Water is essential to help keep life flowing, so we understand the importance of living in a way now that supports the availability of water for future generations. While there are scarcities, droughts and crises at different levels of severity, in different parts of the world, there is a common way to fight them all—conservation. That’s why, in May, we recognize Water Awareness Month and take time to remember that, at home and around the globe, conservation is not just a set of actions, but a way of life that is critical for a better future.
Conserving water during crisis.
According to the United Nations, water scarcity already affects every continent. As of this year, 1.42 billion people—including 450 million children—currently live in areas of high, or extremely high, water vulnerability, while more and more regions are reaching the limit at which water services can be sustainably delivered. When the situation reaches this point, conservation methods become critical to survival, not just future prosperity.
For example, in 2017, the phrase “Day Zero” became an international headline in reference to the water crisis in the Western Cape of South Africa. The period of severe water shortage, most notably impacting the city of Cape Town, peaked for almost a year and, in response to the crisis, the government restricted water usage to as low as 50 liters, or about 13 gallons, per person each day.
As a result, the people of the region were faced with the task of making big changes to their everyday life habits to help counteract the water shortage. This included measures such as taking shorter—ideally 90-second—showers, during which they would shut off the tap while using soap or washing their hair. It also became standard to keep a basin over the shower drain to collect run off water that could be used to flush the toilet, which was also limited to an only-when-needed basis. Meanwhile, dishes were washed with a controlled amount of boiled water, while meat and dairy, the food groups with the highest water footprint, were reduced in everyday diets.
Those are just a few examples of how one population of one country on one continent adapted to one water crisis. You can learn more about how other countries battle water crises through the U.N.’s Water Facts.
Taking proactive steps toward conservation.
While many around the world still live under water use restrictions similar to the 13-gallon rule in Cape Town, the average person in the U.S. uses 156 gallons a day—the largest amount of water each day when compared to other countries. While we may not be facing the same extreme level of crisis as other countries, we can still make an effort to increase conservation efforts. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. population has doubled over the past 50 years, but our thirst for water has tripled, with at least 40 states anticipating a water shortage by 2024.
We should focus on conservation of water, this and every month. But don’t worry, there are plenty of simple, effective ways you can begin conserving water today.
- Turn off the tap when you can. Whether in the middle of brushing your teeth or in the middle of a shave, keep the water off during the moments you aren’t using it.
- Wait for a full load. For your laundry or dishes, wait to run the machine until you fill it up.
- Refrigerate it or boil it. Need some especially cold or hot water? Instead of letting the tap run, use the fridge, stovetop or microwave to get the temperature you need.
- Watch out for, and fix, leaks. Check out some of our tips on keeping an eye out for water-draining leaks around the house.
- Keep an eye out, as it gets hot out. Summer is almost here, and with it comes increased water usage, especially outside. Take a minute to brush up on how to conserve water outdoors.
We encourage our communities to be smart consumers of water—and that starts with conservation.