Water is a basic need for human survival. Besides drinking fresh water every day, we use it to clean our bodies, equipment, and surroundings.
Thus, when people talk of water management, we associate it with our consumption in relation to the environment or collective resource levels. But that’s only one facet of the problem.
Every household not only consumes water but is influenced by it. And how we manage that relationship will shape every day of our existence.
Controlling the element of change
We might not be able to live without water, but we don’t just allow it to randomly pool in our yards or seep into our homes. We know that moisture brings increased humidity, making indoor conditions uncomfortable. And it helps other organisms to flourish where they aren’t wanted, attracting vermin or causing mold to form.
Thus, our relationship with water is about control. But achieving such control isn’t easy.
Water is also known for being the agent of change. It’s the only naturally occurring substance on earth that easily transitions across the states of solid, liquid, and gas under normal conditions. That means homeowners have to brace for its effects on multiple fronts.
We consider the effects of water even as homes are being built. Skilled manufacturers of cast stone, for instance, know that the ideal hydration level is at a 0.3 ratio of water-to-cement. But the aggregates contain their own moisture level, which can throw off an entire batch and lead to separation or shrinkage.
Contractors also use grading or building French drains to ensure that water doesn’t damage the foundations of a house. In cold regions, pipes are insulated to avoid freezing and subsequent bursting. For the same reasons, landscapers avoid planting trees near your outdoor pipes.
And once the house is built, it’s the homeowner’s job to tackle repair and maintenance duties.
Over the years, you’ll find how harsh the elements can be to our structures. Storms, floods, and cold snaps all manifest the power of water in different ways.
With the threat of climate change making weather extremes more severe and common, do yourself a favor. At every opportunity, build a home or make upgrades that result in greater durability than necessary. It will help you to mitigate the effects of water for decades to come.
Managing water consumption
Controlling our relationship with water naturally extends to our consumption. And it’s this form of water management that most households are familiar with.
While domestic consumption only comprises 10% of total water use, it’s the area where each user can make the most impact. And the sector is projected to grow 80% over the next 25 years.
Reducing household water consumption isn’t always about detecting and fixing leaks or switching to more efficient equipment. The most accessible changes may be behavioral.
Toilets, for instance, can not only be replaced with low-flush units, but we can also stop using them as a means of trash disposal. This will cut down on the number of flushes and save your plumbing in the process.
Shower instead of taking a bath. It’s faster and uses less water. You can also collect the bathwater and use it to wash your car or water the lawn, ensuring that your soaps and other products don’t contain potentially damaging ingredients. Wastewater from washing clothes or dishes can be collected and reused in the same way.
Saving what’s downstream
If conserving water effectively saves our upstream freshwater resources, we also need to spare some thought for what happens downstream.
For many homeowners, problems arise when we adopt an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude. You might not see the effects of leaves and branches clogging your gutters, for instance, but left unattended, they will eventually come back to bite you.
Water runoff from our homes is rarely considered because it doesn’t have any obvious impact on our property. But as it flows out of sight, it might contain chemicals from use in gardening or from the materials in an ongoing construction activity.
Residential water pollution can affect people and environments living downstream of us, but in our interconnected world, those impacts come around in unforeseen ways.
Simply by making an effort to segregate wastes and dispose of debris properly, we ensure that water in our gutters is easily treated when it reaches the appropriate local facilities. Limiting the use of harmful chemicals, and securing them to ensure that they don’t enter the runoff, will likewise minimize harmful environmental effects.
We build and live in homes within the context of a highly networked world and its volatile water cycles. Reconsidering our entire relationship with water is something everyone can do to make a difference and sustain our way of living.