A Water Conservation Statistic

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I saw an interesting statistic about water conservation recently. Water conservation is not a new topic or one that has just become fashionable as part of the recent embracing by the media of everything green. Low flow shower heads and toilets have been part of building codes for many years. We are often told the best method, and time of day, to water our lawns and gardens. Have you ever been asked if you turn off the water when you brush your teeth?

Typing “water conservation” into a Google search field returns almost 4 million results. Some, sites, like Water – Use It Wisely are 100% devoted to water conservation. There are dire predictions that in some parts of the world, in the not too distant future, wars will be fought over water. Even in the U.S. the water problems that may be faced by some cities, especially in the west, make for scary reading.

So what is the statistic that I mentioned in the first sentence? Just this: “Over 80% of the water use in the U.S. is by industry and agriculture. I imagine it is not as high in other parts of the world, but I don’t know for sure. Still, this is obviously where solutions will need to be targeted.

Even if residential water use in the U.S is cut by another, probably unrealistic, 25%, this will only reduce overall usage by, at most, 5%. If we are to cut water use by the 10 or 15% some experts say will be needed to assure water plentiful enough for our still growing population, industry and agriculture will need to change how they do business.

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Will Sig
1 JD Thomas

After generations of Americans of all socioeconomic groups growing up with a one of the greatest luxury items in the history of the world in the form of cheap, safe, clean, municipal water many people have become spoiled or at least oblivious to whats going on when they turn on a tap.

In many areas of the world people – at least one family member – spends a significant portion of the day securing water for the family and livestock.

I know you read this Will, but others who are just learning about water resource issues might be interested: Coke – Profits over People.

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2 Anna

Hi Will,

In your post you wrote: ‘Have you ever been asked if you turn off the water when you brush your teeth?’ – oh well never here, but in Europe it happened to us all the time, however, it wasn’t due to conservation, just the mulfunctioning plumbing, lol. BTW I can believe that the water is mostly used by commercial sources versus residential. The simple thinking is, not just talking about water used in manufacturing directly, but if you have 100 employees, you will definitely have at least 3×100 toilet flushes (if you got to go you got to go), 3×100 hand washing (assuming the employees wash their hands, lol), and then you can add additional workout facilities, cafeterias etc etc. So the 80% may be right.

Good observation Will as always, Anna 🙂

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3 JD Thomas

Anna, I doubt that washrooms and cooking are a big factor in the water use by businesses. After all, those people would be using water in the same ways if they were unemployed and at home.

I watch lots of shows like “How its Made” and other 30 minute behind the scenes/documentary type tv shows, AND I grew up Orange Country in South Florida. Many industries use massive amounts of water just in non-human processes. In a plant near where I grew up raised metal water “canals” were used to float Oranges around the plant and in the sorting process. I’ve seen the same thing in potato processing plants.

Just think how much water is used in the process of nightly cleaning for each meat processing plant. And then multiply that times the hundreds of plants around the country. There is also the matter of the American habit of forcing grass to grow though massive irrigation efforts in order to create world class golf courses in the Arizona and Southern California deserts.

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4 Will

Thanks Anna and JD! Good points. Yes, the 80% used by industry and agriculture is not offices or other businesses. It is used in the industrial manufacturing process and in irrigation of crops and livestock. That is why a simple thing like repairing leaky irrigation canals or covering them to avoid evaporation, could make a huge difference.

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5 Bob

Again our company is looking at all their properties to save water, there is a pilot mall that has a huge tank on the roof to catch rain water to use to flush their toilets and urinals, every little bit helps, ever since my daughters have left to be on their own we have reduced our water consumption by 20%,it’s those 30 min showers that kill,lol.

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6 Jennifer Robin

Water conservation has far reaching consequences beyond what most would think. I am on my own private well, and one would think that I would not see much benefit from conserving; after all, I don’t “pay” for my water. Shorter showers and low flush toilets (just for starters) means less of a strain on my septic drainfield (longer life for septic system), the well pump doesn’t run as often (less electricity usage), less salt needed for my water softener, and lower maintenance costs for my filtration system. So, the less water I use, the less electricity I use, which translates into less petroleum that the power plant that supplies my electricity has to use…
It’s called the domino effect.

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7 Michelle

Hi Will,

I believe the same is true of other things as well; if any sort of conservation or recycling or pollution-reduction effort is going to make a serious difference, it will have to be the effort of industry.

The airport in Portland, OR has made an effort to conserve water. The public toilets have two flush modes, one for liquid waste that uses less water than the one for solid waste. I hope other corporations follow their example.

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8 Will

That is a great idea they have, Bob. What kind of company do you work for? Do you know if the tank supplies all the water they need for that use? Or, does it tie into the regular water system and have some sort of way to use that if the roof tank is low?

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9 Will

Jennifer – That is a great example. Do you use a whole house filtration system?

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10 Will

Hi Michelle – Do you know if the airport did this on their own, or was it mandated by city codes? I wonder how it is working. Whenever I have to use a public bathroom, I am shocked by the number of people that don’t seem to flush at all!

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11 Michelle

Hi Will,

I don’t know if the Portland airport water conservation efforts were mandated or how well they are meeting their goals. I searched a bit but didn’t find anything on that.

However, off the topic of conserving water, PDX also participated in a pilot project to recycle uneaten food by depositing it in a compost facility instead of the local landfill.

There is a paragraph on that here:
http://www.portlandonline.com/osd/index.cfm?a=bbbibi&c=ebije

It’s the seventh paragraph down the page. The “bottom line” on that is: “The project achieved a 9 percent reduction in compostable materials in the PDX waste stream.”

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12 Janelle

And of that over 80%, most is wasted or evaporates before it gets to the crops or industry. That is where the reform needs to start!

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