cowden column drought

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The year 2007 will be remembered for the worst drought conditions many of us have ever experienced.
According to the National Weather Service, the average rainfall in a normal year in North Carolina is 3 to 4 inches per month. In Rowan County, the average annual rainfall is 43 inches. Ten cooperators, who faithfully measured the rainfall across the county, have recorded less than 22 inches this year.
A northern shift of the jet stream from the Pacific, otherwise known as La Nina, has been blamed for these conditions. This shift pushes rain north of the Carolinas. It is predicted that La Nina will persist through May 2008.
The drought of 2007 will have a lasting impact on our area. Agriculture suffered from the loss of crops and having feed for livestock. Fish and wildlife were affected as lakes, ponds and streams dried up. And many communities had to declare mandatory or voluntary water restrictions to save water.
What can we do to help in this water situation? Conservation of this most precious resource is one thing we can all do. Many of us take the water we have for granted, but water can be a finite resource.
How much water are we using daily? These numbers may surprise you. A kitchen or bathroom faucet uses 3-5 gallons per minute and a shower 5-10 gallons. A full tub can hold 50 gallons and a washing machine 35 gallons. The dishwasher may use 15-25 gallons and each flush of an older toilet can use 5-7 gallons. A dripping faucet can waste 15 gallons each day. Place a bucket under a leaking faucet and you may really be surprised. Even our personal hygiene can use water when we leave the water running. Shaving uses 1 gallon each time.
Here are a few tips to home water conservation:
– Washing machine ó Use load selector for large or small loads if there is one. Otherwise, wash only full loads. Front-loading washing machines use less water than top loading machines use. Use cold water. You won’t save water, but you will save energy and money.
– Bathroom sink ó Shave and brush teeth the water saving way. Quickly rinse shaving razor or use an electric razor; it uses energy, but it saves water. For teeth, use a cup to rinse. If you replace the faucet, use low-flow models with aerators.
– Shower ó Turn off water while soaping up. See how light a spray you can wash with.
It is not necessary to shower longer than 5 minutes. Replace showerheads with low consumption models.
– Toilet ó To check for leaks add a few drops of food coloring to water in tank. If color appears in toilet without flushing, there is a leak. Also, listen for the sound of running water or pump. Remodel with low consumption (1.5 gallon/flush or less) toilets.
– Dishwasher ó Scrape dishes off. Soak pots and pans overnight if necessary. Wash only full loads. Experiment to discover the least possible detergent necessary to cut down on suds residue.
– Drinking Water ó Don’t run tap water for cold water without collecting for other non-consumptive uses. Make only the amount of coffee or tea you are going to drink.
Keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator.
A number of inexpensive devices are now available that can help you to save even more water and energy. Contact a plumber or local building supply store to get more information.
By each of us doing our part to save water, we can save money, reduce the waste load and have clean drinking water for many more years.
Jim Cowden is a County Extension Director