August 2, 2023
By Erin Parker, Interpretive Services Supervisor
Did you know that the Great Lakes contain just over one-fifth1 of the world’s surface freshwater supply? This water, along with our nearly 63,000 inland lakes2 and over 76,000 miles3 of rivers and streams, means Michigan residents and visitors have access to water for recreation, industry, business, and residential use. It may seem counterintuitive that we should be thinking about conserving water, particularly in the summer of 2023 with all the rain events we’ve already experienced… but our freshwater resources are critical to our economic, environmental, and aesthetic well-being.
Water Conservation at Home
Conserving water can save money, time, and energy along with our freshwater resources.
Inside our homes and workplaces, there are a variety of small things that we can all do to reduce water that simply flows down the drain. And luckily, many of these conservation measures are inexpensive and protect our homes from water damage and/or mold as well.
The first steps to take are to check for leaks. Check your toilets by adding food coloring or a dye tablet to the tank. Let this sit for 15-30 minutes. If colored water ends up in the bowl, it is time to check and potentially replace the rubber flapper that allows water to move from tank to bowl.
Check for drips and leaks at showerheads, faucets, etc. Even small, slow drips can add up to thousands of gallons a year, and typically the fix is a worn-out washer.
As washing machines, dishwashers, and other appliances break down and need to be replaced, consider high-efficiency models that utilize much less water than older counterparts.
Consider how you can be more waterwise with your lawn and landscape. Often, automatic sprinkler systems are set to run on a timer, regardless of the conditions. Can you reduce watering to periods of drought? Can you replace some sections of lawn with native plants or garden beds? Using mulch, including fallen leaves, can keep soil moist even in the hottest parts of summer and allow gardeners to limit their watering. If you do choose to water your lawn, consider doing it early in in the morning or later in the evening. These cooler periods will help more water reach your grass or garden, instead of evaporating in the midday sun.
Other simple things that can minimize household water waste are:
- Add a brick or bricks to each toilet tank to reduce the amount of water in each flush
- Use a dishwasher for cleaning dishes as handwashing dishes can use between 3-9 times the amount of water as an efficient dishwasher4
- Install low-flow shower heads that reduce the water but not the water pressure, saving gallons per shower
- Take your vehicle through a carwash instead of washing at home- car washes are designed to re-use and recirculate much of the water and then it heads down a sanitary sewer drainage system. In our driveway, the water runs into the storm sewer, carrying soap and anything else on the vehicle with it into the nearest body of water.
The small steps we all take can reduce water waste and water pollution. As southeast Michigan faces longer, hotter summers, our water resources will only become more valuable, and protecting them more important.
Additional resources for homeowners
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Michigan Lakes and Streams Association (MLSA)
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources