Example Essay on Water Shortages, Water
Contamination, Water Conservation
“Water, water, everywhere.” That’s what we usually think of
when it comes to water—especially here at Tufts when you see it
coming out of faucets, drinking fountains, and showerheads
without ever having to pay for it. When you think about
conserving it or making more efficient uses of it, you might
wonder “Why should I? I’ve got as much of it as I need and if I
use more, who cares? Besides doesn’t the university just pay
Yet, water shortages, lack of safe drinking water, water
contamination, and groundwater depletion are some of the most
serious environmental issues we are facing as a global
community. The world’s water supply is shrinking at an alarming
rate, and what used to be—or seemed to be—free will no longer
Global Water Facts
How Much Of Earth's Water Is Usable By Humans?
than 1% of all water is fresh water,
is salt water.
that 1%, most of it is in ice caps or in deep aquifers, which
means that it is not really accessible for consumption.
(You might think that here in New England we are not faced with
a water problem since we get so much rain and snow. But that is
actually not true. Many of the rivers dry out in the summer,
because too much water is drawn from them. Also, with climate
change, we can expect to get more droughts here in the
Northeast. More about US and local water issues further on)
FRESHWATER IS A SCARCE RESOURCE
(Taken from: http://www.unep.org/wed/2003/keyfacts.htm)
Water makes up 60 to 70 per cent (by weight) of all living
organisms and is essential for photosynthesis.
Water covers 75 per cent of the Earth’s surface — 97.5 per cent
of that is salt water, only 2.5 per cent is freshwater.
(Yes, these numbers slightly contradict the numbers above. That
is because it’s so hard to calculate how much water there is in
the world and how much of it is fresh water. Think about it! How
would you go about finding out?)
Icecaps and glaciers hold 74 per cent of the world’s freshwater.
Almost all the rest is deep underground, or locked in soils as
moisture or permafrost. Only 0.3 per cent of the world’s
freshwater is found in rivers or lakes.
Less than one per cent of the world’s surface or below-ground
freshwater is accessible for human use.
Within 25 years, half the world’s population could have trouble
finding enough freshwater for drinking and irrigation.
Currently, over 80 countries, representing 40 per cent of the
world’s people, are subject to serious water shortages.
Conditions may get worse in the next 50 years as populations
grow and as global warming disrupts rainfall patterns. A third
of the world lives in water stressed areas where consumption
outstrips supply. West Asia faces the greatest threat. Over 90
per cent of the region’s population is experiencing severe water
stress, with water consumption exceeding 10 per cent of
renewable freshwater resources.
FRESHWATER IS ESSENTIAL FOR HEALTH
(Taken from: http://www.unep.org/wed/2003/keyfacts.htm)
Improved water management has brought enormous benefits to
people in developing countries. In the past 20 years, over 2.4
billion people have gained access to safe water supplies and 600
million to improved sanitation.
Nevertheless, one in six people still has no regular access to
safe drinking water.
More than twice that number (2.4 billion people) lack access to
adequate sanitation facilities.
Those without access to adequate sanitation are the poorest and
most vulnerable. The problem is particularly severe in remote
rural and rapidly growing urban areas.
Unsanitary water, which provides a breeding ground for
parasites, amoebas and bacteria, damages the health of 1.2
billion people a year.
Water-borne diseases are responsible for 80 per cent of
illnesses and deaths in the developing world, killing a child
every eight seconds.
Half the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people suffering
from water-borne diseases.
In southern Asia, between 1990 and 2000, 220 million people
benefited from improved access to freshwater and sanitation. In
the same period, the population grew by 222 million, wiping out
the gains that had been made.
During the same period, in East Africa, the number of people
without sanitation doubled to 19 million.
The cost of providing safe drinking water and proper sanitation
to everyone in the world by 2025 will be US$180 billion a year,
two to three times greater than present investments.
FRESHWATER IS ESSENTIAL FOR FOOD SECURITY
(Taken from: http://www.unep.org/wed/2003/keyfacts.htm)
Most of our freshwater is used to grow food.
While the daily drinking water needs of every person is
approximately four liters, between 2,000 and 5,000 liters of
water are needed to produce an individual’s daily food
Agricultural water use accounts for over 75% of total global
consumption, mainly through crop irrigation, (while industrial
use accounts for about 20%, and the remaining 5% is used for
domestic purposes.) It is estimated that between 14 and 17 per
cent more water will be needed for irrigation by 2030 to feed
the world’s growing population.
