August is Water Quality month, and we often don’t have to think about it, living in North America, but for nearly 20% of the world’s population clean drinking water is virtually non-existant. Every year, millions of people die of diseases associated with inadequate water supply, improper sanitation and a lack of proper hygene…most of these are children. I’ve studied the water maps of the world and recognizing where most of our planets’ water is held, having ample amounts of water is a key factor in the quality of water within a particular region.
When I speak to my clients about Water Conservation, the subject of cost always comes up and I have to tell them the bad news. Water Conservation is NOT cheap. One of my clients, within the Cucamonga Water District in Southern California, uses over ½ million gallons of water a year and spends (what he thinks) a lot of money on water. On average, this clients’ rate is $0.18 per 100 gallons of water. We made an evaluation of the property and the family’s monthly water “footprint” and compared this against the average monthly rainfall in the region, and determined the potential for capturing rainwater from the roof of their home.
The most we could ever hope to collect would be 11,000 gallons of rainwater during the wettest months between January and March. After a preliminary estimate for tanks, piping and installation, it would be 100 years before a return on investment would be realized. Keep in mind this is a 40+ year old residence and the site’s landscaping is well established. The cost of water and the potential payback even took into account a 2% price increase each year. The bottom line killed the project. …but, wait! Is it always about the bottom line? What about the children in Africa?
If the cost of water were to double tomorrow, water conservation might bring a quicker return on investment, but don’t be calling your local water district to demand they raise rates. (Like, you would do that anyway). Insist, however, that they promote Water Quality in their call for conservation, or believe me, the cost of water will be the least of your concerns. The alarm will be over whether we will even have enough clean water to drink. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states, “Safe drinking water and basic sanitation are intrinsic to human survival, well-being and dignity”.
The best source of drinking water comes from underground sources, and these aquifers around the country, and the world, are drying up. With the ever-increasing development in North America over the last 60 years, we have paved-over, and covered up pervious surfaces, which used to absorb the rain water that filtered into our disappearing water tables. Rainfall now washes down our driveways, gutters and concrete rivers carrying litter, oil and debris into our drinking water supplies, further threatening the quality of our water.
Thoughtful Water Conservation will control this wasteful discharge of water and allow local water districts to keep more of this precious resource where it’s best preserved; underground.
It is up to all of us to promote Water Conservation in order to continue to keep prices down, but most importantly, keep our quality of water of North America the envy of the world. We can do this by developing and utilizing Rainwater Harvesting and Greywater Irrigation Systems at the start of a building project, and paying particular attention to the new California Green Building Codes going into effect next year that will require all landscapes to implore rain sensors that will shutoff the automatic irrigation system when it rains.
Is this common sense? Darn right, and if we don’t start using more of it on our own, regulations will demand that we do and only raise the cost of Conserving Water!