How You Can Help to Conserve Water

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, much of the Tennessee Valley is experiencing a moderate to severe drought. You can help. In fact, if you’re like most families, you can reduce your water use by up to 35 percent just by following these simple steps.

 

 

July 19, 2016—Kaboom! Splatter! It’s just another summer thunderstorm. They can be surprising, sometimes soaking, even a little violent—but they don’t do much to help offset the basic truth: Much of the Valley is in a drought.

“What little rain we do get from these pop-up storms only is enough to provides short-term relief to grasses and trees—very little, if any, of the rainfall from these thunderstorms makes its way to the rivers,” explains Amanda Bowen, a water resource engineer at TVA. “We are about six to seven inches of rainfall behind where we should be, so to make up that deficit we would need a more continuous rainfall.”

Bowen and her co-worker, Gary Springston, program manager for Water Supply, are watching the situation carefully—it’s their job, after all, to coordinate with state and federal agencies as well as municipalities to ensure that there’s plenty of water in the Tennessee River system to supply municipalities, stoke industry, feed agriculture, keep navigation afloat and support aquatic life.

Conditions in the mid-Valley region are firmly in the severe drought category, with some small pockets that have now fallen into extreme drought. (See the drought map for yourself here.)

What can you do? Restrictions or not, you can do plenty, says Bowen. “Any little bit of water conservation will help,” she says. “I’m the only one in my neighborhood that doesn’t water my lawn. And, yeah, that irritates my neighbors, but I know I’m doing the right thing in the long run.”

Here are some other tips for chipping in to conserve water this thirsty year:

Bathroom Tips:

  • Check for leaks in your toilet tank with a few drops of food coloring or leak identification tablets. If the coloring appears within 30 minutes without flushing, you have a leak. Fixing a leak can be as simple as tightening loose connections, wrapping joints with Teflon-Tape before reconnecting or replacing the parts inside the toilet tank. 
  • Save five gallons per flush by replacing a toilet made before 1992 with a newer ultra-low-flush model.
  • Fix any leaky faucets. One drop per second can add up to 165 gallons a month!
  • Flush toilets less often. Never use your toilet as a trash can.
  • Place plastic bottles filled with water in your toilet tank or use an inexpensive toilet dam to block part of the toilet tank. This can save 11 gallons of water per day. Avoid bricks that can damage the tank.
  • Install water-saving showerheads. They use 25 to 50 percent less water without sacrificing water pressure. Take shorter showers to maximize water and energy savings. 
  • Install low-flow faucet aerators, which use between 20-25 percent less water than a normal faucet.

Other Indoor Tips: 

  • Consider replacing your dishwasher and washing machine with newer, more efficient models. Choose products with the ENERGY STAR® label to save over 50 percent in water and energy costs.
  • Run the dishwasher or washing machine only when full. For the most savings on water and energy, use appliances after 8 p.m.
  • Defrost food in the refrigerator instead of using running water. Faucets release about a gallon of water every minute.
  • When hand-washing dishes, use a dishpan or a stopper in the sink.
  • Instead of running the faucet to get cold water, keep a pitcher in the refrigerator.

Outdoor Tips:

  • Water your lawn and garden in the morning or after dark. You’ll use 30 percent less water than you would if you watered in the middle of the day when evaporation is higher. Do not water your lawn when it’s windy.
  • Use trickle or drip irrigation systems for watering yards and gardens. A lawn or garden needs only one inch of water weekly to thrive (including rainfall). Thorough watering once weekly encourages deep-root growth.
  • Set sprinklers to water your lawn or garden only—not the street or sidewalk.
  • Water trees and shrubs longer and less often than plants with shallow roots. Control the flow of water from your hose with an adjustable nozzle.
  • Wash your car on your lawn and use water from a bucket with non-toxic soaps, or go to a commercial car wash that recycles water. (Most do.) Recycling water keeps soap and cleaners from contaminating groundwater and from draining into streams, rivers, and reservoirs.
  • Sweep driveways, sidewalks, and steps instead of hosing them off.
  • Spread mulch around garden plants and shrubs to reduce evaporation and weed growth.
  • Remove thatch and aerate turf to promote air and water circulation.
  • Use native grasses, shrubs and trees in landscaping. Native plants require less water, reduce runoff and flooding, help prevent soil erosion and are easier to grow because they are adapted to local conditions. (See TVA’s Native Plant Selector for details on more than 140 plants native to the Tennessee Valley, and read about shoreline landscaping with native plants.)

Read More About Water Supply

Part of TVA's river stewardship is not only managing the water system for flood control, navigation and recreation, but also to maintain adequate water supply for other crucial uses. There must be enough water available for TVA to cool its own nuclear and fossil power plants; to serve the industrial customers who keep our economy strong; and to support plant and animal life—including the drinking and cooking water that sustains human health. Read more about how TVA manages water supply to meet these demands.

River Recycled

The Tennessee River is the most heavily used river in the United States. It is also the most recycled—96 percent of what gets used gets returned. Read our feature story about how TVA Water Supply works to keep the river optimally balanced at all times.