Sixty per cent of water used for irrigation is wasted because of
inefficient irrigation techniques.
A 10 per cent improvement in irrigation efficiency could double
the drinking water supply for the poor.
In Africa, more than 20 per cent of the population’s protein
comes from freshwater fisheries.
WATER IN THE FUTURE
(Taken from: http://www.unep.org/wed/2003/keyfacts.htm)
Two hundred scientists in 50 countries have identified water
shortage as one of the two most worrying problems for the new
millennium (the other was climate change).
Since 1950, global water use has more than tripled.
On current trends, over the next 20 years humans will use 40 per
cent more water than they do now.
The number of people living in water-stressed countries is
projected to climb from the current 470 million to three billion
by 2025. Most of those people live in the developing world.
To achieve the 2015 targets for freshwater provision, water
supplies will have to reach an additional 1.5 billion people in
Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Nearly 200 million people in Africa are facing serious water
shortages. By 2025, nearly 230 million Africans will face water
scarcity, and 460 million will be living in water-stressed
countries. Water problems are more related to mismanagement than
scarcity. Up to 50 per cent of urban water and 60 per cent of
water used in agriculture is wasted through leaks and
Logging and land conversion to accommodate human demand has
shrunk the world’s forests by half, contributing to increased
soil erosion and water scarcity. Between 300 and 400 million
people worldwide live close to and depend on wetlands.
Wetlands act as highly efficient sewage treatment works,
absorbing chemicals and filtering pollutants and sediments.
Urban and industrial development has claimed half the world’s
Sustainable development and poverty alleviation will only be
achieved through better management of and investment in rivers
and wetlands and the lands that drain into them.
MARINE WATER IS IN TROUBLE TOO
(taken from Vital Water Graphics, a UNDP report published 2003
A wide variety of human activities also affects the coastal and
Population pressures, increasing demands for space and
resources, and poor economic performances can all undermine the
sustainable use of our oceans and coastal areas. Serious
problems affecting the quality and use of these ecosystems
1. Alteration and destruction of habitats and ecosystems.
Estimates show that almost 50% of the world's coasts are
threatened by development-related activities.
2. Severe eutrophication has been discovered in several enclosed
or semi-enclosed seas. It is estimated that about 80% of marine
pollution originates from land-based sources and activities.
3. In marine fisheries, most areas are producing significantly
lower yields than in the past. Substantial increases are never
again likely to be recorded for global fish catches. In
contrast, inland and marine aquaculture production is increasing
and now contributes 30% of the total global fish yield.
4. Impacts of climate change may include a significant rise in
the level of the world's oceans. This will cause some low-lying
coastal areas to become completely submerged, and increase human
vulnerability in other areas. Because they are highly dependent
upon marine resources, small island developing states (SIDS) are
especially vulnerable, due to both the effects of sea level rise
and to changes in marine ecosystems.
THE POLLUTION PROBLEM
Pollution is pervasive.
Few countries, whether developing or industrialized, have
adequately safeguarded water quality and controlled water
pollution. Many countries do not have standards to control water
pollution adequately, while others cannot enforce water quality
Increasingly, international development agencies are urging that
developing countries devote more attention to protecting and
improving water quality. The developed world also must spend
more and do more to clean up degraded waterways, or economic
development will stall and the quality of life will fall.
Agriculture is the biggest polluter, even more so than
industries and municipalities. In virtually every country where
agricultural fertilizers and pesticides are used, they have
contaminated groundwater aquifers and surface waters. Animal
wastes are another source of persistent pollution in some areas.
The water that goes back into rivers and streams after being
used for irrigation is often severely degraded by excess
nutrients, salinity, pathogens, and sediments that often render
it unfit for any further use, unless cleaned typically at great
expense—by water purification plants.
In the US, agricultural chemicals, eroded sediment, and animal
wastes have fouled over 173,000 miles of waterways.
Farming is said to be responsible for 70% of current water
pollution in the US.
In India, which depends on irrigated agriculture for food
supplies, more than 4 million hectares of high-quality land have
been abandoned because of salinization and waterlogging caused
by too much irrigation.
