March 25, 2013 – Conserving water is one of the most important things you can do, especially if you’re an American. Many Americans use as much water as 900 Kenyans! While it isn’t possible – for me, anyway – to increase Kenyan access to water, I can (and do) conserve water. Especially since the United States is approaching its third summer of drought, which affected eighty percent of the country’s farmland last year. That’s not all: 36 states are expecting local, regional or statewide water shortages this year. Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Nevada and Texas will face greater shortages than most in the coming years, because their populations are projected to increase the most.Did you know that 53.6 million Americans drink contaminated tap water? The Natural Resources Defense Council says water scarcity will impact the South, West and Midwest more than other areas of the country. In fact, 14 states in these three regions are already at high risk of water scarcity. Drought was so severe in Wisconsin last year that the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared 23 counties in southern Wisconsin natural disaster areas.
It’s more crucial than ever that farmers employ sustainable farming methods. While the government can help see farmers through economically, only the farmer can care for his land and animals responsibly. It does no good, as Iowa just did, to pass a law against secretly filming or recording farming activities. If Iowan’s don’t know it yet, they will learn: the truth will out. As for the rest of us, consider doing some or all of the following.Please don’t water your lawn. If you live in one of the three high-risk areas of the country, you know your lawn will go dormant in July and/or August anyway, so save yourself the time and trouble. As for your flower and vegetable gardens, water them by hand, if you can find the time. It really matters: watering manually uses 33% less water than irrigating with a sprinkler! Start collecting water in rain barrels. You’ll save money – and water.
Meatless Monday’s? Time to graduate to the big leagues, my friends. You should be eating meatless meals three times a week. Doing so can save over a thousand gallons of water every day you eat this way. If everybody in your family takes the pledge, you can take great pride in your water-conserving accomplishments. Remember that eating grass-fed, locally-raised meat, eggs and dairy products also saves water.Cooking water can be recycled. Use the water you cook your vegetables in to water your flowers and vegetables. Let it cool off, first!
Provide support for small-scale, family farms. The small-scale producers are more likely to farm using sustainable and/or organic food production methods.Reduce food waste. Easier said than done, right? Meal planning can be a big help. Don’t be a stickler for following directions; adding a few left over mushrooms hasn’t killed anybody yet! You bought that whole head of celery for just one recipe? Cut it up, throw it in - or introduce yourself to the wonders of spreading cheese on celery stalks. Somebody used a lot of water to grow that. Don’t let it go to waste.
Consider showering less frequently. If you’re a baby boomer, like me, chances are you’ve noticed your skin drying out. Yes, it’s true – I’ll tell the world – I no longer shower every day. It’s just not necessary; in fact, it’s damaging to the skin. There may be times during the summer when you’ll need to revert to the old schedule. Do what you can. It all makes a difference.