One of the most famous photographs ever taken was by an Apollo astronaut crew as they neared the moon. It’s a view looking back at our Earth. Our life-giving planet appears as a marvelous blue marble. That’s because water covers the majority of our home. Water isn’t blue by nature. It’s reflected sunlight that gives our oceans, lakes and rivers their blue hues. Sun rays light up the water, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface. The other 29% is composed of continents and islands. Most grow trees and grass that require ample amounts of water to survive. The oceans and lakes teem with life. So do the forests and pastures. Everywhere on Earth, you’ll find some form of life, and every living creature has something in common. They all need a constant source of water. That includes us as a human species. Water consumption supports our lives, and using it smartly plays a vital role in conserving that resource. Because of this, it is important to learn how to be more water efficient in our daily lives.
Our Global Supply of Water
With so much water available you’d hardly think that a water shortage could occur. The reality is that water scarcity happens all the time and is a serious, life-threatening problem in many parts of the world. Only a small amount of our water supply is fit for consumption. Salt or seawater accounts for 96.5% of the entire water mass. Without expensive desalination treatment, salt water is deadly to humans when consumed. That leaves the remaining 3.5% as fresh water. But less than a third of all fresh water is liquid, and 69% is frozen in ice. There is enough fresh water on our planet to continually service the current human population. That’s going to diminish as the population grows. The main problem is fresh water isn’t evenly distributed across the planet. One-fifth of humans live in areas where safe water is scarce. That’s 1.2 billion people who have problems getting water, yet this precious substance is still wasted or mismanaged. There’s another big problem with our available potable freshwater supply. Much is contaminated by chemicals and non-organic materials. It’s also polluted with human and animal waste. Consumption is risky — it often means contracting waterborne diseases, which leads to millions of preventable deaths and severe illnesses. We could significantly reduce this problem if everyone endorsed proper water conservation and efficiency practices.
Uses for and Wastes of Water
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average person requires a minimum of 2.5 quarts of water each day to survive. But we need water for more than just hydrating our flesh and bones or removing toxic wastes from our systems. We use water for cooking and cleaning. We consume vast amounts of water more than we need each day for:
- Flushing our toilets
- Washing our cars
- Watering our lawns
All these aquatic activities are important for our health and quality of life, but we’re far too wasteful with water. America is one of the big water wasters, but other countries are guilty as well. And it’s not just human consumption that needlessly drinks up water reserves. Around the world, people use water in crop growing, livestock raising, all forms of horticulture and especially in manufacturing petroleum, steel and paper products.
Water Consumption Around the World
Our world population continues to grow at a fast rate. This creates a pressing demand to source clean water for our plants, our animals and ourselves. The United Nations reports worldwide water consumption increased six times during the 20th century. It’s going to get faster in the next 50 years. The uneven distribution of water is one of the main problems with the global water supply. Some countries have a severe shortage while other have a tremendous abundance. Compounding the water shortage issue in some countries is the management of water supplies. The demand for fresh water far exceeds the nation’s ability to produce it or let the natural water supply replenish. The answer lies in educating people on how to be more water efficient. That includes a dedicated commitment to water conservation. Water efficiency and water conservation are different concepts, but they go hand in hand. Water efficiency focuses on decreasing wasted water. Water conservation sets limits on how much water should be used. Raising awareness about water consumption is happening all over the world. Some areas are more progressive than others, and that’s due to necessity. There’s a mindset that when water is in plentiful supply, wasteful use automatically goes up. Americans are notorious for wasting water. That’s not the case in the Netherlands, which has one of the most expensive water supplies in the world. The Dutch are frugal with their fresh water, and they have to be. Bottled water in Holland costs nearly as much as gasoline. Here is a look at water consumption levels around the world.
North American Water Consumption
North America, including the USA, Canada and Mexico, has an abundance of fresh water. Canada has almost as much water as land. Mexico is a bit drier and has less water treatment and delivery infrastructure than America but still is a large consumer of water. The average American uses approximately 110 gallons of water every day. That’s over 40,000 gallons per year. If Americans reduced their water use by even 10%, it would be a massive saving.
UK Water Consumption
The United Kingdom has a low natural water supply. Consequently, the UK is careful with using water. It imports 38% of its potable water and it comes at a cost. The average citizen uses 39 gallons each day, and they’ve been lowering their personal consumption by 1% per year since the 1930s. That’s an impressive and necessary effort.
