Him: Babe, I’ve set up a manual sprinkler system. Do you mind turning the water on before you leave in the mornings?
Me: But, the grass doesn’t look that bad. It’s been raining a lot!
Him: It’s preventative. I’ll set my alarm to remind you in the morning.
The conversation went something like this between us yesterday. The temps have been hovering near the 90’s for the past couple of weeks and this suggestion wasn’t unwarranted. Some of our grass *has* started to brown already, yet, I felt my resistance mounting for this idea. Surely, I wanted a green lawn that was the envy of the neighborhood and I definitely didn’t want to pick a fight over something that’s not my domain. (We had an agreement from the start- he owned the outside and I owned the inside.) But, as the day went on, my uncomfortable feelings only grew and I just couldn’t shake them off anymore.
Fact: Nearly 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. That leaves just 1% for all of humanity’s needs-all its agricultural, manufacturing, community, and personal household needs.
Growing up in Southern India, water conservation became part of my consciousness from a very early age. The word drought entered into my vocabulary well before I learned to spell. My family had a well in our backyard which pumped water throughout the house. We were the lucky ones; still the water levels would get so low so often that the pipes would run empty. My dad, being a resourceful man, installed a secondary pipe that connected to the municipal water line. We kept that faucet open at all times. Most of the days, we had no running water, but suddenly in the middle of the day (or night), you would hear the gush of water through the pipes and the entire neighborhood would clamor to get their week’s storage.
Fact: If everyone in the United States flushed the toilet just one less time per day, we could save a lake full of water about a mile long, a mile wide, and four feet deep every day. If US citizens averaged only four or five flushes per day, it would amount to more than 5 billion gallons of water down the drain. That’s enough to supply drinking water to the entire population of Chicago for more than 6 years.
When I was in college, my anthropology professor boldly announced to the class that she showered twice a week in order to conserve water. Gasp! Having lived outside of the US, she too had witnessed firsthand what a precious commodity water really was and how little is available in most communities. She said to us, I do what I can… and if every person thought this way, what a difference we could make! That really stayed with me. I started skipping showers on days when I felt clean. Obviously, I’m not advocating for bad hygiene, you know your body better than anyone. But, if we all skipped one shower a week or showered the “Navy Way” (because fresh water is relatively scarce on ships, sailors were taught to just get wet, and then turn off the shower while soaping and scrubbing, and turn it on again briefly to rinse off.), think of how much water we could conserve collectively. We’re also a big proponent of flushing less frequently in our household. Use your judgment on this one folks; I shouldn’t have to spell this out for you.
Fact: If you have a lawn, chances are it’s your biggest water gobbler. Typically, at least 50% of water consumed by households is used outdoors. Inside your house, bathroom facilities claim nearly 75% of the water used.
The world is experiencing a water crisis like never before. 1 in 9 people on this planet don’t have access to safe and clean drinking water. These people would line up around the block to drink the water I’m feeding my lawn. So, NO, I don’t feel bad if my grass is brown; watering the lawn everyday feels like a total waste of precious resources. Yet I understand, as a homeowner, I have an obligation to keep a well maintained property. I turned on the water this morning, reluctantly, but, I don’t think I can do it again tomorrow. Do I water every other day or twice a week, perhaps? Do I limit the time to 15-20 mins a day or 45 mins every 3 days? What is a happy compromise that will make me sleep at night?