Waning My Use of The World's Next Scarce Resource

Water is the next oil.

Just as wars have been fought and lives lost over control of the world's oil in the past century, scientists and analysts predict that the same could happen in the future over control of water--a resource, they say, that could one day command equally high prices as oil does today.

That is, of course, if the rate of water consumption continues at its current, unabated pace. Which brings me to today's green lifestyle change -- cutting down my individual water usage.

Over the weekend I embarked on a little experiment: Rather than mindlessly going about my day, I tried to be a little more cognizant of how much water I use, be it showering, cooking, brushing my teeth, shaving, etc. I started on Saturday morning(ish), and by Sunday night, when I sat down to write some notes for this post, I realized that I waste way too much water.

I often leave the water running when I'm shaving and brushing my teeth; use a bunch of water from the kitchen faucet to clean, say, a single knife or fork or plate; and, worst of all, I take two long, hot showers almost every day. All of these habits of mine, as you can imagine, heedlessly waste a lot of H20.

To put excessive water usage in a global context, the average American uses 80 gallons of water per day, while the rest of the world averages just 2.5 gallons per person per day, according to "Ready Set Green." Now, I'm not say every college student should cut their water usage to 2.5 gallons a day by no longer showering (your roommate would kill me), or no longer brushing your teeth or shaving (your boyfriend/girlfriend would kill me). Instead, just a be little more conscious of how you use water, and if you can minimize that usage.

As a guide, here's how I'm doing it.

Shortening shower time

First, I'm cutting my shower time and frequency in half. My two 20-minute showers each day are out; one 10-minute shower in the morning has replaced them. No more daydreaming and pondering life's mysteries in the shower for me -- just get in, get clean and awake and then get out.

If I'm planning on working out later in the day, then I'll either skip the morning shower and save it for after the gym, or split my 10 minutes worth of showering (and you can go over a little bit, if necessary) between the morning and evening.

And if you're worried that 10 minutes isn't enough, trust me -- After trying this for a couple of days, 10 minutes is in fact plenty of time to get squeaky clean.

You've got a dishwasher -- use it

According to the authors of "Ready Set Green," dishwashers -- when fully loaded -- actually use much less water than when hand-washing dishes. Plus, using the dishwasher takes far less time than hand-washing each single plate and cups. A win-win situation here. And seeing as how I already use the dishwasher, I'm on track with this piece of advice.

Save at the sink

A bad habit of mine is leaving the sink faucet running when I'm brushing my teeth or shaving (on the few days I actually do it). It may seem like an innocuous mistake, but all that wasted water adds up day after day ... after day.

It's simple: I'm just paying more attention anytime I'm at the bathroom sink, making sure to use water only when I absolutely need it and not leaving it on so much. This takes barely any time at all -- you just have to be aware of your habits and tweak when necessary.


Apart from changing my shower habits, all of these water-saving tips are incredibly easy, hardly take up any time at all but will significantly cut back on my individual water usage. Will it get to me 2.5 gallons day? Not a chance. (Though trying to use only that amount would make for an interesting experiment ... check back for that.) Is it still an important change? Without a doubt, yes.

Updates, updates: So far, I've kept up with most of my daily green changes described here at "Going Green." I've been getting my newspapers out to the recycling bin each day; unfortunately, we had some nasty weather here in Ann Arbor over the weekend, and about three weeks of New York Times copies blew out of the bin and piled up at the base of the fence in my backyard. An hour later, they were all in the bin again.