What is so important about saving water? This is rainy Portland for goodness sake! Yes, but fresh water is hard to come by, and much of the Pacific Northwest is not as rainy as Portland.
So a quick education on water in the Northwest. We get our water from two main sources, rain and snow pack. Rain is a fairly immediate source, with some being stored in reservoirs. Our reservoir system does not have enough capacity to store these fall rains into late summer. Our second water source is melt from the winter’s snow pack. So in general, we use rainfall rain as it comes and hope for a healthy snow pack (nature’s water storage system) for our summer water. Climate change seems to be bringing us wetter winters (less snow) and drier summers (less rain for immediate usage). In addition, population growth in the Pacific Northwest has put increased demands on our water; farm irrigation, industrial uses, municipal uses and now increased fish protection. Often these uses have conflicting goals and demands.
While we are doing okay with our water, the future may be a bit different. You may have seen the article in the Oregonian last week talking about a Federal project to take water from the Columbia River both for irrigation purposes and to help restore the Columbia River Basalt aquifer. This article by the USGS tells about the variety of effects of declining aquifers, including
- drying up of wells
- reduction of water in streams and lakes
- deterioration of water quality
- increased pumping costs
- land subsidence
There is hope! There are LOTS of things you can do at home, in your every day life to reduce your usage and reliance on municipal water. As with many changes, small translates to big. Small savings on a daily basis add up. If we can reduce our usage by 10 gallons per day for every person in our household, that becomes a HUGE savings over the year. And if our neighbors change too, wow!
So here it is. And many of you may already have done some or all of these. Yay. If not, here you go. The City of Portland (if you are a water customer) has all sorts of tips, tools and devices. Their top 10 water saving tips for indoor usage are:
- Replace older toilets with WaterSense labeled high efficiency toilets.
- Regularly check for and repair leaks
- Wash only full loads (my daughter and husband need to read this!)
- Let your dishwasher do the work
- Check your toilet for leaks(that running sound is your water and $’s going down the drain
- Install a high efficiency shower head (available free of charge to Portland Water Bureau customers )
- Install aerators on your bathroom and kirchen sinks (also available from the Portland Water Burea)
- Turn the faucet on only to rinse when brushing teeth, washing hands and shaving
- Know where your water water shut off valve is and
- Select an Energy Star-approved clothes washer.
I recently ordered a five minute shower timer from the water bureau and will install in tomorrow.
I think I take quick showers, so I’ll be curious to see how quick they really are. My daughter made it known, loud and clear, that her showers will NOT be timed. And my husband, while a saver of much, takes pretty long showers. The shower timer even came with a small disclaimer: This device does not “shut off” the water after 5 minutes, although many parents of teen agers have asked for the feature. It doesn’t look as though it would turn off the water.
The Portland Water Bureau also has tips for cutting down on our door usage, along with lots of other great information on water conservation. If you aren’t in the City of Portland, your local government may have similar resources. In addition, the State of Oregon has pretty good resources too.