10 Easy Ways to Conserve Water Outside Your Home
So, you’ve finally started conserving water at home. Smart move! Now, given that indoor water use can exceed a whopping 300 gallons per day, you’re probably targeting indoor water wasters like long showers, dripping faucets, and running toilets. While this is a great place to start, it shouldn’t end there.
Outdoor water use can also take up a large chunk of your overall water usage – if you don’t practice conservation. True, your outdoor water use may not seem that excessive if you live in an area with sufficient rainfall. But even routine tasks like watering your lawn or washing your car can leave behind a massive water footprint.
That’s why today, we’ll be sharing some easy and effective ways to save water outside your home and preserve our nation’s water resources. But first, let’s look at America’s water usage and why it’s important to conserve.
Total Water Use in the United States
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the typical American household uses more than 300 gallons of water per day. That amount might not seem like a lot to some people, but the combined usage is enormous when you consider that there are over 130 million households in America.
Besides, recent data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows that Americans used an estimated 322 billion gallons of fresh and saline water per day in 2015. That means Americans used enough water to fill 1,163 Empire State Buildings on any given day that year. But bear in mind that these are 2015 numbers. With the country’s increased population since then, we can assume that those numbers have risen somewhat over the past few years.
Why Conserve Water?
Since about 71% of the Earth is covered in water, you probably can’t help but wonder why we should even conserve. Before we talk about the “why,” consider these facts regarding the global water situation, according to the Bureau of Reclamation:
- Of all the water on planet earth, only 3% is fresh, and only 0.5% of that is available for drinking.
- The other 2.5% of freshwater is either too polluted for use, locked away in ice caps or glaciers, or too expensive to extract from the atmosphere, the surrounding soil, or below the surface.
- Ninety-seven percent of the water on Earth is salt water, which is not suitable for drinking.
The limited amount of freshwater available for use worldwide should be enough reason to cut down our water use at home. But if not, these reasons probably will:
- Water conservation minimizes the effects of droughts and water shortages: Our need for freshwater is constantly increasing due to population and industry growth. However, the current freshwater supply remains constant (you know what happens when the demand for something increases and its supply doesn’t increase as well). Sure, the water we use eventually returns to the Earth through the water cycle, but it doesn’t always return to the same spot or in the same quantity or quality. By reducing the amount of water we use, we can better protect against future drought periods and water shortages.
- It helps preserve the environment: Reducing our water usage decreases the energy required to process and deliver it to homes, farms, businesses, and communities, which, in turn, helps reduce pollution and conserve fuel resources.
- It builds safe and beautiful communities: Hospitals, gas stations, firefighters, health clubs, and other essential buildings and occupations all require large amounts of water to provide services to the community. Reducing our water usage means these services can continue to be provided.
- It guards against rising costs and other problems: Failing to conserve water can eventually lead to a lack of an adequate water supply, which can have drastic consequences, like increased costs, health hazards, political conflict, and reduced food supplies.
10 Easy Ways to Conserve Water Outdoors
According to the EPA’s WaterSense program, nearly 9 billion gallons, or 30 percent, of the estimated 29 billion gallons of water used daily by households in the U.S. is devoted to outdoor water use. In the hot summer months or dry climates, a household’s outdoor water use can be as high as 70 percent.
With that in mind, here are several tips for cutting back on your outdoor water use in 2022 and beyond:
1. Consider installing a rain barrel to harvest rainwater.
If you live in a rainy climate, installing a rain barrel underneath your gutter can catch several gallons of rainwater you can use to water your plants, aid your drip irrigation, wash your car, or for outdoor cleaning tasks. If you decide to go this route, be sure to cover your rain barrel with a mesh net to reduce the possibility of mosquitoes breeding inside the barrel while allowing enough water to get through.
NOTE: Some states do not allow rain barrels, so check your local government’s website to verify that they allow rain barrels in your city before installing one.
2. Sweep your driveway or patio instead of pressure-washing it.
You’ve probably seen those uber-satisfying videos on social media of people pressure-washing their patios and driveways. Everything looks so clean, and the task seems relaxing. However, that chore wastes lots of good water. Instead of hosing off your driveway or patio to remove leaves and dirt, get out the broom and do a thorough sweep. Your driveway will get almost just as clean, and a little hard work (perhaps even by your kids) will be rewarded with eco-friendly and wallet-friendly savings.