The world's tremendous output of pollutants challenges the
capacity of waterways to assimilate or flush away pollution. A
saying among water engineers is "the solution to pollution is
dilution." This truism is taking on frightening dimensions. Each
year roughly 450 cubic kilometers of waste water are discharged
into rivers, streams, and lakes. To dilute and transport this
dirty water before it can be used again, another 6,000 cubic
kilometers of clean water are needed—an amount equal to about
two-thirds of the world's total annual useable fresh water
runoff. If current trends were to continue, the world's entire
stable river flow would be needed just for pollutant transport
and dilution by the middle of this century, according to an
estimate by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Europe and North America confront enormous water pollution
problems. Over 90% of Europe's rivers have high nitrate
concentrations, mostly from agrochemicals, and 5% of them have
concentrations at least 200 times greater than nitrate levels
naturally occurring in unpolluted rivers. In Poland
three-quarters of the country's river water is too polluted even
for industrial use.
Over half of Europe's lakes are eutrophied from a glut of
agricultural and municipal nutrients.
Eutrophication is a process that occurs when excess nutrients
stimulate the growth of algae, which, when they die and decay,
rob the water of oxygen.
The numbers for the US are equally sobering….
Pollution is a vexing problem in countries where the population
is growing rapidly, development demands are great, and
governments have other investment priorities.
In developing countries, on average, 90% to 95% of all domestic
sewage and 75% of all industrial waste are discharged into
surface waters without any treatment whatsoever.
Consider these examples:
of India's 14 major rivers are badly polluted. Together they
transport 50 million cubic meters of untreated sewage into
India's coastal waters every year. The city of New Delhi dumps
200 million liters of raw sewage and 20 million liters of
industrial wastes into the Yamuna River every day as the river
passes through the city on its way to the Ganges.
Thailand and Malaysia water pollution is so heavy that rivers
often contain 30 to 100 times more pathogens, heavy metals, and
poisons from industry and agriculture than is permitted by
government health standards.
three-quarters of China's 50,000 kilometers of major rivers are
so filled with pollution and sediment that they no longer
support fish life. In 1992 China's industries discharged 36
billion metric tons of untreated or partially treated effluents
into rivers, streams, and coastal waters.
greater São Paulo, Brazil, 300 metric tons of untreated
effluents from 1,200 industries are dumped into the Tiete River
every day as it flows through the city. As a result, the river
contains high concentrations of lead, cadmium, and other heavy
metals. The city also dumps some 1,000 metric tons of sewage
into the river each day, of which only 12% gets any treatment
Industrial and municipal pollutants.
While agriculture remains the biggest source of water pollution,
wastes from industries and municipalities have increased
enormously in recent decades. Between 200 and 400 major
chemicals are estimated to contaminate the world's rivers.
Industrial pollutants, such as wastes from chemical plants, are
often dumped directly into waterways. Oils and salts are washed
off city streets. Heavy metals and organochlorines are leached
from municipal and industrial dump sites.
Furthermore, pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and oxides of
nitrogen, which combine in the atmosphere to form acid rain,
have had pervasive effects on both freshwater and land
ecosystems. Acid rain lowers the pH of rivers and streams.
Unless buffered by calcium (as contained in limestone),
acidified waters kill many acid-sensitive fish, including salmon
and trout. In the soil, acids can release heavy metals, such as
lead, mercury, and cadmium, that then percolate into waterways.
Some of the worst pollutants are synthetic chemicals. Some
70,000 different chemical substances are in regular use
throughout the world. Every year an estimated 1,000 new
compounds are introduced. Many of them find their way into
rivers, lakes, and groundwater aquifers. In the US alone, more
than 700 chemicals have been detected in drinking water, 129 of
them considered highly toxic.
A number of synthetic chemicals, particularly the group known as
persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which includes halogenated
hydrocarbons, dioxins, and organochlorines such as DDT and PCBs,
are long-lived and highly toxic in the environment. They do not
break down easily under natural processes and thus tend to
accumulate up the biological food chain, until they pose risks
to human health. For example, Beluga whales swimming in the
highly polluted St. Lawrence River, which connects the Atlantic
Ocean to North America's Great Lakes, have such high levels of
PCBs in their blubber that, under Canadian law, they now qualify
as "toxic waste dumps". Indigenous communities that once hunted
these whales no longer are permitted to take any because of the
US Water Facts
(Taken from Ground-Water Depletion Across the Nation
U.S Geological Survey Fact Sheet 103-03, 2003;
Ground-water use has many societal benefits. It is the source of
drinking water for about half the nation and nearly all of the
rural population, and it provides over 50 billion gallons per
day in support of the Nation’s agricultural economy.
