Did you know only 1 percent of the total water resources on earth are available for human use? It's a fact, according the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
Students at the Redmond, Washington elementary school, Explorer Community School, know how to conserve water and protect water quality. They go on field trips to watch salmon returning to nearby rivers to spawn and they learn what not to toss down their drains at home that might hurt water quality and the creatures that live in their local streams and lakes. They also water the school’s garden with their parents in the summer with rainwater caught in two rain barrels.
Lead teacher Susan O’Malley says that learning about water conservation from first grade on is part of the school’s efforts to teach students to truly love and protect nature. Water conservation at school is a practiced behavior. Student learning includes several studies encompassing math and science curricula that include the water cycle, storm runoff, insects, the riparian zone, erosion, wetland preservation, as well as organic and hydroponic gardening.
In South Brunswick, recent years have seen the school district in addition to the creation of which organizes staff and students at the schools into groups that look at what changes could be put in place to help the environment.
Water Saving Technology
Mike Brent is the Water Resource Manager for the Cascade Water Alliance, a Puget Sound based agency that provides water to almost 400,000 residences and 22,000 businesses. Brent says families can conserve water by changing habits and taking advantage of water saving technology.
“Water efficiency can be categorized by behavioral measures and hardware measures. Behavioral measures are the steps we take to minimize wasting water, such as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, making sure to run full loads in the dishwasher and clothes washer, fixing leaks right away, and watering the lawn or plants just enough to keep them healthy and not watering the pavement," explains Brent.
"Hardware measures are things like replacing old, water-wasting fixtures and appliances with high efficiency models, such as WaterSense labeled toilets, faucets and showerheads, Energy Star labeled clothes washers and dishwashers, and weather-based sprinkler controllers.”
You can find water and energy efficient hardware at Home Depot, located at 4095 Route 1 in Monmouth Junction.
Don't Just Dump It Down the Drain
Annie Kolb-Nelson of the Wastewater Treatment Division of King County, Washington also says parents can teach children to protect water quality by being mindful of what should not go down our drains. The agency has compiled a list of what shouldn’t go down the drain, which includes unused medication, grease, cleaning wipes and harmful chemicals. Kolb-Nelson says teach your children early that “toilets are not trash cans.”
“Everything we put down our sinks and toilets goes to a treatment plant, and eventually, our local waterways. While the treatment process is extremely effective, it doesn’t remove all the chemicals from our cleaners, soaps and personal products. By making an effort to use simpler products, it can add up to a big difference without costing much money – people can easily make their own cleaners and care products at home with a few simple, inexpensive ingredients.”
Tips provided by her agency on how to conserve water include use commercial car washes, install drip irrigation, fix leaks, use compost, choose low flow toilets, collect water in rain barrels to irrigate, install low flow shower heads and minimize garbage disposal use. You can find out more information about rain barrels at the EARTH Center in Davidson's Mill Pond Park, located at 42 Riva Avenue in South Brunswick.
Get Your Kids Inspired
Mike Brent says that there are fun ways for families to learn about water conservation together. “Explain to children that water is an indispensible, life-giving resource that should always be treasured. Get children involved in gardening and practice natural yard care techniques. Start a vegetable garden and give children a section of the garden to manage. Have children carry water in a watering can.”
Being outside in nature together, says Brent, is an ideal water conservation classroom for families. “Take walks in the rain and observe the water cycle in action. Find favorite hiking spots along rivers and lakes. Teach children to be quiet and patient near the water, and you’ll observe many animals. Visit streams and hatcheries in the fall to see the salmon runs.”
The EARTH Center has resources to help your family start conserving more water this year and protecting water quality. They can also share tips on how to start gardening with your kids this summer.