It's no secret after this year's lackluster ski season and warm spring that it's more important than ever to conserve water. Local river basins currently have less snowpack than the drought year of 2002. Of even more concern is what will happen in 2013 if we have another below-average precipitation year.
Although it's easy to point fingers at large water users and Front Range residents, Denver Water is a leader in water conservation and requires residents to follow outdoor water conservation rules. Perhaps we should be less quick to judge others until we take more action ourselves. According to the EPA, the average American unknowingly wastes up to 30 gallons a day, so if all of us became more conscious of our water use, we could conserve a lot more of this precious resource.
Most of us understand the reasons conserving water is so critical, but there is also a financial component. You may not notice a savings in your water bill for conservation efforts (because water is so inexpensive), but you will see savings on your energy bill if you can reduce your hot water use.
Here are 10 simple ways to reduce your water and energy usage:
1. Install low-flow showerheads and low-flow aerators on sinks. Installing new fixtures in your bathroom can save over 7,000 gallons annually, enough water to wash six months' worth of laundry. And it will save you over $80 a year in power bills.
2. Fix leaking toilets and faucets. Leaking toilets waste the most water in an average household. A leaking toilet can waste 200 gallons a day!
3. Only run the dishwasher when it's full. Washing dishes in a full dishwasher uses less water than washing by hand in the sink with a running tap.
4. Take showers instead of baths. A five-minute shower uses 10-25 gallons of water, while a bath uses 40-70 gallons.
5. Wash clothes in cold water.
6. Insulate your water heater and pipes. Not only will this save energy, but it will mean less water down the drain while you're waiting for it to get hot.
7. Xeriscape. If you own a home, xeriscaping offers amazing natural beauty by featuring native plants that are drought resistant. A few Steward family favorites are potentilla and wild rose shrubs, complemented with sedum ground cover. And there are a multitude of wildflower options as well, including lupine, flax, penstemon and phlox.
8. If you do have a yard, water it less and early in the morning. Water grass only three days a week, and never water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., because a significant amount of evaporation occurs during the heat of the day.
9. Add mulch and compost to flower beds. By adding nutrient-rich compost and organic mulch to your beds, you'll retain more moisture and need to water less.
10. Learn more. Educate yourself to find more ways to save water. A great starting point is www.epa.gov/watersense/.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.