Ground-water depletion, a term often defined as long-term
water-level declines caused by sustained ground-water pumping,
is a key issue associated with ground-water use. Many areas of
the United States are experiencing ground-water depletion.
What are some effects of groundwater depletion?
If intensive pumping from an aquifer continues, then adverse
effects may occur.
Deterioration of water quality
Coastal aquifers tend to have wedgeshaped zones of saltwater
underlying the potable freshwater. Under natural conditions the
boundary between the freshwater and saltwater tends to be
relatively stable, but pumping can cause saltwater to migrate
inland, resulting in saltwater contamination of the water
supply. Inland aquifers can experience similar problems where
withdrawal of good-quality water from the upper parts of inland
aquifers can allow underlying saline water to move upward and
degrade water quality. Additionally, where ground water is
pumped from an aquifer, surface water of poor or differing
quality may be drawn into the aquifer. This can degrade the
water quality of the aquifer directly or mobilize naturally
occurring contaminants in the aquifer.
Land subsidence is “a gradual settling or sudden sinking of the
Earth’s surface owing to subsurface movement of earth
This earth fissure formed on Rogers Lake at Edwards Air Force
Base, California, in January 1991, and forced the closure of one
of the space shuttle’s alternative runways. The fissure has been
attributed to land subsidence related to ground-water pumping in
the Antelope Valley area.
Reduced surface-water flows
A related effect of ground-water pumping is the lowering
of ground-water levels below the depth that streamside
or wetland vegetation needs to survive. The overall
effect is a loss of riparian vegetation and wildlife
A 1942 photograph (top) of a reach of the Santa Cruz
River south of Tucson, Arizona, shows stands of mesquite
and cottonwood trees along the river. A photograph
(bottom) of the same site in 1989 shows that the
riparian trees have largely disappeared, as a result of
lowered ground-water levels. Photos: Robert H. Webb,
Agriculture is the culprit!
Agricultural and industrial water consumption (87%) dwarfs that
of the domestic sector (13%) in the U.S.
Since a significant chunk of agricultural water goes to meat
production, the clearest single way for us individuals to save
the most water may be to eat less meat and consider the water
requirements of other products we consume
(taken from http://www.newdream.org/monthly/aug00.html)
Producing a single pound of feedlot beef requires 445 to 12,000
gallons of water. The average is about 2400 gallons of water
per pound of beef. "Feedlot" means cattle is kept in close
quarters and fed with a specially produced feed (in other words,
the cattle is not grazing).
(taken from http://www.newdream.org/monthly/oct99.html)
We are water hogs!
Water consumption in the domestic sector, albeit small relative
to agricultural and industrial consumption, is no piddling
the average North American consumes over 170 gallons per day,
more than seven times the per capita average in the rest of the
world and nearly triple Europe's level.
By comparison, the World Health Organization says good health
and cleanliness require a total daily supply of about 8 gallons
of water per person.
(taken from http://www.newdream.org/monthly/aug00.html)
Gary Gardner, "Preserving Agricultural Resources" State of the
World 1996, Worldwatch Institute, 1996. Alan Durning and Holly
Brough, "Taking Stock: Animal Farming and the Environment"
Worldwatch Institute, 1991. J.L. Beckett and J.W. Oltjen
"Estimation of the Water Requirement for Beef Production in the
United States" Journal of Animal Science 71 (1993)
D. Pimentel et.al. "Water Resources: Agriculture, the
Environment and Society: An Assessment of the Status of Water
Resources" BioScience (Feb. 1997).
How do we use water?
Water generally gets to where people live in one of two ways.
Either it’s delivered by a city/county water department (a
municipality) or maybe from a private company, or it comes from
a private supply, normally from a well.
(taken from http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wudo.html)
At Tufts, the water comes from the towns of Medford and
Somerville. Almost all the water that is used in the Metro
Boston Area comes from the Quabbin Reservoir out in Western
The USA ranks dead last among the 29 OECD nations. In other
words, we consume more water per capita than any other developed
(OECD stands for
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: find out
more at www.oecd.org)
Total US water withdrawals by category in 2000
Electricity production is responsible for almost half of all
fresh water withdrawal. This water is used for cooling in power
plants and either evaporates in a cooling tower (see picture) or
is fed back into the body of water. That sounds harmless but
literally millions of fish and other fauna are killed during the
intake of the water. The ‘waste’ water is clean but several
degrees warmer. That impacts local ecosystems. That is why:
Conserving electricity also saves water!
