Earlier this week I read one of those blogs (not unlike my own) that was all about simple things we can all do to help improve the environment. This particular writer proposed something very simple that I’d never heard before. “Save approximately 5 gallons of water a day by cutting 2 minutes from your shower time.” (Forgive me, but I can’t remember where I read this.)
Huh. 2 minutes? Well. That’s not so much. Especially for someone like me who can languish in a hot shower for the entire length of an episode of Yo! Gabba Gabba! (This is how I measure uninterrupted time. Yes, I use ‘the electronic babysitter.’ Judge me if you must.)
So then I started to think about a science lesson from the 5th grade. Our teacher grossed us all out by informing us that the same water has been on Earth forever. Therefore we routinely drink dinosaur pee. To a 10-year-old this is a VERY memorable statement!
So, if the water never actually GOES anywhere, why do I need to worry about these extra 2 minutes? (I know. Some of you are smarter than me and are amazed at my ignorance right now. But give me some credit. At least I’m learning and not just languishing in my ignorant bliss.) I waited for nap time and then turned on my trusty old (OLD) Vaio and asked this very question. This is what I learned:
Only 1% of the world’s water is fresh (not salt) and unfrozen and in a useable state. My teacher was right…. the water cycle moves this same water from the earth to the clouds to the earth again over and over. BUT when we take too much, in an unnatural way it causes the underground aquifers to run dry. In turn this dries up the lakes, rivers, ponds, etc fed by those unseen streams. This can (and has in many places) wreak havoc on the local ecosystems. It can also cause those aquifers closest to the oceans to become salty, making them unfit for our use.
FURTHER, those treatment plants that we put so much faith in can only treat limited amounts of water. So if everyone uses too much, too fast the extra, untreated stuff goes straight back into the ground/river/lake or wherever (depending on your municipality). OK. So, now think about what you washed down the pipes today. Laundry soap? Nasty food scraps from last night’s dishes? And whatever was flushed? Now think about that being dumped directly, without treatment into the same lakes and oceans where you take your vacation. GROSS!!!!!
AND there are a great deal of chemicals involved in cleaning all the above mentioned grossness out of the water so that you can turn your tap on tomorrow and get some clear, clean H2O. All those chemicals remain in the water, seep into the dirt, leech into the crops and then into us. Because that’s what we need. MORE chemicals in our bodies.
As if that’s not enough, there is electricity needed to run the treatment plants and the pumps and all that good stuff. Electricity that, in most areas, is still made by burning fossil fuels. Which create pollution. Which seeps into the water…..
You get the idea.
Back to the 2 minute thing.
I looked up how many showers the average American takes each year. I am, apparently, grossly dirty compared to my neighbors because I only take 4 or 5 a week. The average in the USA is EIGHT. That’s right… more showers than there are days in a week. Australians take even more! (A little side note: there are some SERIOUS drought issues in Australia right now. Coincidence? Hmmm…) So, if the population of the USA is about 312,000,000 and each person saved 16 minutes per week in the shower that would be nearly 12,480,000,000 gallons of water EACH WEEK! And that’s JUST in the USA.
THAT’S A LOT OF WATER!
So, thank you, fellow blogger, for opening my eyes! I will, indeed, strive to take a shorter shower. I hope you all will do so as well. And, while you’re in there, being a little quicker than you were yesterday, give thanks that you have the luxury of clean, clear water on tap. There are many in the world who don’t. Let us never take this gift for granted!