Archive for August, 2012

Save the Water

Filed Under Category Water, Water Supply by Annie Barbour

Plant Water DropletsWater conservation is nothing, if only practiced in theory.  Living sustainably requires people to make conscious decisions in light of the earth’s limitations.  Because the world’s population is growing and the water supply is not – we must each do our part to conserve what we can.  The Arizona based Water – Use it Wisely campaign website has a list of over one hundred ways to save water. Grey water and rainwater harvesting are just two water conservation methods that can be done at home, and we highlight them in this post because they both contribute a great deal to the cause.

For starters, just replacing the potable water used to flush your toilet with grey water would save 20 gallons, per person, per day.  If you live in a four-person household, that equates to 2,400 gallons per month!  Imagine not only how much potable water you could save, but also how significant the decrease in your utility bill could be!  On a grander scale, the EPA estimates that 4.8 billion gallons is flushed down the toilet daily in the United States.  Each year, Americans could reduce 1.75 trillion gallons of water, simply by flushing toilets with grey water. That’s amazing.

Many retrofit systems are available on the market to convert to grey water for toilet flushing. Some systems require more home alterations than the others, but all are effective in application. The Aqus System is an example of a retrofit product designed to collect water from the bathroom sink drain and supply it to your home’s existing toilet. It filters and treats the water, and lasts for a decade or more. Typically, the system has paid for itself ($200) within four years of use.

Rain water reuse can be as simple or inventive as anyone prefers. This method of water conservation could easily utilize a home’s gutters to initially collect the water. After that, place a bucket below the spout and distribute as needed for watering plants or washing a vehicle. More precise rainwater harvesting solutions exists as well, which can supply direct irrigation. The more evolved rainwater harvesting technologies require greater time and energy upfront, but require less attention later.

There are small ways to contribute to a sustainable world. Will you save a few gallons of water here or there? Please do. You’ll no doubt save money, and a great deal of our earth’s most vital resource: water.

Reusable Water

Filed Under Category Water, Water Supply by Annie Barbour

The United States’ drinking water standards are high. Under normal circumstances, the water is clean, safe, tastes ok and is used for so many different things. The same water that we drink is used to flush the toilet, water the plants and wash the car. Does a toilet require potable water for flushing? No, absolutely not. Could the runoff water from the dishes and shower be reused for other purposes? Yes, definitely.

Think of it this way: three levels of water quality exist – white, grey and black. White water is that which we drink, potable water. It’s been filtered and disinfected specifically for us to safely consume. Grey water is the wastewater that flows from a home’s shower, bathroom sink, washing machine and/or bathtub. This water is then purposed for reuse, typically in the form of landscape irrigation. Black water is flushed toilet water, containing materials unsafe for reuse, unless properly treated. Water from the garbage disposal, dishwasher and kitchen sink is usually referred to as black water as well, because of high levels of organic waste.

On average, 280 gallons of water goes down the drain per household, per day and more than half of that could be reclaimed as grey water. Reasons to reuse water include sustainability, making your home more green, reducing your water bill and reducing your water footprint. Water reclamation can simply be done by collecting shower water with a bucket and reusing where applicable. Other specific tools are available to do the trick, for example hooking up a bathroom sink to a machine that funnels the grey water to the toilet.

Rainwater harvesting is another way to conserve water. This method involves collecting and storing rainwater, and reusing it for irrigation or for consumption.

In our next blog post, we will be discussing specific examples of water conservation and grey water application, and what it can do for the home and the environment. In the meantime, do you reclaim water or harvest rainwater? If so, please tell us about it. Would you consider it if you don’t do one or both of these, and for what uses?

Give Thanks for Water

Filed Under Category Health, Water by Annie Barbour

Water is absolutely essential for life. Think plants, think animals, think humanity, think whatever you want – it’s vital, isn’t it?  Its uses abound – hydration of course, but also hygiene, cooking, recreation and the manufacturing of so many goods.  So it’s only fitting that this week, we give thanks for this naturally reproducing thing called H2O.

To function properly, we must drink water.  Our bodies and the vast majority of our vital organs are composed of water.  Without consuming about half of our body weight in ounces on a daily basis, we may experience dehydration symptoms including lethargy, lightheadedness, headaches, dry skin, achy joints and low blood pressure.  Consider a dry, withering plant. What is the first thing it needs for life? Water of course!  Regardless of which wonder-grow solution you add to the plant, it will not thrive without water. The same is true for the human body.  We need pure water to function as we should, and thankfully – most people have access to it.

About seven out of eight people have access to clean drinking water, which leaves 884 million people lacking that basic right.  Without clean water, individuals of all ages are more susceptible to disease, infections, diarrhea and even death.  Children are denied education in impoverished countries due to the lack of sanitation facilities and because of their, or the women’s duty to fetch water daily.