Trends in population and freshwater withdrawals by source,
How do you use water at home?
What is your personal water usage like on a typical day? Think
about direct consumption (drinking, washing, toilet, etc.) and
about the water used to make other things that you use (look at
the irrigation part of the chart on the previous page, and think
about the food that you eat; has any of it been irrigated? Look
at the power generation slice of the pie below; how much water
has been used to generate the power you used today?)
How many gallons do you think you personally use each day? Take
a guess and keep reading!
Each person uses an average of 120-170 gallons
of water per day!
Learn more at:
Local Water Facts
The Mystic River Watershed
(taken from: http://www.mysticriver.org/)
The Tufts Medford Campus lies within the Mystic River Watershed.
The Mystic River Watershed has an area of approximately 76
square miles, encompassing 21 communities north and west of
Boston, Massachusetts. The headwaters of the system begin in
Reading and end in the Boston Harbor. Main tributaries to the
Mystic River include Mill Brook, Alewife Brook, Malden River,
and Chelsea Creek. The watershed contains 44 lakes and ponds,
the largest of which is Spot Pond in the Middlesex Fells, with
an area of 307 acres.
Home to about 8% of the state's population (nearly half a
million people) in less than 1% of its land area, the Mystic is
one of the most densely populated and urban watersheds in
Massachusetts. Eight out of the fifteen Massachusetts
communities "most intensively overburdened" by cumulative
environmental hazards lie within this watershed, according to
recent environmental justice research.
The name “Mystic” is derived from the Indian “Missi-Tuk” or
“great tidal river,” a reference to the Mystic having once been
tidal. For hundreds of years, Native Americans lived and fished
along the Mystic. One of the Mystic area’s first European
settlers was Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop. He
built his summer retreat, the Ten Hills Farm, on the banks of
Both Native Americans, and later Colonists, used weirs to catch
alewives and fertilize their crops. During the 1800s, factories
replaced many farms, and the region attracted many new
residents. By 1865, overfishing and pollution all but eliminated
From early Colonial days until the end of the 19th century, the
waters of the Mystic were harnessed to power tide mills. Tide
mills were built throughout the length of the Mystic on both
sides of the shore. Their waterpower was used to grind grain and
spices, saw wood, and process paints, cloth and other products.
Mills, brickyards and tanneries along the river brought wealth,
but some industries also polluted the Mystic watershed. Today, a
mix of houses, businesses, parks and abandoned factories border
Twice each day, tides once influenced the waters of the Mystic,
Malden, and Alewife Brook. First the Craddock Locks, 1909, and
later, the Amelia Earhart Dam, 1966, changed these waterbodies
from salt to freshwater. In the 1960s, construction of I-93
filled in wetlands and dramatically changed the Mystic River’s
Sadly, there are numerous ways in which the waters of the Mystic
and its tributaries are polluted. There are toxics in the water
and sediment as a result of industry in the area. There are also
problems normally associated with older urban areas: non-point
source pollution and sewage contamination.
Non-point source (NPS) pollution refers to pollution that does
not come from a specific, easily-identifiable source, such as a
pipe or smokestack. In terms of water quality, NPS pollution
usually occurs as urban runoff. In our watershed, only 17% is
designated as open space, and in Somerville, 85% of the land is
impermeable! Therefore, urban runoff is a substantial problem!
Sewage and infrastructure are also major problems throughout the
watershed. Some of the sewer and storm drain pipes are greater
than 70 years old, and thus very leaky. Sewage filters out of
the sewer lines in to the storm drains, which discharge directly
local streams, ponds, and rivers.
In addition to leaky pipes, there are also numerous Combined
Sewer Overflows (CSOs) in our watershed. While modern systems
generally handle rainwater and sewage from homes and businesses
in different pipes, older systems in Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea
and Somerville have 'combined' sewers that carry both flows
together. Combined storm and sanitary sewers carry both raw
sewage from residences and industrial sites as well as
contaminated runoff from city streets. In dry weather, combined
systems generally carry sewage wastes to wastewater treatment
plants. When it rains, at times as little as one-quarter inch,
the volume of the combined wastewater becomes more than the
treatment can handle, and the flow is diverted to outfall points
that discharge raw sewage, floatables such as garbage, syringes,
and tampon applicators, toxic industrial waste, and contaminated
stormwater into the nearest stream or coastal waterway. These
untreated discharges can be as potent as direct sewer emissions.
