To your Staten Island plumber, plumbing is all about pipes, connections, routing fresh water throughout the home, getting rid of the waste, fixtures, water “appliances,” and making sure everything is functioning properly.
In this post we set aside the mechanics of plumbing to take a look at the one element most people, at least here in the United States, take for granted — water.
A paper in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) recently caught our attention by stating that Americans use twice the amount of water they think they do and appear to be oblivious about how much water they flush down the toilet every day.
A researcher concluded that Americans underestimate their water use by a factor of 2 and were only slightly aware of how much water goes into the food they eat.
The study surveyed, authored by an assistant professor in the Department of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, 1,020 people via the internet and was sparked by a national drought that extends from the Pacific Coast to portions of the Mississippi Valley, with the most severe conditions in California — certainly a long way from Staten Island, but water use and conservation is becoming a part of the national consciousness as evidenced by conserve-water-ads on TV.
The survey determined that most Americans assume that the water supply is both reliable and plentiful, but research is showing that with climate change water supply is becoming more variable due to salinization of ground water and increased variability in precipitation.
Impact of Toilets
Previous research has shown that 28 percent of water used in an average household is the result of toilet flushing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends installing low-flow or water-conserving toilets will result in the greatest savings of household water use — but fewer than two percent of the adults surveyed realized this, according to the study.
What’s surprising is that low-flow and water-conserving toilets are prominently displayed and readily available at the big home improvement centers and are easily installed by Do It Yourselfers or by Staten Island plumbers and plumbing contractors.
A standard toilet uses about 3.5 gallons of water per flush — more if there is a small “leak” or it’s “out of tune,” so to speak, by constantly “running.” Leaky or “running” toilets may be an annoyance but, most of all, they are incredibly wasteful and cost you money. That’s why Staten Island plumbers are always recommending homeowners take care of these leaks and faulty plumbing equipment as soon as they can.
A low-flow toilet, on the other hand, uses 1.6 gallons of water or less. But even this is a lot of water considering how many people may live in a household and the number of times each person flushes, including not only the times they flush after using the restroom but also those flushes when they drop in a Q-tip or tissue rather than tossing them in the trash.
(By the way, those Q-tips and other dense materials like paper towels can get caught and clog the drain, sometimes necessitating a call to a Staten Island plumber to unclog. The best thing to do: discard that stuff in the trash can, not the pity.)
Impact of the Washing Machine and Taking Showers
After you or a Staten Island plumber installs a water-efficient toilet, the next biggest water-saver is a high-efficiency washing machine.
A standard top-loading washer uses about 34 gallons per load; a high-efficiency front-loader uses less than 15.
Yes, when asked in the survey to name the single best thing Americans can do to conserve water, roughly 43 percent said taking fewer or shorter showers.
The next most popular response, about 17 percent, said turning off water while doing other activities like brushing their teeth would save water.
True that. But taking shorter showers, while still important and shouldn’t be discounted, will not save as much water as many people perceive. The average shower length is about eight minutes. Decreasing a shower from eight minutes to five would save roughly eight percent of total water use in the home — not as significant as you might think. Of course, if you take 15 minute showers and drop them to five minutes each, your savings increases exponentially.
One water resource expert has estimated that humans require 13.2 gallons of clean water each day to meet basic needs, yet in 2005 the average American was estimated to use about 98 gallons a day!
Essentially, the average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home. Roughly 70 percent is used indoors. Nationally, outdoor water use accounts for 30 percent of household use but can be much higher in drier parts of the country and in more water-intensive landscapes.
Water Outside the Home
It wasn’t that Americans surveyed were ignorant about how much water is used in the home, they also had a “loose grasp” on how much water is “embodied,” or used to cultivate, different food staples like sugar, rice, cheese, and coffee.
More than 150 gallons of water is used to make a pond of sugar; nearly 300 gallons for a pound of rice; just over 600 gallons for a pound of cheese; and an unbelievable 2,000+ gallons for a pound of coffee!
Little by little — or should we say drip by drip — Americans are beginning to pay attention to their water consumption. Not long ago the phrase “carbon footprint” entered out lexicon. Now it’s the “water footprint.”
A bit more info about water use at home and then some up-and-coming plumbing gadgets to help you conserve water.