There is no question that water is one of the most precious commodities on Earth. However, the supply of water is not endless. It is a fast-depleting natural resource that we need to conserve. In addition to the ecological benefits of saving water, using less water also means lower water bills. And when you’re more aware of water, the more observant you’re likely to be about sudden increases in your water bill – which can signify a plumbing leak – and calling a plumber to repair the problem.
We all assume that the water we depend upon comes from a vast, ever-replenishing source. In Florida, most water comes from groundwater – the underground water between the soil particles and rocks and in crevices and cracks of the bedrock. The Floridan aquifer system (FAS), which underlies all of Florida, is the main source of potable (drinkable) groundwater for much of the state.
The Floridan aquifer system gets its supply from rainfall and lakes that seep into the ground. However, as more people move to Florida, water consumption also increases. Ensuring that the Sunshine State has plenty of water tomorrow depends upon what we do today.
Why is saving water so important?
Conserving water is important on a global level, but Florida’s situation is somewhat unique. Depleting groundwater can impact our springs, wetlands and lakes – causing them to dry up, recede and drop in level, respectively. In fact, Florida’s infamous sinkholes occur when water leaves the cavities within the porous limestone that makes up the state’s foundation.
Saltwater intrusion is another risk of making too many demands of the Floridan aquifer system. As Seminole County Environmental Services explains, a layer of salty groundwater underlies the fresh groundwater in the aquifer. When the fresh groundwater is pumped out at too high a rate, the salty groundwater will get drawn up toward the wells. If we withdraw too much fresh water, the aquifer becomes polluted with salt water – which we can’t drink. This saltwater intrusion is irreversible except on a geologic timescale. The salt water level is over 2,000 feet deep in some areas of the county, but is as little as 200 feet deep near the St. Johns River.
Florida’s natural bodies of water contribute greatly to the quality of life we enjoy here. The opportunities for recreation and business they provide are numerous. Our state’s abundant and varied animal and plant species, of course, depend upon the Floridan aquifer system to survive and thrive.
10 ways you can get started
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an average family of four in the United States uses around 400 gallons of water every day. If we start using water mindfully, we can do our part in conserving this valuable resource.
1. Turn off faucets – Leaving the water run while washing your hands, brushing your teeth, shaving and washing dishes is a habit you should break. Bathroom faucets run at about two gallons per minute; kitchen faucets even more. Turning off the tap can save hundreds of gallons a month.
2. Repair leaks immediately – There is no such thing as a “little” water leak – even a dripping faucet. Our blog post – “How Little Leaks Can Lead to Big Repair Costs” – covers the risks of not repairing leaks in a timely manner. Not all leaks are obvious. A leaking toilet can waste more than 100 gallons of water every day. To check for a leak, add a few drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If the color winds up in the bowl after a while, your toilet is leaking.
3. Shorten those showers – A shower usually uses five to 10 gallons of water every minute. Shower Gem offers some useful tips on how to shower in under six minutes.
4. Use efficient watering techniques for your lawn and garden – If you have a small garden, consider hand-watering instead of using an automatic irrigation system. According to the EPA, if you water your lawn with a hose manually, you can use 33% less water. Forbes recommends investing in weather-based irrigation controllers that adjust to real weather conditions and provide water only when needed. Replace older mist-style sprinkler heads with rotator sprinkler heads – which shoot jets of waters at a slow rate. Install new drip irrigation piping and soaker hoses to improve watering efficiency.
5. Install water-efficient plumbing fixtures and fittings – Replacing old toilets and shower heads with new water-efficient models can go a long way in saving water – as well as money on your water bill. WaterSense-certified toilets that meet EPA criteria use between 1.28-1.6 gallons of water per flush, while older toilets use six gallons per flush. Purchasing a dual-flush toilet can save even more. WaterSense-certified showerheads use no more than 2.0 gallons per minute (GPM), compared to 2.5 GPM for a standard showerhead.
6. Reduce the amount of water used per flush with a plastic bottle in the toilet tank – If you can’t replace your high-volume toilet, take a one-liter bottle and fill with one or two inches of pebbles or sand, then fill with water and place in your toilet tank. Make sure you keep the bottle away from the operating system. This simple measure can save at least five gallons of water every day without compromising the efficiency of your toilet.
7. Don’t use your toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket – We still hear about people emptying their ashtray into the toilet and flushing it. While we understand the logic (you don’t want to risk a still-smoldering cigarette butt starting a fire in a wastebasket), it wastes water and could clog the pipe. For tissues and waste other than toilet paper, use a wastebasket – for the same reason.
8. Install water-saving flow restrictors – If you don’t want to replace your existing showerheads or faucets, install flow restrictors. Available at home improvement centers and hardware stores, flow restrictors are inexpensive and easy to install for those with basic DIY skills.
9. Buy a front-loading washer – The average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry each year – which accounts for more than 20% of residential indoor water use. Front-loading washers use less water than top-loading models. Whichever you choose, look for an ENERGY STAR® certified washer – which delivers superior efficiency and performance by incorporating advanced features, using 25% less energy and 33% less water.
10. Use your automatic dishwasher for full loads only – Every time you run your dishwasher, you use about 25 gallons of water.
As you see, most of these water conservation measures are easy and inexpensive. While you may have to make a conscious effort at first, they’ll soon become second nature. It really doesn’t take much to save water to make sure there’ll be enough for everyone for years to come!
Whether you’re a proud homeowner or business owner, Adams and Son Plumbing can keep your plumbing working dependably. We are a family-owned business with over 50 years in plumbing service. A state-certified plumbing contractor, we have over three generations of master plumbing experience. Contact us to learn more.