They are a principal cause of shellfish bed closures, beach
advisories, pathogen contamination, odor and other aesthetic
problems in many cities with combined sewer systems.
(taken from: http://www.cwn.org/docs/issues/rawsewage/cso.htm)
What You Can Do To Save Water
Eat less meat!!
Use less electricity!
Use less paper!
How to Save Water in the Bathroom
(Modified from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority:
Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving.
Save 4-10 gallons a day.
Don't shave with the water running.
You'll probably use at least one gallon per minute, most of it
wasted. A stoppered basin needs one-half gallon or so of water
for adequate razor rinsing.
Never use your toilet as a trashcan.
Save 3-7 gallons per flush. Stop using the toilet as an ashtray
or wastebasket. Some people flush away tissues and other bits
of trash in the toilet. Using a wastebasket will save all those
gallons of water that otherwise go wastefully down the drain.
Most toilets installed before 1980 use 5-7 gallons of water per
flush. Toilets installed between 1980 and 1993 use 3.5 gallons
per flush. Toilets installed since 1994 use 1.6 gallons. All
new toilets at Tufts are low flow toilets.
Fill your bathtub only partially.
Save 5 gallons or more. Saves in hot water costs, too.
A typical bath takes about 40 gallons of water. Use the minimum
amount of water needed for a bath by closing the drain first and
filling the tub only 1/3 full. Remember to plug the tub before
turning on water; that initial burst of cold water will be
warmed later by adding hot water.
Don't take marathon showers.
Five minutes will get you clean. Save 3-7 gallons per minute.
Limit the length of your shower to 5 minutes or less. Reducing
showering time by 1 minute can save 2,000 gallons of water a
What You Can Do: In The Kitchen And Laundry Areas
(Modified from Massachusetts Water Resources Authority:
If you wash dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running for
If you have two sinks, fill one with soapy water and one with
rinse water. If you have only one sink, gather washed dishes in
a dish rack and rinse them with a sprayer or a pan full of hot
water. Saves 8-15 gallons per day. Saves in hot water costs,
Run your dishwasher only when full.
Save up to 15 gallons per load. Saves in hot water costs, too.
Fill your dishwasher full because it will use the same amount of
water for a normal cycle, whether it contains a full load of
dishes or just a few items. Also, there’s really no need to
fully wash dishes before loading in the dishwasher. Just scrape
the food off and let the dishwasher do the rest of the work.
Wash vegetables and fruit in a basin.
Use a vegetable brush to remove dirt. Save 2-4 gallons per day.
Run your garbage disposal only when necessary.
Save 2-7 gallons per minute.
Run the washing machine only when full and adjust the water
level setting carefully.
Washing machines use 22-25 gallons per load. Save the water for
1-2 loads every week. Saves in hot water costs, too.
Store drinking water in the refrigerator
rather than letting the tap run, when you want a cold glass of
water. Did you know that you could refill an 8-oz. glass of
water approximately 15,000 times for the same cost as a six-pack
Do not use running water to thaw meat
or other frozen foods. Defrost food overnight in the
refrigerator. This will actually save energy because the cold
emitted from the frozen food will help cool your fridge . Do
not defrost in your microwave or toaster oven.
This wastes energy unnecessarily.
How To Find Leaks
Dripping, trickling, or oozing faucets and showerheads can waste
from 75 to several hundred gallons of water a week depending on
the size of the drip. Worn out washers (rubber rings in the
pipes, not washing machines) are the main cause of these leaks
and a new one generally costs about 25 cents.
A Simple Test for Leaks
A leaky faucet is pretty obvious. But hidden leaks in the
toilet, under the sink, or behind a washing machine can waste a
gigantic amount of water. And they could be damaging your
floors or ceilings too. At your home, you can take a reading of
your water meter. Wait an hour, making sure no one uses any
water in your home. Check it again. If the reading has
changed, you have got at least one leak and you need to
That trickling sound you hear in the bathroom could be a leaky
toilet wasting 50 gallons of water a day or more. But sometimes
it leaks silently. Try this:
Crush a dye tablet in its envelope and carefully empty the
contents into the center of the toilet tank and allow it to
dissolve. Wait about 8-9 minutes. Inspect the toilet bowl for
signs of blue dye indicating a leak.
