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African American woman holding a glass of water.

ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Water plays an essential role in the environment. People use it in many aspects of their daily lives such as cooking, washing clothes, bathing and most importantly, drinking. While the Earth is covered by approximately 70 percent water, only one percent of that is easily accessible for human use.

“For the majority of the people in this country, some of the safest water in the world is just a turn of the tap away,” said Roosevelt Robinson, an Alabama Extension forestry and natural resources regional agent. “Other parts of the world are not so lucky.”

National Drinking Water Month

May is National Drinking Water Month. Highlighting drinking water during the month of May serves as a reminder to protect water resources while also educating the public on the balance of supply and demand.

“It takes much more than just turning on the tap to guarantee clean, drinkable water,” Robinson said. “Reckless usage, coupled with global warming and pollution from impaired water tables, will surely have adverse consequences on future generations.”

Water Usage by the Numbers

In Alabama alone, approximately 365 million gallons of water are used for domestic use every day. In fact, the average Alabama resident uses approximately 76 gallons per day in and around the home.

“The largest use of water in a home today comes from flushing the toilet,” he said. “Each flush can use between 2 to 4 gallons.”

Other aspects of daily life, such as bathing and doing laundry, also use large amounts. Taking a shower uses between 2 and 5 gallons of water per minute, while baths use around 8.5 gallons.

Water usage can depend greatly on the age of an appliance. For example, washing a load of laundry uses approximately 25 gallons per load in newer washers. However, older models can use as much as 40 gallons per load.

Conserving Water

Robinson said there are many simple things that can be done every day to help conserve this precious resource.

“If every Alabamian shaved one minute off of their shower, it would save 2.6 billion gallons of water each year,” Robinson said. “That is enough water to fill more than 3,900 Olympic-sized pools.”

Plummer fixing a leaking sinkBy making a few changes to everyday routines, communities can greatly reduce the burden on their local water supply while also saving money. Robinson offers the following tips for conserving water in the home:

  • Always turn off the faucet while brushing teeth.
  • Find and fix household leaks, such as dripping faucets or worn toilet flappers.
  • Only run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads.
  • Consider replacing old toilets with low flow or dual flush toilets.

Robinson said inside the home is not the only place people need to watch water usage. There are several ways to conserve water in yards and gardens.

“Nearly 50 percent of residential outdoor water use is wasted because of inefficient methods of watering,” he said. “By selecting drought tolerant plants for landscapes and only watering during proper times of the day, people can help conserve large amounts of water.”

More Information

Read more about water usage and conservation in WATER You Doing? Water Usage and Conservation. For more information, visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office.

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