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To Conserve Water

New England is relatively a water-rich area. For example, Connecticut has an average annual rainfall of between 41.65 inches along the Long Island Sound coastline and 53.17 inches in the Litchfield Hills. The Long Island Sound watershed usually receives enough rain to keep gardens growing, reservoirs full, and lawns green. Why then should we be concerned about conserving water?

Approximately 97 percent of the earth's water is locked in the oceans and estuaries like Long Island Sound. That leaves approximately 3% as fresh water, more than 2% of which is frozen in glaciers and ice caps at the poles. Ground water, freshwater lakes, and rivers holding water available for human use contain less than 1% of the total water on our planet. Therefore, from a global viewpoint, it makes good sense to conserve water. In some areas of the United States, population growth has made water conservation an everyday concern.

What is the role of water conservation in the health of Long Island Sound? First and foremost, you should be concerned with water conservation if you have a septic system. The more you reduce the flow, the less likely your sewage will spill over into the soil. Also, your system will last longer before the leachfield has to be renewed.

If your home is served by a municipal sewer system and sewage treatment plant, water conservation is an important cost-saving measure for both yourself and your community. When an overloaded sewer system is replaced, you can count on higher sewer taxes. If your wastewater goes to one of the sewage treatment plants that is already running close to or over capacity, you can help reduce the burden. New sewage treatment plants are expensive and it may be quite a while before your town can assemble the package of local, state, and federal funds needed to build one. Really significant water conservation in a whole community might even free enough capacity for the local sewage treatment plant to institute biological nitrogen removal.

To conserve water, be sure that you don't have any leaky pipes, dripping faucets, or running toilets. A rapidly dripping faucet can waste 200 gallons in a week; a running toilet can silently waste 200 gallons in a day. Take a look at your water meter when you think everything is turned off. If it's running, start hunting for the leak.

Each of us uses about 100 gallons of water a day. The single largest consumption of water in any home is toilet flushing. Older toilets use 5 to 7 gallons per flush. You can make an immediate and significant reduction in water use by installing a standard new toilet that uses 3.5 gal per flush or a toilet dam that reduces the volume of water in the tank. Low-flow toilets that use only about 1.5 gallons per flush are available, too, although they're more costly than the standard kind. (One caution-before reducing the water flow in your toilets, consult a plumber to be sure the flow will still be sufficient to flush waste out of your pipes. The condition, diameter, and pitch of your pipes should be checked.)

It's also easy to conserve water in the shower. Consider that showering for 5 minutes, or maybe even 2 minutes, will get you just as clean as showering for 15 minutes. Also, water can be saved by changing your showerhead. The flow from an average older shower head ranges from 5 to 8 gallons per minute. Most newer lowflow shower heads deliver a maximum of 1 to 3 gallons per minute, depending upon your water pressure. Flow restricters for existing showerheads (or faucets) will help too. If, for example, you take a 5-minute shower every day, installing a low-flow showerhead can save up to 175 gallons of water each week.

Soundkeeper, Inc.