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Reducing Your Waterprint

By Simran Sethi

Tags: Tom Kostigen, Thomas Kostigen, The Green Blue Book, bathroom remodel, kitchen remodel, water saving, embedded water, virtual water, water use, water conservation, environmentalism, green, environmentally friendly, eco-friendly, water usage, Simran Sethi,

In the last few months, I’ve been posting about the big stuff: big projects such as kitchen and bathroom remodeling, and big purchases such as energy-efficient dishwashers and eco-friendly faucets.


But, there are simple things one can do that conserve water for free. They’ll cost you no money, and just a little bit of time.

First of all, turn off the water when you don't need it. It's that simple. I don't want to sound too preachy, but, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, lack of access to clean drinking water kills about 4,500 children per day. The water won't magically travel from our taps to someone in need, but creating a mind-set of conservation will certainly help. There is absolutely no purpose served by letting water you are not using run down the drain.

Two other changes you can make right now are to displace the amount of water in your toilet tank and check for leaks. First, fill up a plastic juice or milk jug with pebbles or sand, screw the lid back on, and place it in the back of the tank clear of any flush mechanisms. A commercial toilet tank bank will also do the trick. Just make sure you have at least 3 gallons of water left in your toilet tank for proper flushing. Now, check for drips. If you aren't sure if your toilet is leaking, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank and see if it ends up in the bowl. Leaks can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day. It's worth springing for a plumber if you can't fix the leak yourself.

And lastly, I invite you to reconsider the concept of embedded, or virtual water: the amount of water it takes to manufacture products, or to raise a crop or an animal. This embedded water is part of our waterprint, too.

When I consider my own embedded water usage, I revisit this interview I did with Tom Kostigen,  author of The Green Blue Book. During our conversation, he explains how he calculated our virtual waterprints and how we ended up taking the water we use for granted.

Listen to my interview with Tom: 


I have also tweeted some great resources—learn more about our water crisis on Twitter @simransethi.


 Simran Sethi is an associate professor of Journalism at the University of Kansas. Follow her on Twitter @simransethi. 

Edited by Rebecca Evanhoe; Photo by Jessica Sain-Baird.