Water, Water Everywhere

What do you know about water?

Did you know that every day, 176 gallons of water are processed for each American? That's a total of 42 billion gallons of clean drinking water produced by public water systems in the U. S. and Canada.

How do we use it all? The largest percentage goes to you for "residential" use, which accounts for more than a third of daily water use. Industrial, commercial and public uses each take their share, too.

About 90 percent of the water you use personally--50 to 80 gallons a day--is used indoors for personal hygiene, cooking and cleaning.

Surprise! Well, not to anyone with teens in the house. Bathroom activities account for more of our total indoor consumption than anywhere else (75 percent).

Toilets use the highest percentage of a household's indoor water (38 percent), followed by showers (22 percent). Laundry and tubs or sink water are tied with 15 percent each. I guess we're more concerned with keeping ourselves clean than our kitchens, because we use only 10 percent of our indoor water there.

Winter means you're likely to use 95 percent of your water inside. But in the hottest weeks of summer, up to half your household water use may be outside. Watering lawn and garden when it's hot or windy wastes water--it evaporates before your lawn absorbs it all or it just blows away. Try watering evenings or mornings.

So, how much does all this water cost?

Average cost for water supplied to a U. S. home is about $2 for 1,000 gallons. Or, 5 gallons for a penny. Not bad. And, we do a little better in Westfield, at $1.81 for 1,000 gallons. The average quarterly bill for a family of four in this city is $50 to $60.

If we had to convert our water from salt water, which is 97 percent of the Earth's supply, it could cost more. Some $5 to $7 for 1,000 gallons.

Westfield's Water Department was founded in 1874, when the Legislature authorized the city to build a reservoir in Montgomery. Fire protection was the most compelling reason to create the department.

Thanks to Woody Darling and his staff, our water is still here and still safe. Just turn on the faucet and there it is.

If you travel to Canada, western Europe, Australia, New Zealand or Japan, the water should be safe too. Other places, best look for bottled water to drink and brush your teeth.

If your glass of water looks cloudy but then clears up, it's caused by tiny air bubbles, which rise to the top, like soda or beer, and then disappear. Nothing to worry about.

Generally, you won't taste or smell any chemicals or microbes in water that can make you sick. If you're concerned about lead in your water, get it tested in a state certified lab. In the meantime, whenever your water has gone unused for more than six hours, and you're using it for drinking or cooking, run the faucet for a minute, or until the water becomes cold. Save the "flushed" water for dishes or plants.

Most of our water has been touched by some type of human or animal activity. If you're hiking, boil stream water for three minutes. Water going to your garden hose is safe, because it's probably the same water you access inside. But the hose itself contains substances, probably germs, that aren't good for you. So leave the germs for the lawn and take a water bottle along for yourself.

Inside, a leaky toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons a day. One day! But here's a trick to find out if your toilet is leaking. Put 12 drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. If color appears in the bowl after 15 minutes, there's a leak--and that costs you money.

Most toilets use three to seven gallons a flush. New ultra low flush models use only 1.6 gallons. And the state's plumbing code requires new installations to be ultra low flush models, which could cut your home water consumption by 25 percent.

Dripping faucets and shower heads can waste several hundred gallons a week. Main cause of leaks--worn out washers, which cost all of a quarter to replace.

New, low flow, shower heads use just two and a half gallons a minute, compared with up to seven gallons with older models. In faucets, try low flow aerators to mix air and water, and reduce flow by 25 percent.

Why are we worried about all of this. Well, aside from cost, there's only so much water. There's almost no "new water." Our water is recycled. A dinosaur could have once used your last sip of water, and your great grandchild might re-use your next sip.

We have the same amount of water as we did a billion years ago, a hundred years ago, ten years ago. More people; same amount of water.

You can live without food for a month, but you won't live more than a week without water.

Want more information on water, and how to conserve it? Call or e-mail me for a free "Saving Water at Home" pamphlet. Just be sure to spell your name, and leave your street address and phone number.

All materials copyright 1997 - 2014