A Brief History of Water Conservation in America

With the population of the U.S.A doubling over the past 50 years or so, and with our intense thirst for water and its myriad uses tripling, and with more than 36 U.S. states facing troubling water shortages by 2013, the necessity for effective water conservation is has become much more critical than ever before.

What You Need to Know About Conserving Water

Water conservation has been described as – something that encompasses the strategies and activities that help manage fresh water as a sustainable resource to help meet the current and future water demands.

Were you aware of the fact that less than 1% of all the water on our planet is usable by us?

The rest of it is just salt water (the type found in the ocean) or is completely frozen – and hence unusable!

A lot of people and communities across the US are beginning to realize the challenges in maintaining and using healthy, affordable and usable water supplies.

This is precisely why it is crucial than ever before to utilize our fast-depleting water resources wisely, and not let it be wasted for nothing. Plus, you should also know that it takes a large amount of resources and energy to produce and then transport healthy, clean water, and also in the processing of the water wastage.

A typical American household has a daily usage of about 260 gallons of water every single day!

Can you imagine the money and resources we can easily save if we are able to decrease this amount to a more manageable number?

The financial resources saved there could be well-utilized in dealing with household water issues like detecting and then fixing leaky faucets, getting high-efficiency clothes’ washers installed, and also low-flow toilets, along with efficiently watering the gardens and lawns with the absolute minimal supply of water.

There are many factors that influence the amount of water used in an area that include household size, population, appliances used etc.

A Brief History of Water Conservation in the US

The concept of water conservation has been underway in the US since the past 60 years. World-renowned geographer Gilbert White, in 1960, asked the water managers to expand their range to water problems as well. He also, in turn, suggested that these water managers should be open to considering structural as well as non-structural alternatives, which should include things like land-use planning, zoning and changing water use patterns.

He said this would go a long way to help save their water resources, which were drastically depleting due to the population explosion in America.

Why is Water Conservation So Important?

As the US population has doubled over the past half century, and with almost 36 states facing water shortages by 2013, and though the situation seems to have improved, water conservation proves to be a necessary step in preserving our ever-depleting water resources.

The Environmental Protection Agency knows that responsibly managing all states’ water resources is highly important and has thus, implemented water management practices in their facility as well as elsewhere.

By conducting a 20-question survey across the 50 states which helped evaluate water conservation and efficiency policies, and by grading each state according to the number of points they got for their answers, they were able to gauge which state was more progressive in their water conservation methods. The state of California and Texas scored the highest with a possible 29 out of the 40 points and were graded A minus states, as they have strong regulations and policies for water conservation.

The laws and policies that were covered under this survey, which included measures like having plumbing fixture standards, water loss control rules, volumetric billing for water and technical assistance, were given the highest priority.

Grade B states were appreciated for making efforts as well and definitely for having valuable examples of a strong policy, the C grade states though they have a few tough laws in place, but they lack in a comprehensive approach towards the whole water conservation policy.

The troubling or worrying news is that out of the 50 states that were surveyed, 19 have fallen under the D grade, which clearly states that these states need a lot of work in managing their water resources more efficiently.

For example, we all know that we could save a lot of water if we just turn off the tap while brushing our teeth daily (which comes to about as much as 3000 gallons per year – wow!), but what these D grade states need to know is that many water-efficient, energy-conserving household appliances can continue to save water, even when the tap is off.

Water Conservation Methods Adopted by the US Laws

The US law has put in place various water conservation methods that help our natural water resources from depleting. Some of the myriad methods introduced include low-flow shower heads, low-flush toilets which like the name suggests – use less amount of water when compared to conventional western toilets etc..

Raw water flushes have also been introduced which basically use seawater or non-purified water for flushing. Low-flow taps and garden hose nozzles that shut off water when not being used are some of the other steps that have been implemented to conserve water better.

Even when washing your cars, you must adhere to certain rules – like the surface on which you wash your car should ideally be porous and you should only wash cars using a bucket or a watering can, a hand-held hose with a nozzle that shuts off when not in use, or a high pressure, low-volume cleaner to save a ton of water.

Even the external parts of a building like windows should only be cleaned using a bucket and a mop or a squeegee. These steps and this strictness is necessary to help conserve the fast-depleting water resources of the US and to ensure their continued availability for future generations.

The Introduction of the Low-flush Toilets

Low flush toilets were introduced in the US in the 1900s due to major water conservation concerns, and are basically flush toilets that use significantly less water than a full-flush toilet.