3. Always cover your pool to reduce evaporation.
Natural evaporation can remove up to a quarter-inch of water from your pool every day, wasting massive amounts of water per year, depending on your pool’s size. Luckily, you can protect your swimming pool with a pool cover when it’s not in use. According to the EPA, pool covers can drastically cut down pool water evaporation and help the pool water retain heat when applied consistently and appropriately. This, the agency says, contributes to water, energy, and cost savings for pool owners.
4. Run your sprinklers only in the mornings or evenings.
Watering your lawn in the mornings or at dusk is always a smart move – the temperature is lower, the conditions are calmer, so the stage is set for the water to soak into the soil and get to the grassroots properly. Better yet, watering at these times prevents rapid evaporation from the midday heat, meaning less water is required to cover the grass sufficiently. Other ways to make your lawn look mesmerizing while conserving water include positioning your sprinklers to face the grass and landscaping and not the road, driveway, or the side of the house.
5. Add organic matter to your lawn or garden beds.
Adding organic matter to the soil in your lawn or garden beds will help increase its absorption and water retention. For instance, a fresh layer of mulch around shrubs and trees will hold nutrients and moisture much longer than plain old dirt – a super-easy way to conserve water.
6. Use a soil moisture meter to gauge when you should water your garden.
A simple-to-use soil moisture meter helps avoid over- or under-watering your lawn or garden. The meter quickly lets you know whether the soil is dry, so you only need to water the plants when they need it.
7. Wash your car from a bucket or take it to a car wash that uses recycled water.
Instead of using a hose to wash your car, consider using a bucket of soapy water, then using the hose to rinse it. Ideally, you should park the vehicle on a lawn so the water runoff can water the grass. For even more water savings, consider having the car washed at a commercial car wash that recycles most or all of the water they use. You can also go to a self-serve car wash where the high-pressure hose doesn’t turn on automatically. If you decide to make the trip to a car wash, call ahead to verify the location recycles water (car washes in California are required to recycle at least 60% of the water they use, but laws vary by state).
8. Use a squeeze nozzle on your hose if you wash your car at home.
Squeeze nozzles, also called “pistol grip” nozzles, stop the water flow through the hose when it is not engaged. This innovation helps overcome the impracticality of walking over to the faucet or tap and turning off the water every time you’re not using the hose. You may not have realized it, but there’s often some wastage when walking to turn off the tap, which can add up over time.
9. Check for leaks outside.
Outdoor leaks may not seem as bad since they’re not as visible, but they can be just as wasteful as leaks indoors. So, check for leaks in pipes, hoses, faucets, and couplings outside to keep them drip-free. Also, use hose washers at spigots and hose connections to eliminate leaks.
10. Plant trees around your yard.
Aside from making your yard space cooler and storing carbon, planting trees around your yard can lessen the need for watering your lawn very often. By protecting the grass, plants, and soil from the afternoon sun, shade trees help conserve water.
Will America ever run out of water?
There’s no definite answer to this question, but it’s important to note that households aren’t the biggest consumers of water in the U.S. The agricultural industry uses up to 70 percent of clean drinking water globally. This makes sense since plants need water to grow and produce, and animals need water to drink to remain alive and healthy.
Still, we aren’t running out of water on a whole, especially access to clean drinking water. And with factors like climate change, rapid population growth, and more frequent storms, fires, and droughts occurring every year, gaining access to clean drinking water gets more challenging every day.
What’s worse, researchers at NASA discovered that 21 out of 37 of the world’s largest aquifers have depleted lower than they can sustain the populations that rely on them. In other words, we’re using water from these aquifers faster than they are being replenished.
Even Americans are at risk. A recent Reuters report shows that 96 of the 204 water basins supplying most of the country with fresh water might fail to meet the monthly demand in 2071. Thankfully, conserving water at home gives us a glimmer of hope that we will still have an adequate supply of clean water for future years.
Water conservation is vital for sustaining our precious planet and leading happier and healthier lives. Of course, it requires forethought and effort, but every little bit helps. Never for once think that the minor changes you make here, and there do not make a difference. The trick is making water conservation a way of life and not just something we think about from time to time.