Every living thing in the world needs water-in fact, we're pretty much made of it. The human body is over half water! We need it to drink, to wash with, to cook with, and to grow all the food we eat. It's the basic stuff of life.
There are trillions of tons of water on earth, but only a tiny fraction (less than three percent!) of that is fresh water -- the kind that people, animals and plants need to survive. Each of us needs 5 to 14 gallons (20 to 50 liters) of fresh water for basic daily needs, but it takes between 500 and 1000 gallons (2000 and 4000 liters) of water to grow the food that one person eats in a single day. With six billion people in the world, that's a LOT of water, day in and day out, so it's very, very important to save as much fresh water as we can.
Every Drop Counts: Using Less Water
Conserving the world's limited supply of fresh water can start with a few easy steps:
Turn off the tap. Don't leave the water running the whole time you're brushing your teeth; instead just turn it on when you need it. The same goes for washing the dishes. Don't run the tap to let drinking water "get cold." Instead, keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge. If you like to defrost foods using running water, try doing it overnight in the refrigerator or using the microwave instead.
Re-use water. Wash fruit and vegetables in a bowl of water instead of under the running faucet. Afterwards, use the water to water your plants rather than just pouring it down the sink.
Fix drips and leaks. Little drips and leaks in the kitchen and bath add up to a lot of wasted water over time. Make it your mission to get ‘em fixed.
Shower shorter. Take showers instead of baths; they use less water. If you can, keep them short! Aim for five minutes or less. And if you're waiting for a shower to warm up, catch that cold water in a container to use on plants!
Be yard-smart. Help your parents choose garden plants that need less watering. Water the grass during the cool evening or early morning (before 8:00am), so less water evaporates in the heat and sun. Turn off the sprinklers when the weather calls for rain. Did you know that longer grass holds water better? Encourage a parent to set the lawnmower to cut the grass at least three inches or higher. You can actually test to see how "thirsty" your grass by stepping on it; if it springs back when you lift your foot, it doesn't need water!
Get efficient. Talk to a parent about buying a water-saving showerhead. If you have an old toilet, replace it with a new one that uses less water per flush. Only run the dishwasher or clothes washer if you have a full load, because doing a half load wastes water.
Keeping our Water Safe
On top of reducing how much water we use every day, it's also very important to keep our fresh water safe to drink and free of dangerous chemicals and other pollutants. Here's how:
Choose green cleaners. Look for cleaning products and household chemicals that do the least harm to nature. With millions of people spraying and spritzing chemicals every day, that adds up to a lot of harmful stuff that gets into our water.
Don't litter. When you toss trash on the ground or in the street, it may make its way into storm drains, then into streams and rivers, and eventually all the way to sea, where it adds to the problem of global ocean pollution. Throw that stuff in a recycling bin or trashcan instead!
Never throw away old batteries. Batteries have very toxic chemicals inside them, and when they end up in a landfill, the chemicals "leech" into groundwater. Always take batteries of all kinds to a recycling drop-off. Sometimes electronics stores will recycle them for you.
In our next section, we talk about being Green On The Street.