(This blog post is fourth in a series recounting a summer internship opportunity for the author. Collaborating with Martin County 4-H Youth Development and Florida Sea Grant extension agents, this account provides a unique perspective on the career development of young adults into UF/IFAS Extension professionals.)
By the end of elementary school, students are likely to be very familiar with the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Initially, the 3 R’s relate to waste management and our plastic use. However, we can also apply these principles to water management. Although water is neither created nor destroyed, it is not unlimited. To maintain clean and safe water, we must practice conservation efforts. While this includes turning off the tap while brushing our teeth and taking shorter showers, we can reduce our water consumption in several other direct and indirect ways.
The Three R’s
Reduce: We can reduce our consumption of water when doing laundry by matching the water level to the size of the load. When doing the dishes, only turn on the dishwasher when it is full. Maximizing our water-use efficiency in both of these standard household chores produce the same quality result.
Reuse: When it rains, reuse rainwater by placing a rain barrel outside under a gutter or downspout. This saves excess water that you can reuse on another day to water your plants or wash your car. Diverting some rainwater away from storm drains and waterways also decreases the potential for water pollution.
Recycle: Water reuse and recycling are terms that can be used interchangeably. Accounting for waste management helps to address the indirect usage of water. Water is used to produce food, clothes, paper, and plastic, among other items. By recycling these materials, we can reduce our water footprint.
Our Water Footprint
With 7.8 billion people in the world, you may not believe that reducing your personal water footprint can make a difference. However, every time you make a change in your routine, you begin a cascading effect that can improve the lives of others and make the world a better place. If you still don’t believe that, take a look at this article: How One Person Can Make a Lasting Impact in the World.
With all the strategies I implement and precautions I take to limit my water usage, I am amazed by how much water I still use. According to the Water Footprint Calculator, I personally use 1,311 gallons of water per day! While that is lower than the national average (1,802 gallons per day), the results are still astonishing. It might be difficult for kids to grasp the magnitude of this issue, but it is important that we educate them through the Junior Water Academy so that they can understand ways to modify their actions and conserve more water. These children have a lot of years in front of them to help make the world a better place.
Want to calculate your water footprint and discover ways to increase conservation methods? Go to The Water Footprint Calculator to learn how you and those in your household use water. The results will surprise you!
by Madison Borman; University of Florida CALS Intern