conserve water

Take the Challenge to Conserve Water

By Nancy Stoner

I am often asked what actions people can take to help the environment. One of my simple suggestions is to conserve water.

Earth may be known as the water planet, but even though 70 percent of its surface is covered by water, less than 1 percent is available for human use. And our supply of water becomes a more critical issue each day as the population grows; more water is used for agriculture, energy, industry; and droughts and other impacts of climate change increasingly stress our water resources. In fact, 36 states are expected to experience water shortages by 2013.

That’s why I was so happy to be standing with the marine life artist Wyland in Los Angeles on a sunny morning in March to help announce the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. Led by the Wyland Foundation, it is a friendly, community-based competition between cities across the nation to see who can be the most “water wise” during April. With support from EPA, Toyota, U.S. Forest Service, NOAA, and a number of private companies, mayors can challenge residents to conserve water and energy through informative and easy online pledges.

I commend the leadership of the 40 mayors who have signed on, including the mayors of Los Angeles, Miami, Denver and Honolulu. Participating residents can win prizes including Toyota Prius Hybrid vehicles and home water makeover kits. Most importantly, people will see real results based on simple actions they can take to save water and energy.

I am proud that EPA’s WaterSense program is a partner and I believe this is an excellent opportunity to teach residents about the importance of water conservation and simple ways to make a difference in the home and community.

Five years ago, EPA created WaterSense to promote more efficient use of water. The WaterSense label is found on faucets, showerheads, toilets and other water fixtures, including irrigation controllers for the yard. There are over 4,000 products with the WaterSense label, many of which you find at your local home improvement store.

Using WaterSense products can save people money too. The average household spends more than $650 every year on water and sewer bills and can save more than $200 per year by installing WaterSense products. Since 2006, WaterSense has helped Americans save 125 billion gallons of water and $2 billion in utility bills.

I encourage you to take the challenge

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The City of Tucson Goes Gray

On September 23, 2008 I was touring the Upper Santa Cruz River with Amy McCoy of the Sonoran Institute as my watershed tour guide. The trip was awesome; I never knew that the southeast corner of Arizona was so beautiful.

Towards the end of our day trip Amy was anxious to get back to Tucson to attend an important City Council meeting, I didn’t know it until later that it was the vote on the Grey Water Ordinance that Amy was trying to make it to. The Sonoran Institute, using EPA Targeted Watershed Grant funds, helped to put together the ordinances for the City Council vote.

Because there’s so little surface water in the Tucson area, the city’s major water source has always been groundwater. The Grey Water Ordinance is aimed at reducing the use of scarce drinking water to irrigate desert landscapes. The city estimates that 45 percent of water use is for landscaping, and using rainwater and gray water would greatly reduce this.

image of green rain barrell under downspoutThe ordinance requires rainwater harvesting plans and capturing systems for any new commercial building built after June 1, 2010. The Ordinance requires that new homes built after that date be plumbed for gray water irrigation systems. This means having a drain for sinks, showers, bathtubs, and washing machines separate from drains for all other plumbing, to allow for future installation of a gray water system.

A key factor contributing to the success of this ordinance was the involvement from the entire community, from plumbers and landscapers to the Friends of the Santa Cruz River, they all added their support for the ordinances success. In addition to the community support, an EPA grant helped finance some of the work towards creating the ordinance language.

The City of Tucson was selected for a Pacific Southwest Regional Environmental Award and on the day of the awards ceremony, I had no idea who was coming to accept the award, but had heard that Councilman Rodney Glassman was coming. He was the driving force behind the ordinances, but I had no idea what he looked like. Well, Rodney is about 6’8”, and super energetic, really hard to miss. Once we connected it was great to sit and chat with him, he is very passionate about the ordinances, Tucson, and Arizona. Way to go Councilman Rodney Glassman and the City of Tucson!

About the author: Jared Vollmer works in the Watersheds Office at the EPA, Region 9 office. His work is primarily with the State of Arizona, Department of Environmental Quality, on reducing nonpoint source pollution in Arizona’s impaired watersheds. In addition, Jared works directly with the Sonoran Institute, a recipient of EPA’s Targeted Watershed Grant, located in Tucson in the Santa Cruz Watershed.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.