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9 LIVE WITHIN YOUR DAILY 'WATER BUDGET'

This action focuses on using only the average amount of water which lands on your residence as rain each day.

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why?

All of the actions in this section are smaller pieces of a larger end-goal of living within our natural water allocation dependent upon natural rainfall. The way in which water is currently collected, cleaned and distributed is inherently unsustainable:

As can be witnessed watching the Mississippi river rise during any rainfall in Minneapolis, all water which falls on densely paved urban areas is quickly transported into rivers and streams via gutters on city streets and storm sewers. After washing over roads collecting oil and pollutants, this water is then rapidly funneled into nearby rivers and streams. It must then be transported to water management facilities to remove the pollutants making it safe to drink. The city of Minneapolis boasts approximately 1,000 miles of water mains in the city, "enough to stretch from here to Denver" (City of Minneapolis).

Lastly, this water is transported back to exactly the locations where the water originally fell as rain.

Even more energy-intensive water management strategies exist in locations such as Orange County, California, an area which has adopted sewage treatment and desalination strategies in order to keep up with a growing demand for water. Sewage treatment required $490 million worth of pipes, filters and tanks for purification (Zimmerman). This process costs $525 per acre-foot (325,851 gallons in an acre-foot), while desalination costs up to $2,000 per acre-foot.

For the sake of comparison, lets consider the cycle of water which occurs naturally. As water falls as rain and lands on vegetated areas, many of the pollutants it captured while falling through the atmosphere are soaked up into plants. It is further cleaned as it seeps through clay, sand and rock into aquifers into the groundwater basin. It is then transported slowly into rivers and lakes, evaporating into the atmosphere. By the time water falls as rain it is clean enough to drink.

Despite the common perception that rainwater is not safe, when using the proper procedure of water capture, it can be just as safe as water which comes out of the tap.

"In Thailand a major study of the quality of stored rainwater by Wirojanagud et al. [1989] examined bacteriological, pathogenic and heavy metal contamination using samples from 189 rainwater tanks and jars. Only 2 out of 89 rainwater tanks and none of 97 rainwater jars sampled contained pathogens...None of these exceed WHO standards with the exception of magnesium and zinc which are considered to affect only the aesthetic quality of rainwater" (Heeks).

In the end, we have created a system of water distribution and cleaning which requires energy to perform all the duties that nature already provides for us, should we take advantage of them. This is a problem of both design and over-consumption. For example, the city of San Diego imports 90 percent of its water, much of it from the Colorado River. With rainfall averages of 10-15"/year, San Diego could dramatically reduce its water imports by capturing rain water.

Many people may be similarly surprised to see the quantity of water which can be collected from rainwater alone. Minneapolis gets 29.3 inches per year of rainfall which is a mid-range average precipitation when compared with the rest of the country. There are many regions of the country which get much less rain (Arizona, Southern California and Nevada), as well as regions which get more, such as the coast of Washington and Oregon. The graphic below illustrates annual average precipitation across the United States.


Precipitation across the United States

how to do this action:

The first step to living within our natural water budgets is to determine an average daily water allocation. Using average rainfall data as well as the square footage of your home roof is all that is needed to calculate the amount of rainwater which can be collected on average.




Calculations for rainwater collection


The next step is to track and measure how much water is typically consumed by your daily lifestyle. Create a spreadsheet of all water uses throughout a typical day. Make sure to note the setting (how high was the faucet on), the flow rate of the fixture and how long you used water. To find the flow rate, place a one-gallon bucket underneath the faucet and time how long it takes to fill. For example, if it takes 30 seconds to fill the bucket, the flow rate is 2 gallons per minute.

Below is an example spreadsheet of typical water use over one day:


Daily water use spreadsheet

You can measure water use in two ways. If you live in an apartment with roommates, track only YOUR water use. If you are a family, track the water use of your household. The example above shows a household example which takes into account all of the showering, toilet flushing, etc of the other members of your household.

The next step is to go through your list and create a plan for reducing your water use to the amount of water in your natural water budget as calculated previously. Again, if you are tracking your water use as an individual you will need to divide the average daily rainfall amount by the number of residents that live in your household to give you your individual water use amount.

In the above example, 90 gallons of water was calculated to be the total water which could (on average) be captured each day on the roof. In this example, the participant is living in a duplex with 6 total residents. Dividing the total water captured by the number of residents gives a ‘natural water budget’ of 15 gallons per person per day. According to the chart above, this person is currently using 88 gallons of water. The next step is to create a plan for how to reduce this 88 gallons to 15. It helps to first have an understanding of what the biggest water users in your household (or individual lifestyle) are. Below is a bar graph interpreting the spreadsheet data to pick out large water users:


Daily water use spreadsheet

As you can see, in this example household, showing, toilet flushing, lawn watering and pool refilling (due to evaporation) are the largest water users. A good way to start reducing water use is to tackle the big users instead of trying to reduce every kind of use by a little bit.

Below are links to resources for reducing each kind of water use. Use these other actions as a guide for how to tackle your big water users:


what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How much water can be saved from your current use when attempting live within your daily water ‘budget’ (amount of rainfall which could hypothetically be collected from your roof area)?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of living within your daily water budget affect your happiness, convenience, health and costs?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (WTR9_BASELINE) to:

  • (1)DETERMINE HOW MUCH WATER (ON AVERAGE) CAN BE CAPTURED ON YOUR ROOF
    Use the chart to calculate your water budget (either as an individual or as a household).
  • (2) TRACK CURRENT DAILY WATER USE
    List all water uses, flow rates, and time used throughout a typical day to calculate your current daily water use.

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on the spreadsheet (WTR9_BASELINE) as it relates to your current water use:

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
After determining your total water budget, use the corresponding spreadsheet (WTR9_QUANTITATIVE) to come up with a plan for reducing your water use to this amount.

  • (1) List all water uses again and enter total gallons for each water use from BASELINE spreadsheet.
  • (2) Enter your daily water budget for comparison as you create your plan.
  • (3) Go through each water use and determine if it can be reduced (lesser flow rate, less times per day or shorter time used).

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria weekly on the spreadsheet (WTR9_QUALITATIVE) Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences as you implement this action and how it has affected your life. Some of the following questions might be helpful as you reflect upon your experiences.

What was it like to live within your daily water budget? What were the biggest struggles? Were there habits that you found easier than you anticipated? How did your sense of priorities in regards to water use change?


resources

Metropolitan Council, Water Conservation Toolbox
ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

WTR9_Live Within Your Daily 'Water Budget' Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

WTR9_BASELINE
WTR9_QUANTITATIVE
WTR9_QUALITATIVE