent of the water used to sprinkle lawns on a hot sunny day can be lost to the atmosphere through evaporation. This is water that is not returned to the hydrologic cycle. Soaker hoses or trickle systems, on the other hand, reduce the amount of water used by 20 to 50 percent;
  • A garden hose discharges up to six-and-a-half gallons of water per minute under standard household water pressure;
  • Approximately two-thirds of residential interior water use is for toilet flushing and bathing;
  • Old vintage toilets use between 4 and 6 gallons of water per flush. Low consumption models use 1.6 gallons;
  • Hot water leaks not only are a waste of water, but are a waste of the energy used to heat that water;
  • A dishwasher uses between 8 and 12 gallons of water per load. Make sure it's full before turning it on;
  • A top-loading clothes washer uses between 40 and 55 gallons of water per load. Front-loading models use roughly half that amount. Again, only run full loads.

Water conservation is a smart investment not only for now but for the future.

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), which manages the water resources within the 13,539 square-mile basin, has an ambitious program to reduce water demand. Recognized both nationally and internationally, it has resulted in significant cost savings, environmental protection, and improved drought preparedness.

Such programs make a difference, underscoring the fact that water is a finite commodity.

So when you turn on the spigot, don't take that whoosh for granted. Instead, think of ways to save some water for tomorrow.

Make conservation a lifelong habit.

(This article was written by Carol Collier in 1999. Ms. Collier, who has published widely on environmental and water-related topics, was the Delaware River Basin Commission's executive director from 1998-2014.)