During the summer water use skyrockets and conservation becomes increasingly important, especially when it comes to protecting fresh water, which is a far more limited resource than you might realize. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, even though water covers about 71% of the earth’s surface, only 3% of it is fresh water and 2.5% of that fresh water is unavailable for human use (locked up in glaciers, polar ice caps, etc.).
Coincidentally, what is considered one of the hottest months of the year for many, July also brings an important day of recognition: Rain Day. On July 29, we take a moment to remember the true impact of rain, and the water cycle, while looking for ways to better embrace it as a resource in our daily lives.
Conservation and the water cycle
Water doesn’t appear out of thin air, even when it falls from the sky. The water we have on Earth is a limited resource—and all that will ever be available to us. While images of vast oceans and torrential rains might imply that there is more than enough to go around, the fresh water needed for human and animal consumption, agriculture and other parts of life is also limited. In fact, it accounts for less than one percent of the planet’s water. With that in mind, conservation plays a valuable and essential role.
One of the largest vulnerabilities in the water cycle is its use. While using water doesn’t ultimately remove it from the cycle, it does redistribute water and impact the amount that is readily available for use. One of the best ways to protect our water cycle and help ensure reliable access to fresh water is to find ways to be wiser water users. There are many tips for being a better consumer of water, but, in honor of Rain Day, let’s take a look at how we can better use rain to support our lives.
Making the most of the next downpour
Incorporating green infrastructure into your home and lawn can help make much better use of the next stormy day. Try these strategies to use water more wisely:
- Try harvesting rain. Installing rainwater harvesting systems as part of your home can be a great, cost-efficient way to conserve water. Systems can range from a backyard rain barrel to commercial building cisterns and nets that collect dew and fog.
- Use harvested rainwater for plants. By collecting rainwater, you divert large amounts to the areas of your yard that need it the most—irrigation of plants, lawns and gardens.
- Use harvested rain for those large refills. Pet aquariums, backyard ponds and pools use a lot of water to maintain. On average it takes about 18,000 gallons of water to fill a pool. One way to subsidize the water you are pulling from the tap to do so is by using collected rainwater.
- Use harvested rain for cleaning. Another way to utilize collected rainwater, and cut down on tap water usage, is using it to clean clothes, cars and toilets.
- Build a rain garden. These small, shallow and sunken areas of plants collect stormwater runoff from roofs, streets and sidewalks. They are designed to mimic the natural ways water flows over and absorbs into land to reduce stormwater pollution.
- Incorporate permeable pavements. Redoing your driveway or walkways? Permeable pavements infiltrate, treat and/or store rainwater where it falls. They can be made of pervious concrete, porous asphalt, or permeable interlocking pavers.
- Make your roof green. If you’re fortunate enough to have a city home with access to a roof, try a green roof system. They’re covered with growing media and vegetation that enable rainfall infiltration and evapotranspiration (evaporation, followed by transportation of water back into the atmosphere) of stored water.
- Plant a tree. Trees absorb rainwater through their leaves and branches. The more there are, the better our rainwater is being protected and put to use.
There are countless ways to be a wiser water user in our everyday lives—and it can start by taking just one step. Check out more information about green infrastructure from the Environmental Protection Agency here.