Commentary by Amanda Cross
In the western United States, the need to conserve water is obvious: The Colorado River is drying up and wildfires rage in California every year. But here in Indiana, where we’re more likely to suffer floods than droughts, is water management really something to worry about?
You learned about the water cycle in school: surface water evaporates, water vapor rises and becomes clouds and clouds rain down to the surface. Water isn’t lost; it just moves around. In cities like Carmel, we get water from the ground and process it to make it safe, then people use it for drinking and other household uses, and it still ends up going through the cycle.
Since water isn’t lost, and since Indiana isn’t a desert, it might seem like no big deal to use water without thinking. After all, if you water your lawn, the water just ends up back in the ground where it can start the water cycle over again. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
The process of cleaning up the household water works only so fast. Even though all the water still exists somewhere, with everyone in a town using our supply of safe water at the same time, you can run out of it before more has a chance to make it through the cycle. Plus, water doesn’t always return to the same place it came from, and aquifers don’t fill up as fast as we can drain them. If Indiana is forced to use its reserves, those aquifers could take years or decades to replenish.
Beyond that, the process of making water safe for drinking isn’t free. Even if we don’t lose water, we do pay for water each time it’s processed, and energy that releases greenhouse gases is used to pump water to where it needs to go and to heat water for use.
To make sure we have plenty of safe water for everyone, and to reduce our costs, we need to be sensible. Lots of the most effective water conservation activities don’t even require you to change your habits, plus they save you money.
For example, low-flow toilets, faucets and showerheads have improved since they were first introduced, so you can use less water without even noticing. If you own your home, sign up for Duke Energy’s free home energy assessment to receive an efficient showerhead (along with LED bulbs).
Fixing leaks is an obvious way to stop paying for water you don’t use. You can find checklists online and make a weekend project of detecting water leaks in your house. The EPA offers a checklist at epa.gov/watersense/fix-leak-week.
Carmel residents can get a rebate on rain barrels. Google “Carmel rain barrel cost share” to find the Storm Water Management web page with more information.
It’s starting to get hot, which is when our water supply becomes the most stressed. Now is the time to make a plan for conserving water. You can find more ideas on the Clear Choices Clean Water website at indiana.clearchoicescleanwater.org or at carmelgreen.org.
Amanda Cross is a volunteer with the Carmel Green Initiative.