Category Archives: Tips for Water Usage

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Invasive Species: Zebra Mussels Now In Texas

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Zebra mussels are an invasive species in the US. They first arrived in 1988 on European ships ballast. Lack of predators against the zebra mussels gave them the ability to infest eastern US waterways from the start. When they arrived here they increased competition for native aquatic species. They attach to our boats and are hard to see because they are only about an inch long. Zebra mussels spread faster than bunny rabbits- they multiply by producing about one million larvae per one single zebra mussel. Texas should be worried about their lakes because as you can see in the graph, they’ve now spread down here. According to texasinvasives.org, “Zebra mussels can cause tremendous environmental and economic damage – hurting aquatic life, damaging your boat, hindering water recreation and even threatening your water supply.” Find out about if zebra mussel are in our area here.

So what can you do? Firstly, you can spread awareness. Many people don’t know what invasive species are. Spreading awareness brings attention to people like Dan Molloy, a researcher who is trying to find a “natural killer” to eradicate the pests. You can find more information about his research here in this short article. You can also go on outings to help get rid of the zebra mussels.

Zebra mussels attach to many parts of your boat and clean thrive for days. To make sure they aren’t attached to your boat, clean all parts of, drain it completely, and dry the boat for at least a week before entering into a new body of water.

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Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair

The 13th annual Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair is a great reason to plan a fall road trip!  It takes place the last weekend in September (9/27-9/29) in downtown Fredericksburg, TX and has something for the whole family to see and do.  You can taste, test and explore your way through this event.

See the Solar Car Races, taste organically grown food and learn how you can make a difference with your water usage.  Do you want to know how you can afford solar panels on your home?  How about growing your own food? Come out and learn!  You can get the whole schedule here.
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There are four distinct categories of events.

1)   Renewable Energy

2)   Organic/Sustainable Growing

3)   Green and Efficient Building and Sustainable Living

4)   Alternative Transportation

David Foster, the State Director for Clean Water will be a keynote speaker. Learn more about him through this site.  As you know, Texas is in a severe drought.  He said “Outdoor lawn watering is a huge driver of municipal demand.  We need to re-think our landscaping practices if we are going to manage our water crises.”  Come to learn how you can change your landscaping to become more drought tolerant.
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Don’t forget to bring your refillable water bottle.  We will see you there.

Via: http://www.cvent.com/events/-/custom-20-8a41ebbf42ec40969b667e1adb0cda08.aspx

Pictures from: http://digitaljournal.com/article/298133

Texas Water Fluoridation Controversy

When you turn on the water faucet in your kitchen to fill up a water bottle, you don’t usually think about the origin of the water you’re about to drink, how it was treated, and what may have been added to it. The only thing you’re really thinking about is how thirsty you are. We all need water, so we’re all used to just drinking whatever water we can get, as long as it looks clean and comes from a home, business, or water bottle. So it’s not surprising that most people have no idea that fluoride is put into their drinking water every day for dental hygienic reasons, not water treatment.

Woman Drinking Glass of Water

                Water fluoridation started in the 1940’s, when tooth decay was a problem and scientists had been researching the differences in natural fluoride concentrations in water sources. What they found was that areas with moderate amounts of fluoride in the water had fewer cases of tooth decay than those with water sources with lower amounts of fluoride. While they also found that excessive amounts of fluoride could cause things like dental fluorosis, communities started adding moderate amounts of fluoride into their drinking water to keep teeth healthy, at the recommendation of several dental associations as well as the FDA.

Today, water fluoridation has stirred some controversy. The side that promotes water fluoridation states that the benefits of fluoridated water completely outweigh the negatives. Fluoridation costs about fifty cents a year per person, which is cheaper than dental visits, and it has been proven to prevent tooth decay, reducing a person’s risk by about 25%. People who oppose community water fluoridation state that the government should not be in control of medicating communities through public resources because it does not allow people to make the choice of whether or not they want to be medicated, especially since the amount of fluoride one should have for dental use differs per person depending on age, etc. They also state that with increased public knowledge of dental hygiene, there is no longer any reason for the public to be given extra amounts of fluoride. Lastly, they state that many countries in Europe and the US have similar amounts of tooth decay, but most countries in Europe do not use fluoridated water, so the true effectiveness may vary.

