Water crisis: How you can make a difference and save H2O

In the last couple years, water conservation has been a hot topic.  In Minnesota and Wisconsin, where water supplies seem practically endless due to the many lakes and streams, these headlines are often quickly dismissed or chalked up to short periods of drought.  The truth is, growing populations are stressing water supplies even in areas where conservation previously wasn't a concern, and often it's happening at an alarming rate.

It's a topic that residential homeowners and savvy builders/architects need to be aware of.  Have you heard about the underground aquifer being pulled from at higher-than-expected rates?  What's the state of your municipality's well?  If it dries up, what's the backup plan?  How does your county propose to continue supplying water to residence as the population grows?

Most cities rely on underground water supplies to keep water flowing to local homes and businesses.  But increasing demand on these supplies can have adverse effects.  While local and state governments must determine long-term solutions, homeowners can take a few simple steps to reduce their water footprint and help protect this precious resource.  The good news is a lower utility bill will follow too, helping homeowners save money.

1.  Be water wise.  The first step is to be aware of how much water your household uses.  Some cities, like Woodbury, MN., have already implemented a tier cost for water usage in order to encourage residents to use less water.  That means, less water you use, the less it costs.  Other Midwest citites may follow suit if water supplies continue to be stressed.

2.  Upgrade high-usage areas.  The U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency says the average family of four can use 400 gallons of water every day in their home.  Approximately 70 percent of that water is used indoors, and most of that in the bathroom.  Fix leaks and upgrade to WaterSense-labeled toilets and modern water-efficient showerheads.  Other smart home upgrades include high-efficiency washing machines and touch or motion-activated faucets. 

3.  Compare your bills.  Most homeowners simply pay their water bill and don't give much thought to what it reports.  But take a closer look and compare usage from month to month and year to year.  If there has been a big jump, you might have a phantom leak you don't know about or another issue that needs attention.  If you find your water bill is higher than you'd like, give a reputable contractor a call to discuss upgrades that can make your home water efficient.