water conservation and efficiency defined
Photo Credit: Derek Bruff
If you are using water (and we know you are), make a pact with yourself, your family, in your neighborhood and your work place to preserve and protect our water resources first and foremost through:
- Conservation: Reducing the total amount of water used
- Efficiency: Using a quantity of water with care, so that it accomplishes more with the same amount of water.
The chart above indicates that in 1995, 11% of California’s total water use was devoted to urban water (residential, commercial, institutional and industrial). Urban water use is basically all water used for purposes other than agriculture. Since 1995 urban water use has grown from 11% to 20% of California’s developed water use, according to California water blog Aquafornia. The commercial, industrial and institutional sector accounts for about one-third of urban use, or roughly 6.5% of total CA water use. The remaining two-thirds of urban use is residential; meaning roughly 13% of California water is used by the residential sector. On average, about ½ of the residential water used goes to residential landscaping, which means that roughly 6.5% of California’s water goes to watering our gardens and lawns.
Perusing the water savings chart above, you can see that by employing simple water saving appliances and practices, there’s significant room for water savings. Just putting in a low-flow toilet will may lessen your home or facility’s use of water by 75% compared to water used by an older toilet. You’ll find the efficiency tips a useful source for direct immediate actions to take to achieve water use reductions.
American public water supply and treatment facilities consume about 56 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year—enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes for an entire year. Letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours!
An estimated 15-20% of California’s energy use is spent on water. Energy is largely expended to move water from north to south within the state, as well as to clean it to potable standards (even if it’s then going to be used to irrigate landscape or flush toilets).
Efficient water use can also reduce the amount of energy needed to treat wastewater, resulting in less energy demand and, therefore, fewer harmful byproducts from power plants. Using less water will immediately influence the reduction of energy use and harmful GHG production, as well as moving towards sustainable use of water resources.
According to American Water Works Association (AWWA), about 75% of California’s available water occurs north of Sacramento, while about 80% of the demand occurs in the southern two-thirds of the state. At the same time, most of the rain and snowfall occurs between October and April, while demand is highest during the hot and dry summer months. That means that much of the water we use in the state comes from outside the area of use, and therefore is not technically sustainable. As an example, 90% of San Diego’s water comes from external supplies–the San Francisco Bay Delta and the Colorado River.
While water conservation may not yet have the “curb appeal” of large construction projects such as dams, reservoirs, canals and desalination plants; efficiency and conservation measures are a free or inexpensive way to immediately reduce and potentially eliminate the need for expensive infrastructure and ecosystem destruction.