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September 2, 2010

Save Water, Bathe with a Friend. ~ Natasha Grunden

Water is there when we turn on the faucet, flush the toilet and set up the sprinklers to water the lawn. It’s always there…until it isn’t.

There’s a widespread notion that water is a precious resource. It always seems to flow when we need it. Why should we care how much water we use? Maybe a longer shower makes us feel better and cleaner than a shorter one. In Boulder, Colorado, residents are currently saving water like it’s 1981. For the city of Boulder, that means losing money. The city is losing enough money from low water use that city council voted to raise water rates three percent to cover the loss.

Saving water may just fall in line with the green movement of using less regardless of the reasons for doing so. Greenwashing might be scaring us into products, given there’s an entire industry involved in getting us to use less water. You can find dual flush toilets, which use different amounts of water for solid and liquid waste. There are popular (and expensive) low-flow or high-efficiency toilets as well as waterless urinals. Home water-recycling systems and special showerhead and timers are also available. There are obvious interests in getting us to buy stuff that reduces water use.

Water is there when we turn on the faucet, flush the toilet and set up the sprinklers to water the lawn. It’s always there…until it isn’t.

We consume, consume, consume expecting there to be an endless source. In 2000, the U.S. Geological Survey put total water use in the United States at 408,000 million gallons per day.  To put it in perspective, one million gallons per day = 694.4 gallons per minute, which is an unfathomable amount of water.

There’s a financial cost associated with water in terms of cleaning and treating water and managing the pipe and sewer lines before it even gets to the home.  Maintenance and in some cases large-scale construction projects to build bigger reservoirs and dams add to this massive demand for safe water.

The cost alone should be enough to reduce consumption, but for some parts of the country, financial cost isn’t the only concern. Through much of the western United States, average precipitation isn’t enough to keep the lush greens of plants and tress as seen in the east. Many people resort to using that limited amount of potable water to keep the lawn alive. In the dry mountains, there just isn’t enough for both plants and people to use water like it’s going out of style.

Lacking enough water for people in the area, Xeriscape was developed in Denver in the late ‘70s.  Xeriscape is a type of landscaping that uses plants with low water needs and minimal maintenance. These aren’t just yards of cactus and rock, but actual plants, e.g. columbine, sages and lavender.

In the end, if we don’t need to use so much, why do we use so much? The faucet will still keep running until you turn it off, but just like using reusable bags and containers, it’s just good to know we can turn it off and do without. Besides, we’re just too thirsty to end up drinking dust.

Natasha is a Colorado State graduate and  recently returned Coloradoan after spending two years “visiting” Indiana, and really missed these mountains.  She likes getting up close at concerts, craft beers and collecting new and used vinyl.

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