It might surprise many Chicagoans that a five-year study completed by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2011, as reported by CBS news, warned that the Great Lakes region in some areas will face water shortages because of increased demand and the effect of climate change.
It seemed, at the time, to be almost unbelievable that areas near the Great Lakes would have water problems. After all, these lakes contain an estimated 6 quadrillion gallons, which is enough water to cover the continents of North and South America plus Africa with 4 feet of water. How is it possible to run out of water in this region?
The answer comes from a problem with groundwater, which is what cities tap to provide water supplies. The groundwater level in Chicago has fallen more than 1,000 feet. The same thing has happened in the Milwaukee area. The city of Waukesha, which is a suburb of Milwaukee, discovered that the city water wells had radiation contamination, so they needed to get permission to withdraw water from Lake Michigan. Already, Chicago takes more than 2 billion gallons of water from Lake Michigan every day, lowering the lake's level by about 2.5 inches so far.
Why Water Conservation?
It makes good environmental sense to use household water conservation methods so that water is not wasted. It also makes sense to lower the water bills for homeowners and apartment dwellers to save money.
Circle of Blue reports that the rates for household water have gone up 50 percent in Chicago over the past five years, and the city plans to double the current rates to pay for necessary system-wide repairs.
A Great Plumber Is Your Best Friend
Some of the water waste comes from plumbing problems, which are easy to repair. These repairs are the first things a person should do to lower water consumption, because plumbing problems are the invisible water wasters. Here is a checklist of the steps to take while working with a qualified plumber such as John Baethke & Son Plumbing to make the repairs:
Make Good Use of Gray Water - Get a plumber to reroute the household gray water to irrigate exterior plants and trees. Gray water comes from washing dishes (either in the sink or with a dishwasher) and from washing clothes. Normally it goes down the sewer, which is a complete waste because plants love it. Sometimes just running a pipe from under the sink to the exterior garden is easy, especially when the kitchen has an outside wall facing the yard. The added benefit from this technique is a reduction in the use of city water for watering the garden. It is super to see plants thrive without needing to water them by hand. Green homes use the gray water attached to a drip irrigation system, so the garden irrigation is automatic.
Check Faucets and Pipes for Leaks - Have a plumber replace worn-out faucet washers and check all pipes for water leaks. According to eartheasy, just a small dripping faucet wastes up to 20 gallons of water per day. A big drip wastes even more.
Check Toilets for Leaks - By putting a small bit of food coloring in the toilet tank and waiting to see if the color appears in the bowl; this will tell if the toilet is slowly leaking. If it is, get a plumber to repair it.
Conduct a Water Meter Test - Turn off all water use in the house and read the water meter. Wait two-hours and read it again. If the reading on the water meter changes when no water is being used, there is a hidden leak somewhere, which requires a plumber to investigate.
Do-it-Yourself Projects - Installing water saving showerheads and low-flow faucet aerators is a simple task or just ask the plumber to do this for you while making other repairs.
More than a hundred other water savings tips are available on the Water Use it Wisely website, and the EPA gives great tips on how to conserve water. Conserving water is important no matter where one lives. Going green, in regards to water conservation, makes sense to save money and to have less of a negative impact on the environment.