Six easy ways to conserve water on World Water Day

Joan Michelson, special to

WASHINGTON – If you think water issues don’t occur in the nation’s capital, think again.

With the D.C. area’s aging water and sewage infrastructure — ranging from about 77 years old to 100 years old — the system could use an upgrade to keep our water clean.

Besides pressuring government officials, here’s a look at what steps you can take to conserve water and promote quality in honor of World Water Day on Friday.

How’s your water?

The D.C. area water comes from the Potomac River and is treated with chloramine as a disinfectant to keep it safe as it travels through the District’s 1,300 miles of (old) pipes. Chloramine levels are regulated and monitored by the EPA for safety.

You can find detailed reports through the District of Columbia Water and Sewage Authority. According to these reports, D.C. area water has safe levels of lead, but it was only banned from household plumbing in 1987. So if your house was built before then, or you’re concerned about corroded pipes releasing lead into your water, an inspection is likely needed.

I tested my tap water in Northern Virginia and D.C. and both showed safe pH, chlorine, iron, copper, nitrate and nitrite and hydrogen sulfide levels. It did not test for lead, so I used a home testing kit from Prolab, the least expensive testing kit I found in a local hardware store, which cost $12.99.

What you can do

Less than 1 percent of the world’s water is available for use, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Sense initiative, which aims to help consumers use water more efficiently.

Ann Feldman, executive producer of a PBS documentary “Water Pressures” airing this week, says water use has grown twice as fast as the global population.

Americans only exacerbate the problem. Each American uses about 100 gallons of water per day according to the EPA. At that rate, coupled with the outdated infrastructure and global population growth, we’re likely to have water issues going forward if we don’t upgrade the system and learn to use water more efficiently.

Here are six things you can do to save water:

  1. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth or shave.
  2. Take short five-minute showers instead of baths.
  3. Use a dishwasher,or at least fill the sink with water to wash all the dishes at once. An Energy Star dishwasher uses 20 percent less water than a standard dishwasher.
  4. Buy used jeans, or wear your old pair longer. Manufacturing a pair of jeans uses about 3,480 liters of water, according to Time magazine.
  5. Wash full laundry loads, especially if you live in an apartment complex without small, medium and large wash settings. The machine will use the same amount of water no matter how big your load.
  6. Tell Congress to upgrade our water infrastructure, and keep the Clean Water Act intact.

What will you do to commemorate World Water Day? Share in the comments section or on Twitter at @WTOPLiving.

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Joan Michelson is CEO of Green Connections Radio and a consultant on the green economy and cleantech. She can be reached at

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