Here in Texas, around 80% of the population that uses public water drinks water that is fluoridated. Some communities, including places like College Station, Lago Vista, and Alamo Heights, have voted against water fluoridation, and many more have groups that are trying to end fluoridation. Whichever side you stand on for community water fluoridation, water is our most important resource, so continue to be educated about what is in your water and how it affects you.

DON’T WASTE WATER

We are all aware that our area is going on its third year in a drought. Texas had a lovely surplus of rainfall last year in the early months, but we have not seen many raindrops since then. As I look over the forecast for the next few days, and even weeks on some weather sources, I do not see much hope for precipitation. The scary reality is that we went almost an entire month (November 2012) without significant rainfall in Austin, according to Camp Mabry. This concern reminds me of  some similarities in the conditions that led to the Dust Bowl. Instead of hoping, wishing, and praying for rain we could take actions to use our precious resource more effectively.  We may not have a choice in the amount of rainfall for the area, but we do have a choice in the amount of water resources that we consume. There is a great deal we can do in our everyday water usage.

LANDSCAPING

  • Consider newer species such as Buffalo Grass, that require less water than St. Augustine and Bermuda
  • Irrigate lawns during the early morning hours or late in the evening because of evaporation from direct sun exposure
  • Use native plants that adapt well to Texas summers (Xeriscaping) -they are called “native plants” for a reason
  • Zone or group plants together that require similar amounts of water
  • Consider using rocks, wooden decking, and patio fixtures to reduce lawn areas
  • Construct or purchase a rain barrel for rainwater collection to water your plants
  • Adjust automatic sprinklers to turn off when it rains

  • Install modern landscape devices, such as drip irrigation, that applies water at the plant root level

  • Mow grass at taller heights when the summer sun becomes intense

INSIDE THE HOUSE

  • Wash clothes and run dishwashers only when you have a full load, or when absolutely necessary
  • Utilize front loading washing machines, which use ½ as much water as traditional clothing washers
  • Wash fruits and vegetables in a pan of water, then recycle the water on your potted plants

  • Retrofit with new low-flow water fixtures, shorten your showers, and lower bath water level

  • Repair leaking faucets and toilets that “run” continuously
  • Place a plastic bottle in older toilet tanks to reduce the water volume level

  • Do not waste a flush on items such as bugs, facial tissue, cigarette butts, or other trash down the toilet

  • Turn off the faucet when brushing teeth, shampooing hair, applying soap

  • Invest in a tank-less, on demand, hot water heater

  • Use a bucket to save water for watering plants while waiting for the shower to heat up

IF YOU MUST

  • Consider if you actually need to wash your car, or if the pool and hot tub are necessities

  • Turn off the hose while washing the car or use a bucket of water

  • Fill swimming pools at lower levels to avoid water loss

  • Cover hot tubs when not in use to reduce evaporation

  • Do not “sweep”  your deck, driveway, etc. with water from a water hose

A great deal of this may come off as common sense and common knowledge in the environmentally conscious community, but I have seen people misusing water first-hand. For example, tropical trees in a semi-arid climate zone, washing their clothes daily, using their dishwasher daily without filling it, etc, yet wondering why their utilities are so high. Yes, the world is made up of 67% water, but only 3% of that is freshwater and 2% of that is locked away in natural dams we call glaciers. Therefore only 1% can used by a growing global population.

Even if the environment is not your first consideration, saving water is saving money. Misuse of water leads to throwing your money away for unnecessary luxuries.

For further reading on Texas lawmakers addressing the drought, click here.

No matter your political affiliation, this is a bipartisan concern. So while the above list addressed habits that can be acquired around the house, a great deal of water usage comes from industrial uses.

source: http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/graphics/wateruse/wuin-map.gif

Texas is behind Louisiana and Indiana in terms of industrial water withdrawals. Now with this bit of knowledge there is something else you can do to conserve water, contact your local representative, express concern and urge for regulations on industrial water usage.

-Mike Ray

Sierra Club – Lone Star Chapter Intern

Sources:

http://www.arlingtontx.gov/water/waterconservation_tips.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/environment/conservationnow/global/freshwater/