Along with many other organizations, Pump Aid demonstrates how important clean water is by the work they do.  They build self-sustainable wells for poor, rural African communities who can then draw the water, as opposed to walking miles to get their daily supply.  Pump Aid also helps communities build a sanitary toilet, and teaches them how to irrigate nutrition gardens.  It is by these actions, that we realize how vital water really is.

We are blessed with the easy access to clean water, which is life giving in so many ways. Take advantage of it!

“Well” Water

Filed Under Category Water, Water Supply by Annie Barbour

One hundred years from now, history books and museums may tell the tale of water-pumping wells. Today, an estimated 15 million US households, or 60 million people, rely on private wells for their main source of water.  With 15 percent of the US population using wells, it’s important to know not only how they work, but also, what the quality of the water is that wells supply.

Private wells pump groundwater to the surface for a plethora of purposes. People pump well water into their home for hydration, cooking, cleaning, showering, and to run appliances.  The majority of this water is used for agriculture; specifically irrigating crops, and a smaller percentage for feeding livestock. Wells are most typically found in rural areas on private plots of land, and are not regulated by the EPA.

The contaminants affecting the water supply depend largely on geographic location and the prevalent industries surrounding the well.  Mining and construction can release heavy metals into the ground, resulting in arsenic in the groundwater, which can cause cancer after long-term exposure.  Nitrates and bacteria are released into the water through septic tanks and factory farms, which both contain large amounts of human and animal waste.  People with weak immune systems, including infants, the elderly and AIDS-afflicted individuals are especially vulnerable to nitrate and bacteria contaminants. Pesticides, fertilizers, household waste like cleaning products and used motor oil, and industrial discharges are also a potential threat to the water that comes from private wells.

It is important to test your well water periodically because unlike water that goes through a municipal source, no one is ensuring the quality and safety of your water. Each state has different requirements, so check with local agencies for the proper testing procedures. If and when you notice a difference in taste, odor and/or color, be sure to test your water and determine the best course of action to maintain quality, drinkable water. If your water has been deemed safe to drink and you’re still not happy with the taste and odor, consider a Zuvo Water Filtration System, as it offers a pure, clean glass of water, every time.

We Can’t Survive on Salt Water

Filed Under Category Water by Annie Barbour

While taking a drink of that ice-cold glass of water, do you ever wonder where it comes from? Beyond the pipes in your home, past the local municipality or your own personal well, what’s the source beyond the convenience of immediate consumption?

Drinking water, worldwide, is supplied through precipitation collected in streams, rivers, lakes, seas, oceans or the ground. Water collected in the latter is fittingly known as groundwater. Surface water includes that which is collected above ground, in bodies of water. Though oceans impressively make up 98 percent of the Earth’s water, it is unsafe for human consumption, or non-potable, due to high-salt concentrations. The Department of Energy offers a scientist’s explanation of this commonly-known, but not often understood fact:

“Humans can’t drink salt water because the kidneys can only make urine that is less salty than salt water. Therefore, to get rid of all the excess salt taken in by drinking salt water, you have to urinate more water than you drank, so you die of dehydration.”

This heedful rationale is clear, and naturally points us to the safe, though small supply of drinking water. As stated in our previous post about the water cycle and the need for conservation, less than one percent of the world’s water is potable.

Surface water, which accounts for more than 75 percent of freshwater supplies, is used for various purposes including agriculture, thermoelectric, irrigation, industrial uses, and public supply. Ironically enough, the very places and people who rely on this valuable resource contaminate surface water through hazardous substances, chemicals, pesticides, petroleum, sediment, or heated discharges. Non-point sources, meaning pollutants that wash off the land into bodies of water whose origins are not easily pinpointed, are the primary source of contamination. Much of this pollution has been pinned to the prevalent use of pesticides and fertilizers, and also livestock manure runoff, which contains pathogens that pose risks to humans.

Most groundwater, like surface water, comes from precipitation. Once the rain or snow reaches earth, it trickles down through the top layers of soil, sand, gravel and/or rock until it reaches an area that is saturated with water. A saturated area containing a substantial amount of water is called an aquifer. Most commonly, wells pump water from these aquifers and distribute it to rural homes and towns as well as to farms for crop irrigation. Fertilizers and pesticides also pollute groundwater, as well as underground landfill leaks and/or gasoline leaks.

Although the pollutants are unappealing, local municipalities do a great deal to clean up that murky water. Plus, it’s really quite amazing that Earth has been reproducing water through this same cycle for billions of years, as water is without a doubt, essential for life.

Tell us about the source of your drinking water. Is it surface water or ground water? What do you like and/or dislike about it?