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Conservation Counts on World Water Day and Every Day

The facts are clear: America and the world are running out of the fresh water we all need to survive. Here's what we need to do to conserve.

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As individuals, we each can do a little that could help a lot when it comes to saving and cleaning up our water. In honor of World Water Day on Monday:

  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. That can save eight gallons of water per person per day. If a half-million people turn off the water when they brush, in one day 4 million gallons of water could be saved. Multiply that times 365 days and that's a savings of nearly 1.5 billion gallons of water in a year.
  • Opt for a shower instead of a bath. A full bathtub can take 50 to 70 gallons of water compared with a five-minute shower that uses only 10 to 25 gallons of water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program. Multiply that by a half-million people, and you get the saving...
  • Take the car to a car wash rather than do it yourself. This isn't about saving vs. spending cash. It's a matter of keeping pollutants that wash off the car out of the source of your drinking water. Car washes generally recycle and clean up the water they use so it means water savings as well.
  • Fix that leaky faucet. EPA estimates that leaks account for 10,000 gallons of water (enough to fill a swimming pool!) wasted in homes on average every year. You can calculate how much water your dripping faucets waste with the help of the USGS's Drip Accumulator.
  • Replace that old, inefficient toilet. EPA estimates Americans waste nearly 640 billion gallons of water every year flushing old, inefficient toilets. That's fifteen days' worth of water flow over Niagara Falls.
  • Turn off the faucet if you're not using it. Letting a faucet run for five minutes uses as much energy as leaving on a light with a 60-watt bulb for 14 hours, according to the EPA.
  • Don't flush old or outdated drugs down the toilet or the wash them down the drain. Don't toss them in the trash either. All three disposal methods contribute to contaminating water supplies. Many drug stores and pharmacies, instead, will accept your old medicines and dispose of them properly.

World Water Day could be the start of new water habits for all of us. In the meantime, drink up -- water, that is. There's still enough to go around -- for the time being.

Susan J. Marks is an award-winning journalist with more that thirty years experience. Her new book, "Aqua Shock: The Water Crisis in America" (Bloomberg Press) sounds the alarm for states throughout the U.S. warning that water is a shrinking resource and is threatened by contaminants, overdevelopment, water overuse, rising population, climate change, antiquated infrastructure and outdated water treatment plants.

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