Wednesday, March 22, 2017

World Water Day: Wastewater

Image credits: This gorgeous water photo is a freebie from PixaBay.

We're taking a detour from the garden for World Water Day. It's easy to be complacent about water living in an area with an abundance (over abundance in our recent wet weather) of clean safe water.  1.8 billion people throughout the world aren't nearly so lucky.  This year's theme is focused not on what goes in, but on what goes out - specifically wastewater from residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural development. A whopping 80% of the world's waste water currently enters the environment without treatment.  Yikes! You can download a factsheet from the World Water Day website and explore their video links and stories/articles to learn more.   What can individuals do to impact such a big problem?  Every little bit helps!  Here are a few ideas and links to resources:

Understand what what you use/create around your home. Most modern residential homes create greywater from washing and blackwater from human/animal waste (either separated or mixed) and also  redirect naturally occurring stormwater. Fresh/clean water sources may include both potable (drinking/cooking/washing) and non-potable (gardening, cleaning) water sources. How these waters are sources, used, reused, and offloaded can alter your footprint and maybe even save you some money, too.

Look for easy efficiencies to use less fresh/clean water. It's a bit of a no-brainer, but if you use less fresh/clean water, then you'll create less waste water. Here are some ideas for easy ways to save water and we've created a Water Wise board on Pinterest to collect ideas and inspiration. What's your favourite water saving tip?

Modify/replace appliances and fixtures to use less water.  This isn't as quick, simple, or inexpensive ans the easy efficiencies above, but if/as opportunity allows you can further reduce your water consumption by modifying or switching to lower-flow items.

Say no to drain dumping.  Storm drains often enter the ecosystem as-is, so never pour household waste liquids down the storm drains - it's illegal in many places, but it still happens. Most local/regional councils have websites with suggested clean-up and safe(r) disposal options for excess chemicals, and many offer free drop-off points.

Reduce the pollution content of household wastewater.  People tend to be a little more cautious with what they pour/flush in their homes (perhaps more for the sake of their plumbing than the environment) but many still dispose of unwanted pharmaceuticals, paints, pesticides, herbicides, cleaners, and other chemicals through their waste water.   In addition to direct dumping, there are chemicals in everyday soaps, cleaners, detergents, etc and other not-so-nice stuff in our domestic wastewater. Whaat's in your household sewage? A lot more than you might think... By choosing products carefully and moderating the amount used, you can make a difference.

Reusing greywater for non-potable use.  Greywater from your showers and sinks can be reused for non-potable purposes like flushing toilets or watering the garden. This can range from a simple  collection bucket in the shower to a fully plumbed system.  Interested? Read more here.   If you are reusing greywater, you'll need to take extra care with the types of soaps, detergents, and cleaners you use on your first cycle as not all are greywater-friendly - especially for use in the garden.

Gathering rainwater for use instead of direct-to-drain. Instead of funneling all of your property's rainwater straight into the storm drain system, you can gather rainwater for use. The simplest and most common collection if for use in the garden, but rainwater can also be collected for non-potable household uses or purified for general use. Read more here

Understand where your food comes from and the implications.  Agriculture is a big consumer of water and producer of waste, but there are a lot of hungry mouths on the planet.  Here in New Zealand, there is a lot (a LOT!) of farm activity.  We're blessed with a temperate climate, good rainfalls, and good soil so its not the forced, irrigated, confined, and/or horror factory kind-of farming that is plaguing many places; however, it does alter the environment and risk run-off of fertilisers, effluents, etc.  People like to slag "dirty dairying" but it's a very heavy focus area for local farmers, the corporations they supply, and the government. All farming, be it plant or animal, comes with risks and responsibilities. Which brings me nicely to the final points below.
 
Support sustainable suppliers and efforts to improve sustainability. Recognise the efforts going into enhancing efficiency and sustainability within supply, manufacture, retail, services, etc. Understand that it is a work in progress and that your support will help sustain and progress it further. Understand that these safeguards, improvements, and innovations often come at a cost to the supplier and be prepared to put your money where your sustainable mouth is to support greener choices. 

Support local efforts to enhance wastewater reduction and treatment. I have to say that I see a heck of a lot of "dirty humaning" going on around our local area, included frequent river/steam/ocean signage for "accidental sewage discharge" warnings from the local council. It might mean municipal tax dollars are needed, but it really matters. Our homes, workplaces, factories, shops, restaurants, etc. are all feeding our waste into these systems which will impact our environment.

Support global efforts to enhance wastewater reduction and treatment. From sustainable supply chains for the products you choose to buy, to supporting programs which help to foster environmental initiatives around the world, to supporting government engagement in regulations and targeted reductions, ever little bit helps. 

What are your top tips for reducing water usage and waste water creation/pollution?  We would love to hear about it. Please leave a comment or post us a message on the GiRL Facebook page.

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