Sunday, March 15, 2009

Water: The Fabric of Our Lives

Well I guess it's not technically a fabric, but water is essential to our existence on this (or any other) planet. We often forget how important clean water actually is. Second only to air, water is the most critical element to our lives. Our very fabric is sewn with threads of water.
In western societies, and more increasingly around the world, water is made to seem so common and abundant that no thought is put into conservation. It's like saving air -- why would you? Most people don't know that the amount of potable water on Earth is a mere 1%. Of all the millions and billions of gallons of water moving, floating, falling, rushing, flowing and freezing, only %1 is usable by people. In almost any action related to our body, water is consumed. Taking a shower, drinking, eating, brushing your teeth, washing your hands, peeing, sleeping...

Water is made to seem so abundant, that we piss and crap in drinking water. Imagine that! Are we that arrogant? "I'm so rich, I'm gonna take a shit here in this bowl of water." I don't know where this idea came from , but it seems very backward to me. Yet it is so ingrained into our culture (myself included), that I feel awkward mentioning this fact to others. They may think I'm strange for entertaining such an outlandish concept.

With the green movement however, along with the all too common quotes and trivia spouted about CO2, comes an awareness of our other environmental mistreatments, water being one of them. Integrated designs for reusing or reclaiming used water (greywater or blackwater) for other uses. Living machines are alternatives to typical sewage treatment systems. This is a biological method of cleansing water. Instead of using chemicals and inorganic methods to clean water, you use living organisms such as bacteria, plants, and fish, to filter water to varying quality levels. This in turn, allows us to use the water again, giving us a 100% increase in our resource use. We can water the lawn, feed our plants, or redirect the water to be used in toilets, or depending on quality, drink, cook or shower with. This is called closing the resource loop, a fundamental concept of permaculture.

Water is so important, but we treat it like shit.

We should think of water more as a life-sustaining element, rather than a means of transporting our turds. Let us use less water or reuse the water we consume. A perfect opportunity for another challenge.

Challenge #2: Measure your shower. Then shorten it.

1. Measure your flow rate. Get a bucket, preferably with volume lines, and a watch. Turn on your water to the flow you usually use, simultaneously starting your watch. Time for 1 minute. Measure how much water is in your bucket. This will give you your gallons (liters)/minute. Let's say you measure a rate of 4gallons/min.

2. Time the duration of shower. Then multiply your shower (in minutes) by the gallons. This will give you your total water usage and duration of your shower. In our example, your shower ends up being 10 minutes.

Your total water usage will be (4gal x 10min) 40gal. for a 10min. shower.

3. See if you can reduce your water usage by 25% or more. That would turn the above 10min shower into a 7min 30sec. shower.

You would save 10gal. of water. A drop in the bucket you might say. But if everyone does a little, together we can do a lot.

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