With 75 percent of Western Massachusetts experiencing drought conditions, it’s beyond time to take water restriction and conservation seriously.
As of press time, 16 Pioneer Valley communities are experiencing residential water use restrictions — the strictest being mandated in Amherst, Easthampton, and Southwick.
But there should, perhaps, be more communities seeking to get their residents to reign in water use.
Longmeadow and Wilbraham residents use the most water per person, per day — consuming more than 90 gallons of water each — compared to 29 other medium and large communities in Western Mass, according to a 2014 water use survey by Tighe and Bond in Westfield.
In the U.S., the average person uses 80-100 gallons of water per day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Locally, however, the average person is more conservative with their water, using about 58 gallons per day. Still, the World Health Organization says a single person can get by on 5 gallons of water per day for consumption, cooking, and cleaning.
To reduce water use in your life, check out these recommendations from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Follow local water restriction orders. Water suppliers know the limits of their system and will enact voluntary or mandatory restrictions accordingly.
Stop watering your lawn during drought conditions. Most lawns can survive extended dry periods without watering — they will turn brown, but will revive once the rain returns. Frequent light watering can actually weaken your lawn by encouraging shallow roots that are less tolerant of dry periods. Avoid watering at mid-day to prevent high evaporation and
Use cisterns or rain barrels to capture rainwater from downspouts for use in your yard. A lid, mesh fabric or several drops of baby oil on the surface will prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
Keep your mower blades sharp to prevent tearing of grass and raise your lawn mower’s blade to 2½ inch. Longer grass provides shade for the roots and helps reduce water loss.
Mulch to keep roots cool and moist.
Plan ahead to defrost foods overnight in the refrigerator. Don’t use running water. Use the microwave or put wrapped food in a bowl of cold water.
Collect all the water that is wasted while waiting for the hot water to reach your faucet or showerhead. Use this to water your houseplants or outdoor planters. Do the same with water that is used to boil eggs or steam vegetables.
Avoid using your garbage disposal. Compost leftovers fruits and vegetables.
Fix leaking faucets and toilets. Research has shown that an average of 8 percent (or more) of all home water use is wasted through leaks.
Take showers instead of a bath and save 30 gallons. Filling the bathtub uses about 50 gallons of water. If you really want to try and save water, limit your shower time to five minutes or less. Also, install a water-saving showerhead that uses two-and-a-half gallons per minute.
Wash only full loads of laundry.
Kristin Palpini can be contacted at [email protected].