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Green Living Tip | Staying dry: Drought renews interest in water conservation

Everyone has at least a little bit of green in them.  It might be as simple as switching off a light to save electricity or as committed as recycling every scrap of paper, plastic or aluminum foil that comes your way.

But what about water? Are you as careful about using only what you need as you are about, say, turning off the iron when you leave your apartment? (Or going back to make sure you did.)

As author Charles Fishman notes in his book, “The Big Thirst,” water is the most familiar natural resource and the most important substance in our lives.  But we often take it for granted.  It’s cheap, safe and always there when we turn on the faucet.

“The ease with which water enters and leaves our lives allows us an indifference to our water supply,” he writes. “We are utterly ignorant of our own water-mark, of the amount of water required to float us through the day, and we are utterly indifferent to the mark our daily life leaves on the water supply.”

But the images of cracked fields and withered crops resulting from the drought that still grips a good deal of the country has nudged water – or more precisely the lack of it – into the national conversation.  And the word that keeps popping up in that conversation is conservation.

Let’s begin with one way we all use water. The typical American, on average, flushes the toilet five times a day at home, using 18.5 gallons, Fishman says. Every day as a nation 5.7 billion gallons of clean water is flushed down the toilet, according to Fishman.

Now consider what happens if you place a filled plastic water bottle in a conventional toilet water tank, one that uses three to seven gallons per flush. That simple act will displace enough water to save half a gallon to a gallon each use – and that’s no drop in the bucket (sorry).

Here are a few more tips from Water – Use it Wisely that every apartment dweller can employ to save H2O:

  • Run your washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
  • Collect the water you use for rinsing fruits and vegetables, and then reuse it to water houseplants.
  • Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you’ll save up to 150 gallons per month.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month. Turn off the water while you shave and save up to 300 gallons a month.
  • Drop your tissue in the trash instead of flushing it.
  • For hanging baskets, planters and pots, place ice cubes under the moss or dirt to give your plants a cool drink of water and help eliminate water overflow.

The freshwater initiative of National Geographic has plenty of information and tips and an eye-opening water footprint calculator.