Listen to the audio file of this interview here .
In part three of Our Northwest Water, we learn that many people are already conserving water in their homes. But many towns are facing water shortages during the peaks months of summer. Where is the water going? Right below your feet. Sueann Ramella has more.
When towns around the Odessa Aquifer were first given water rights, they were planning on growth. It was widely expected that more people and businesses would move into the Northwest. But what they did not foresee was how popular their towns would become, or how much water they needed to support agriculture, industry and people. I spoke with Dr. Michael Barber, the Director of water research at WSU about towns and how they use water.
Barber: “The problem for some places is that they are fast approaching those growth limits that were perceived a hundred years ago, and there isn’t additional water during the times when people need it."
Ramella:Many municipalities across the Northwest are facing water shortages. But it’s not always because of long, hot showers. In fact:
Barber: “The in home use for water is typically quite small. The big issue of consumptively used water is outside.”
Ramella:It’s your lawn.
Barber: “It’s the lawn or your shrubs. If you just don’t start irrigating a week in the spring and stop a week earlier in the fall you can save water.”
Ramella:Some estimate a typical family uses 50% of their drinking water on the lawn or outdoor landscaping. To conserve, consider xeriscaping, a low-water landscaping technique that uses native and drought-tolerant plants. Dr. Barber also suggests rain gardens.
Barber: “It’s where you capture the water from impervious surfaces like your roofs and you funnel it out to areas where you can use that water for vegetation, we’ve got some folks on the west side that are looking at rain barrels.”
Ramella:These are some things homeowners can do to conserve water, but what about municipalities? How does your town tackle water conservation? Many are implanting water audits.
Barber: “What they are trying to do with these water audits is find out if they have losses in their system which are unaccounted for. So if you treat a hundred but you only bill for 75, then you’ve lost 25 somewhere in your system.”
Ramella:Are we talking leaks?
Barber: “We’re talking leaks. And so some systems are relatively old and what they are trying to do is find out where those leaks are occurring, and they will go through the process of repairing existing lines in order to reduce the amount of water they are using.”
Ramella:So what is the cost of repairing water lines?
Barber: “Very expensive. It can be costly, it can be time consuming. But I think what most people are aware of, is that the infrastructure in this country is getting older and when it ages, and it’s underground, it will start to leak.”
Ramella:And then we have massive water loss.
Barber: “You could be experiencing losses of 20 – 25% in your system which means you’re needing to take more water out of the stream or the aquifer to meet the same demand and that’s a shame.”
Ramella:For more information on how your town can conserve water and how you can reduce your household use of water, and add your comments visit Our Northwest at NWPR.ORG
Copyright 2008 Northwest Public Radio