Turn on your faucet and water instantly flows out. What you don't use washes down the drain, often with soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and even medications that you use in your daily life. You may take this all for granted, but your sink habits could actually be contributing to declining world fresh water supplies and hastening their contamination by toxic chemicals.
Washed away unused
American households consume 47 percent of the water supplied by US utilities with the average home using about 90 gallons of water a day. Over the course of a year, that really adds up. Indeed, bathroom and kitchen faucets are responsible for more than 15 percent of indoor water use in US homes—that's more than 1.1 trillion gallons of water used annually.
Even worse, much of that water slips down the drain unused because most faucets—especially older ones—release far more than is needed. Leaky faucets and pipes are also a problem, representing about 14 percent of water waste. Indeed, a slow leak or drip can squander up to 100 gallons a week.
Installing faucet aerators and regularly checking for leaks can help cut your daily water use by 35 percent. In fact, if every US household adopted these water-saving strategies it could save an estimated 5.4 billion gallons per day, resulting in savings of more than $4 billion per year.
Less water, less energy
Cutting water consumption also diminishes your need to heat water, which accounts for about 15 percent of your home's total energy bill. In addition, home water conservation can help shrink your carbon footprint. If just one out of every 100 American homes installed water-efficient fixtures, almost 100 million kWh of electricity needed to treat and deliver public water would be saved annually. That's enough to cut 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions—the equivalent of eliminating 15,000 automobiles from US roadways for a year.
What washes down your drain is an environmental concern, as well. Many common household cleaning agents contain chemicals (some carcinogenic) that contaminate waterways and ecosystems, harming animal and human health. In addition, medications that are washed down drains take an environmental toll. Measurable amounts of medications for pain, depression, and colds, as well as birth control pills, have been found in samples collected from US waterways. Like cleaning agents, some of these products contain endocrine-disrupting compounds and other contaminants that researchers fear may harm aquatic life and possibly human health.
- Flex Your Power - Showerheads
- Natural Resources Defense Council - How to Clean up our Water
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Household Hazardous Waste
- American Society of Civil Engineers - Infrastructure Report Card 2005
- Natural Capitalism - Aqueous Solutions Read an excerpt and chapter from the book Natural Capitalism
- Taxpayers for Common Sense - Banking on the Future: Investing in Smart Water Strategies for Pennsylvania and the Nation, July 2005
- The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) - Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products In the Environment: A White Paper on Options For the Wastewater Treatment Community
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Water on Tap: What You Need to Know
- US Environmental Protection Agency - WaterSense: High-Efficiency Lavatory Faucet Specification Supporting Statement
- Rocky Mountain Institute - Household Water Efficiency
- American Water Works Association - Water Use Statistics
- University of Missouri Extension - Hot Water: Use and Conservation
- US Environmental Protection Agency - WaterSense: Benefits of Water Efficiency - Save Water, Save Money