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.
- 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.
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.
Sierra Club – Lone Star Chapter Intern