African Water Consumption
Africa is an extreme continent. Half of the countries have a plentiful water supply that’s healthy to drink. But of the world’s top 25 nations that don’t have safe or abundant drinking water, 19 are in Africa. Three out of every four Africans do not have access to consistent, safe water. They may not consume as much water as developed countries, but the consequences are far more severe. Most African countries lack the resources, including financing, to manage and distribute water. Sadly, only 4% of African water is used yearly.
Australian Water Consumption
Australia is the driest country on Earth. Seventy percent of the continent is desert or semi-arid. In these regions, there’s little or no annual rainfall. Consequently, most of Australia is sparsely inhabited. There is no dependable water supply. In the country’s arid regions, Australians have to be careful with water use. But in water-rich areas, Australians are among the world’s highest water users despite advanced water management systems.
Eastern Asian Water Consumption
Eastern Asia has a serious water supply and treatment system problem. The massive population in Asia leads to overcrowding. It also causes water pollution from:
- Toxic chemical disposal
- Human hygiene issues
The region is also prone to seasonal floods that mix surface and ground water. Citizens in these countries typically are not large water consumers simply because they have a limited supply of safe water.
European Water Consumption
Europe has a plentiful amount of water in most countries, but it pays for it. Europe claims the most expensive water supply in the world. That’s partly due to the technology that produces European water, treats it and delivers it through advanced infrastructure. Despite the price, most Europeans consume a lot of water.
Costs of Water Around the World
Water costs significantly vary around the world. It depends a lot on developed, developing and underdeveloped nations. Prices everywhere are rising as water is a commodity, just like other goods. The law of supply and demand affects water. However, the cost per unit of water is fixed at a certain point of time where usage is the wild card. Countries like Canada, which has the lowest water cost in the world, also have the highest personal usage factor. Germany, on the other hand, records the highest per-unit water cost, but the Germans are tight with their consumption. In the middle are Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway and Finland, which have enormous water supplies. Their costs reflect an advanced system of treatment and delivery. Here is a breakdown of worldwide water costs in developed nations. It’s based on a U.S. dollar per cubic meter formula. Reliable data is not available for underdeveloped countries.
- Germany $1.91
- Denmark $1.64
- Belgium $1.54
- Netherlands $1.25
- France $1.23
- UK $1.18
- Italy $0.76
- Finland $0.69
- Ireland $0.63
- Sweden $0.58
- Spain $0.57
- USA $0.51
- Australia $0.50
- South Africa $0.47
- Canada $0.40
It’s interesting to know that most countries don’t charge for the water itself. The United Nations declared that access to clean drinking water and sanitation is a basic human right, like air, therefore it cannot be sold as a product. What you’re paying for in high-priced places like Germany and Denmark are services like treatment, water delivery and taxes.
What Is Water Used For?
Every aspect of our lives are affected by water in some way or another. Outside of being the source of life itself, water is used for so many things it’s impossible to list them all! It’s best to group water intake into two categories. One is domestic use. That’s personal or residential consumption, both inside and outside the house. The other is commercial usage. That includes industrial manufacturing, agriculture and raising livestock. Fishing and seafood production can also go in the commercial category. These are the main domestic water uses:
- Internal consumption: Drinking water is vital for our health. We get water from many sources, like right out of the tap, beverages and absorbing it from fruits and vegetables.
- Hygiene: We use water for bathing, showering and brushing our teeth. One of the biggest personal water consumptions is flushing the toilet every time we use it.
- Cooking: No kitchen can function without a dependable source of hot and cold water. We boil water, steam it and sauté in it. It’s an indispensable part of food preparation.
- Cleaning: Water is used for all sorts of cleaning tasks, like washing dishes, clothing and floors. It includes hosing down the deck and washing the car.
- Pets: Dogs, cats and fish all need water, and not just to drink. We bathe our pets and let them swim in ponds and pools.
- Recreation: Water fills our pools and backyard ponds. We leisure by lakes, and nothing soothes the spirit like the sound of trickling water and splashing kids.
- Gardening: Plants are like people. They can’t survive without water. We drench our baskets, soak our planters and dowse our raised beds. We also water our lawns. This is one of the highest water uses in the country. It’s also the easiest to conserve!