The purpose of the low-flush toilets, which usually come in two models: the single-flush models and the dual-flush models, is to basically reduce the amount of water used in flushing a toilet almost by half. The conventional flushes use about 13.2 liters i.e. 3.5 gallons of water in every flush, whereas the low-flush models use only about 6 liters i.e. 1.6 gallons of water, thus effectively helping in conserving water.

Massachusetts, in 1988, was the first state in the U.S., which made the usage of low flow toilets mandatory in houses undergoing remodelling and in new construction.

The U.S. President George H. W. Bush, in 1992, put his name on the Energy Policy Act, which ensured that 1.6 gallons of water per flush was the maximum limit for all new toilets.

This water conservation law came into action properly in 1997.

Effectiveness of the Low Flush Toilets

The introduction of the low-flush toilets in the US have had a drastically positive effect on water conservation efforts. Even ten years after the introduction of the low-flush toilets, the country continues to save more and more water everyday, and has in turn achieved a potential to save billions of gallons of water in the coming decades as well.

Though in the beginning, despite the fact that these low-flush toilets were saving water, the consumers were not very satisfied with them as it was taking more than one flush to get rid of the solid waste, but since a few initial hiccups, the low-flush toilets have undergone a considerable change and are now the most sought-after method for saving water in green-savvy households across the US.

These water-saving fixtures might cost you a little more than what you might like in the beginning, but it can be argued that a house could save up to $100 a year on utility costs, so low-flow toilets not only help save water, but also conserve energy and save you moolah in the long run.

In fact, in 2011, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that since the advent of these low-flush toilets, the city has been able to conserve about 20 million gallons of water every year!

Home & Everyday Practices for Water Conservation

Every March 22, we celebrate World Water Day here because this resource is what brings life to our planet.

One of the easiest ways to help our environment today is to make an effort at conserving water, even when it may not be necessary. There are more areas that struggle with moderate-to-severe droughts every year. When we can work on reducing our use, then it can help someone else have the access they need.

If you’re ready to go beyond a low-GPF toilet and water-saving showerheads and kitchen faucets, then here are the best practices for you to follow that will help you to cut down on your water consumption dramatically.

  1. Use a bucket in the shower that will catch the water you use while waiting for it to warm up. You can then use that to water your plants, give to your pets, or even flush your toilet if you wish.
  2. Turn off the tap water when you brush your teeth. Even the best faucets will still cause you to waste about two gallons of water if you leave it on for “convenience” during this personal chore.
  3. Consider flushing only solid waste in the toilet instead of all waste. Although urine can be corrosive over time, you can save a lot of water by reducing the number of lever pulls you activate each day. You might also think about an upgrade to a dual-flush toilet if you don’t like the idea of leaving liquid waste behind.
  4. Inspect your plumbing about once per month to determine if there are any leaks in your system, and then fix them immediately.
  5. Try to take shorter showers whenever you can. If you have an older showerhead, trimming your time from 10 minutes to 7 minutes can save up to 15 gallons of water.
  6. Consider shrinking your lawn as a way to conserve water outside. You might even think about getting rid of it entirely. Ground cover options that provide the green color you may want include moss, algae, and succulents.
  7. Install a rain barrel if your community allows this. Harvesting your precipitation in an excellent way to keep your lawn or garden hydrated without worrying about using existing water resources.
  8. Change your watering habits to the early morning hours when the cooler temperatures will lose less water to evaporation. If you water in the evening, then some regions can see an increase in mold growth.
  9. Fill up your sink with water when washing dishes instead of allowing the faucet to run as you are scrubbing dishes.
  10. If your community allows grey water recycling, then you can route what goes through your washing machine into your toilet for flushing.
  11. Use a car wash facility that recycles its water – or stop washing the vehicle altogether unless you need to remove corrosive items from it.
  12. Re-use your pasta water after it cools to keep your houseplants hydrated instead of sending it down the drain.

The Future and Beyond for Water Conservation in the U.S.

Though the seeds for water conservation have been sown successfully, its full potential has yet to be utilized. Despite the existence of various water-saving devices, methods and technologies, practical water conservation programs are very limited.

The programs that have been introduced consist basically of sensible landscape advisory and public education, with no follow-up on the people to even see if they are abiding by what they have been taught.

Conservation is no doubt the future of water resources, but there still needs to be advancements in this sector to properly and effectively counter the problem of water wastage permanently.

Water conservation has been made a top priority in most states of America, and if this attitude is adopted by every single state with a severe focus on reducing water wastage and conserving it, then there is can be doubts as to the status of water conservation in the US which could reach its ultimate destination – a greener country with a lot of healthy water and a greener planet.


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