Just when you’d finally gotten a handle on your carbon footprint, along comes a new footprint to master: your water footprint. With the conclusion of the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul last month, everyone’s talking about the new concept of “water neutrality.”
What “water neutral” means
Like being “carbon neutral,” being water neutral means you aim for net zero water consumption. In practice, that means you reduce your water use as much as possible on the one hand and, on the other, compensate for any use you can’t avoid. To start to get a sense of how much water you use, try this calculator from the newly created Water Footprint Network.
Why it’s important
There’s growing awareness that humans are using up fresh water at unsustainable rates. A recent United Nations report described growing water scarcities and declared that countries around the world must come up with better ways to manage water resources.
- If you don’t already have a low-flow toilet, put a brick in your toilet tank. It’ll automatically reduce the amount of water used with each flush.
- Fix leaky faucets. All those drips add up.
- Skip the post-dinner rinse and just scrape dishes into the trash (or, better yet, into the compost bin). Newer model dishwashers can handle dish gunk.
- To wash vegetables and fruits, put just a little water in a bucket, and rinse your produce there. Then use the remaining water for your plants or garden.
- As if you needed another reason to eat healthy, choose whole foods, like vegetables, fruits, and grains. Generally, less water was used in their production than processed foods, like potato chips, cookies, and prepared meals.
- If it’s yellow, let it mellow. You know what I’m talking about.
Steps you can take – More ambitious
- If you’ve got the dough, consider installing dual-flush toilets, low-flow showerheads, low-flow faucets, and water-saving appliances.
- Install a drip irrigation system to deliver only the exact amount of water your garden needs.
Steps you can take – Rock star
- Install a rainwater catchment system.
- Set up a greywater system to capture and re-use the output of your sinks, shower, and laundry machine.
- Re-plant your garden to include only native species. Native species don’t need extra watering. They were designed to make do with the amount that came naturally from your local sky.
Feeling overwhelmed? Yeah, me too. So remember: you’re allowed to start slow. Choose just one thing and see if you can make it a habit. When you’ve got that down, come back and choose a second step to put into practice.