Today, March 22, is World Water Day. It's a day for those of us lucky enough to have access to clean drinking water to think about the global water crisis. Here are some scary facts:
Lack of clean water is the primary reason why more than 3,000 children under 5 years of age die every day from diarrhea and other water-related illnesses, the United Nations reports.
In Africa, women and children spend 40 billion hours annually collecting water. While searching for water and carrying it back to their homes, they are easy targets for sexual harassment and assault.
What can we do to help? Several charities accept donations to help bring clean water to developing communities. Learn about actor Matt Damon's charity at waterday.org. A donation of $25 provides one person clean water for life. Charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. The group uses photos and GPS coordinates on a map to show donors where contributions are being spent. Learn more here. Unicef works in 90 countries around the world, bringing clean water and educating people about sanitary practices to help reduce illness and death. Learn more at unicefusa.org.
Today is also a great time to think about our own water usage and identify ways to reduce our waste of this natural resource. Here are some tips:
Use water wisely: According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly 7 billion gallons of water—or 30 percent of total household usage—is devoted to outdoor use. In the hot summer months, or in dry climates, that number can be as high as 70 percent. There are several ways to make the most of water used to water the lawn. Water at night or in the early morning to avoid evaporation, and water more often for shorter periods for maximum soil absorption. Also, be sure to water only when needed and not, for example, right after a downpour.
Fix leaks: According to the EPA, a home can waste, on average, more than 10,000 gallons of water every year due to running toilets, dripping faucets, and other household leaks. More than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year. Check plumbing and irrigation systems regularly and fix leaks when they occur.
Upgrade household appliances, and use them wisely: By installing more high-tech appliances such as dual-flush toilets and water-saving washers and dishwashers, homeowners can save money and help the environment. And be sure to fully load dishwashers and washing machines before running them.
Turn off the tap: Simple habits, such as taking showers instead of baths and turning off the faucet while shaving or brushing your teeth, can have a big impact on household water usage.
Get a rain barrel: As we head into the summer gardening season, let's rethink how we water our flower beds, vegetable patches and lawns. Outdoor chores, such as watering gardens and lawns, can account for 40 percent of household water use during the summertime, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. During the summer months, a rain barrel can help homeowners save up to 1,300 gallons of water, depending on a number of factors, including rain barrel size, placement and usage. This can lower your water bill, too!