Non-Domestic Consumption of Water
Commercial and industrial businesses consume an enormous amount of water worldwide. The drain on national water supplies is far greater in developed countries than impoverished ones. That’s because water is a staple in supporting all forms of commercial ventures. Consider how necessary water is for these industries and how much of it they must consume:
- Agriculture: Farms everywhere rely on a steady and plentiful water supply to thrive. That spectrum ranges from vegetable producers, orchards and vineyards all the way to grain and grass growers.
- Livestock: Animal husbandry can’t exist without adequate water. The beef, pork and poultry producers must have safe and steady water to raise healthy stock.
- Fish and seafood: Water makes the very environment these creatures need to function. Fresh water is also used in processing fish. It’s used to wash and freeze the products as well as cleaning the tools.
- Petroleum: The gas and oil industry can’t operate without a water source. They’re huge consumers. Their fuels produced with water’s help are vital for our transportation system as well as heating our homes.
- Manufacturing: Every type of manufactured good is made with water. It might be used directly in the product, like gelatin, or assisting the manufacturing process, such as steel and iron.
- Shipping: A large part of the world’s freight delivery relies on water. Ships travel oceans, lakes and rivers everywhere to deliver products and people. Water is vital to transportation.
- Sports: Every sports field with grass requires water to sustain it. Even with high-tech sprinklers and irrigation systems, sporting grounds go through a lot of water. That trickles down to all commercial and residential sprinklers, including the ones in your yard. Little things matter, like ensuring you have optimal water pressure for sprinklers. It’s a main place to put your water conservation and efficiency efforts to work.
What Is Water Waste?
Water waste is basically the frivolous use of water. Most people waste water. It’s not necessarily intentional. It’s a case of complacency for many people. In America, most places have a steady and affordable water supply, except for some drought regions. It’s natural to let the tap run when brushing our teeth or flushing every time we use the toilet. We do half loads of laundry and start the dishwasher before it’s full. We overfill the tub and take long showers. But we don’t have to. Like energy conservation, controlling our water waste comes with dedication. It’s our responsibility to be wise with water just like we have to be careful with fossil fuel and electric energy. It starts with education and commitment to being prudent with water use. It’s no longer optional. The health of our planet depends on water. As water becomes scarcer and more expensive, we need to reduce consumption. Fortunately, this is not difficult to achieve. We can slow down and even stop water waste in two ways:
- One is to conserve water usage.
- The second is becoming more efficient in how we use water.
They’re not quite the same concepts. But, properly applied, they make a great difference in how much water each of us consumes. Let’s look at what water conservation and water efficiency really mean.
According to Amy Vickers, who is a noted water conservationist and author of the book Water Conservation, water conservation is defined as “beneficial reduction of water use and water waste.” It’s all of the programs, practices policies and procedures that are designed to let you consume less water than you’re currently using. Vickers says your goal should be to use only the amount of water you actually need. She uses simple but effective examples, like not letting the water run when brushing your teeth and not running your dishwasher when it’s not full.
Vickers also has a definition for water efficiency. This also sets a goal of reducing water consumption but approaches it by implementing devices and strategies. She defines it as “minimizing the amount of water used to accomplish a task or function by employing intentional measures.” It’s using water-saving appliances and devices to be efficient yet still do the job properly. Water efficiency can save energy, which results in saving money. The EPA estimates using water-efficient “WaterSense”-labeled fixtures along with Energy Star-rated appliances can save the average family around $750 per year. Not only is that good for your budget, but it’s also good for your community and the environment.
Why Is Conserving Water so Important?
Water is a finite commodity. There’s only so much fresh drinking water available. When the supply is exhausted, that’s it. Water belongs to every living thing on the planet. The human population is expanding faster than ever, with 53 percent growth expected through 2100, and it’s putting pressure on our limited supply. Certain areas of the country are drying out. Droughts throughout parts of America cause a serious depletion of local water supplies. It’s everyone’s task to make sure no more water is used than necessary. It’s the responsible thing to do.
