Though the amount of water on the planet stays roughly the same over time, the amount of clean water grows scarcer every day. This is because waterways are polluted by waste water flowing out of factories, agricultural farm fields, oil refineries, and even just off dirty streets and highways. This polluted runoff gets into lakes and streams, but even worse, it makes its way into underground aquifers. Aquifers, or groundwater, are our most precious source of fresh, clean water. They are always running and collecting more water, and so are a renewable source of water for people all over the world. However, in the last century, arid places in the southwestern United States (and around the world) began irrigating for farming or just to have green grass on lawns and golf courses. They began taking too much groundwater, too fast. Scientists call this “mining the aquifer.” When an aquifer doesn't have time to collect more water, the water table drops lower and lower until that aquifer can be lost forever. This is a serious problem in dry places. As more and more people live on the earth, our need for water continues to rise.
Ten Ways to Conserve Water in Your Home and Community
Install low-flow showerheads, toilets, and washing machines in your home.
Fix leaks in faucets and pipes.
Turn off your tap while you are brushing your teeth.
Only wash full loads of laundry and dishes. A half-empty load uses the same amount of water as a full load.
Keep cold water in a pitcher in the fridge, rather than running the tap until it gets cold.
Plant trees in your yard and parks that don't need watering.
Landscape your home, town, and parks with local species of plants that can survive without watering. Or just make a cool rock garden!
Choose drought-resistant species in case of hotter, drier times.
Always collect rainwater to water your gardens.
Take a shower instead of a bath; it uses less water.
Flushing Away Clean Water
A standard toilet uses 8 gallons of water for every flush! A low-flow toilet can save a home 7 gallons of water with each flush. Count how many times you flush the toilet in one day and multiply that by 7. How many gallons of water a day would a low-flow toilet save for just you? Now multiply that by the rest of your family. Now think of the 6 billion other people on Earth, all flushing!
Take a Stab at Litter
Pick up trash without bending down or having to touch dirty litter by making a litter stick. Use an old wooden broom handle, a tree branch that the wind knocked down, or buy an inexpensive paint roller stick from the hardware store. Ask a grownup to hammer a headless nail or a long finishing nail (with no head) into the end of the stick. You have a litter stick. Now go stab some litter!
According to the EPA, every homeowner who has a lawn that is just 100 feet wide by 100 feet long uses 10,000 gallons of water each year to keep it green. The most popular grass planted in America for lawns is Kentucky bluegrass, because it is soft, thick, and green. The only problem is that it needs 35–40 inches of rain every year, even though most places average only about 14 inches or less. This means a lot of clean drinking water is pumped onto these lawns to keep them green. What a waste! Even worse, people often add fertilizer. Homeowners in America put 67 million pounds of chemicals on their lawns every year. That's more pounds of fertilizer than are used by farmers!
Ask your parents to let part of your lawn grow wild with wildflowers and native grasses. They can even put a fence around it like a garden. It's a great way to attract birds and butterflies.