If the dye has appeared in the bowl, the flapper or flush valve
may need to be replaced.
If you find a leak at Tufts, call work control at 7-3496.
Bottled or not?
Check out the report by the Natural Resources Defense Council,
Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?
at www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/nbw.asp, March 1999, for more
information. This report revealed that much too often, bottled
water is of poorer quality (has more germs) than tap water.
Think about your drinking water. Do you buy a lot of bottled
water even though you have good tap water or water from a cooler
in your dorm? If so, maybe it makes more sense to get a water
bottle, refill it, and carry it with you. Do you recycle the
plastic bottles that the water comes in?
1.5 million tons of plastic are used to make bottles for bottled
water per year. What is the environmental impact of this
About a quarter of the 25 billion gallons of annual production
of bottled water is consumed outside the country of origin.
Over 22 million tons of water is therefore being moved each year
from country to country in plastic bottles, with consequent
implications for energy consumption and emissions associated
Green Cleaning: Simple Solutions
When it comes to cleaning up the planet, there’s no place like
home to start taking a look at what each individual can do.
Take a look at how you can make simple cleaning solutions from
common ingredients, how to evaluate the labels of ready-made
cleaners, recommendations on specific cleaners for different
tasks, and where to find more information.
What Should I Look For When I Buy Cleaners?
(taken from: http://www.ehow.com/how_110332_buy-green-household.html)
Read the label.
Choose non-petroleum-based surfactants that are chlorine and
(hint: if they don’t say ‘petroleum-free’, they are not…) claim
to be non-toxic, and are biodegradable. Read the labels of
cleaners and look for these four key signal words—caution,
warning, danger, poison—
which indicate the level of hazard. Use the least hazardous
product to do the job. ("Caution" is least hazardous and
"danger" is most hazardous. Extremely toxic products must also
include the word "poison.")
Avoid the most toxic elements: ammonia and chlorine.
Often found in scouring powders, laundry bleach, dishwasher
detergent, and basin, tub, and tile cleaners, these chemicals
are a prime cause of health problems and environmental
pollution. Ammonia is also an irritant that affects the skin,
eyes, and respiratory passages. The symptoms of ammonia
exposure are: burning sensation in the eyes, nose, and throat;
pain in the lungs; headache; nausea; coughing and increased
Chlorine is the household chemical most frequently involved in
household poisoning in the U.S. Chlorine also ranks first in
causing industrial injuries and deaths resulting from large
industrial accidents. Chlorine is an acutely toxic chemical.
Avoid those really strong oven cleaners. Rule of thumb: the more
miraculously it cleans, the more toxic it is.
Don't use toilet bowl fresheners and don't disinfect your toilet
bowl (it's unnecessary to disinfect the inside of your toilet).
(oh, and don’t use disposable toilet brushes either…)
'100% bio-degradable' and 'non-toxic'
Make Your Own Non-Toxic Cleaners!
Here are some basic (and inexpensive) ingredients for cleaners
you can get at the grocery store and what they clean:
(don’t use red wine vinegar or cider vinegar!):
Mix with water, and you have a great window and glass cleaner.
Use vinegar on porcelain, countertops, and tile.
This can also be used as an all-purpose cleaner. Just mix with
water. Use especially for scouring sinks and tubs. Sprinkle over
carpet as a deodorizer.
Use for deodorizing drains and garbage disposals. Salt can also
be used as an abrasive in cleaning pots and pans.
Use as a bleach in laundry and on kitchen surfaces. It adds a
fresh clean smell to cleaners.
Sprinkle on carpet as a deodorizer. Mix with water and use a
spray bottle for laundry starch.
Mix with vinegar for use as a furniture polish.
Any of these ingredients can be safely mixed together.
Experiment to find out what works best for each cleaning need.
Store mixtures in spray bottles, and remember to clearly label
them for future use. Maybe you can share cleaning products with
your dorm mates too. Check out what kind of cleaners you find
at home. Talk to your family about what they use, and see if
any of these simpler solutions could replace a toxic cleaner.