What You Can Do to Help With Water Conservation and Efficiency
The best thing you can do to help with water conservation and efficiency is to make a concentrated effort in reducing your water use. The next best thing is to invest in efficient devices that use less water. Combined, these two strategies will decrease your consumption, save you money and help stop the drain on your area’s water supply. Investing in low-flush toilets and restricted-flow showerheads has excellent returns. You can also purchase new appliances that use less water. Dishwashers, washing machines and hot water tanks that efficiently conserve water are widely available. They cost a bit more than lesser devices, but the long-term payback is there. There are some pros and cons to investing in new appliances:
- New appliances have better functionality and appearance than older appliances
- You’ll save more on energy and water bills
- Approximately 3,000 gallons of water are saved annually
- It’s expensive to buy new appliances and takes a while to recover costs
- Your money savings depend on your water use habits and consumption behavior
- You need to dispose of your old appliances, and there may be recycling fees
Helping to conserve water through new and efficient appliances takes time. For example, the average washer life may be 14 years. Each year, you can save up to 3,000 gallons of water if you did an average of one load per day. That’s a 42,000-gallon water savings over the washer’s lifespan. Something else that will have a substantial return on investment is your lawn sprinkler installation. Watering your lawn consumes an enormous amount of water if the sprinkler system installation is old, outdated or needs repair. Here at Nature’s Helper, we specialize in optimizing sprinkler and irrigation systems to ensure they are performing at maximum efficiency, saving you money and reducing the environmental impacts of wasted water. Conserving water through your sprinkler system starts with using pressure regulated spray (PRS) heads. There are some benefits of using PRS heads. Consider these:
Benefits of the PRS Sprinkler Systems
- Saves 45,000 gallons or more per year on a six zone system. That’s based on a typical watering season of 27 weeks with a watering cycle of 2 hours and 15 minutes per day, watering 3 timer per week.
- Significantly reduces water waste
- Saves you 15 times more money on water bills compared to buying a new washer
- Your sprinkling behavior doesn’t change — the PRS heads do it for you
- A typical sprinkler installation with PRS heads lasts 15 years with proper maintenance like winterization, spring start-ups, and mid-season checks
- PRS systems pay for themselves in 5 years or less on your water bill alone
PRS sprinkler systems save huge amounts of water. An average PRS system saves up to 45,000 gallons per year! That’s equivalent to flushing your toilet 63 times a day — every day for one year.
Let Nature’s Helper Help You Conserve Water
For over 19 years, we’ve been the premier choice for sprinkler services in Omaha, providing sprinkler installation and sprinkler system repair services. We can design a highly efficient sprinkler system that reduces the amount of water used for your lawn and saves you money. We offer complete solutions for every price point. At Nature’s Helper, we know just how inefficient many sprinkler and irrigation systems are. They consume far more precious water than necessary to maintain your lawn and your garden. The primary reason most sprinkler systems are inefficient is due to the fact that they don’t have the optimal water pressure. When water pressure is too high, your sprinkler system mists the air instead of producing a proper flow of water that soaks the ground. This leads to water evaporating into the air instead of watering your lawn. At the core of Nature’s Helper sprinkler installations are our pressure regulating stem (PRS) heads. We’re one of the few Omaha sprinkler system installers who use PRS heads, and we’ve tracked our water-saving results since 2007. We’re proud to say that in 10 years, by using new irrigation technology, we’ve reduced Omaha water usage by 157,233,900 gallons of sprinkler water! We’re also proud to share each year’s water savings with you:
- 2007 — 3,057,500 gallons
- 2008 — 6,134,395 gallons
- 2009 — 7,531,158 gallons
- 2010 — 9,180,504 gallons
- 2011 — 11,370,848gallons
- 2012 — 16,039,683 gallons
- 2013 — 20,787,887 gallons
- 2014 — 24,796,816 gallons
- 2015 — 27,544,288 gallons
- 2016 — 30,790,821 gallons
That’s enough water to fill more than 238 Olympic swimming pools! The secret to these incredible savings are our PRS heads, and the reason they’re ideal is that the Omaha area has higher than normal water pressure levels. That’s a culprit for water waste, and it costs homeowners and the environment.
Get in Touch Today to Learn How You Can Save Water With a More Efficient Sprinkler System
For all your sprinkler installation and repair services in Omaha, Nature’s Helper is here for you. We help you conserve water and make your lawn and garden irrigation systems efficient. We improve your water efficiency, saving you money and valuable water resources. Contact us today to make a service appointment or request an estimate.
Updated June 28, 2018