Every Drop Counts

Photo: iStockphoto.com
How you can help preserve and protect our precious water supply.

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” – Benjamin Franklin

Water is life. No living creature on the planet can survive without it. We are inextricably linked to this element, using it for agriculture, power generation, industry, recreation and, of course, drinking. Our water ecosystems have important ecological functions, provide habitats for flora and fauna, and provide us with places of spiritual refuge and leisure.

Keeping our water healthy is vital, but we face a growing number of challenges – such as a rising population, pollution, urbanization and climate change, all of which are putting pressure on this essential resource. The perception that Canada has an abundance of fresh water (in reality, we only have seven percent of the world’s renewable fresh water) has led to great misuse of the resource. Canadians use, on average, 343 litres per day per person for domestic purposes, second only to the U.S., and that’s not even including water used to produce goods and services. Pollution including pharmaceuticals, pesticides and other chemicals in our water is also a cause for concern.

Green Living wants to raise awareness about our insatiable and unsustainable thirst. We invite you to participate in Canada Water Week from March 19 to 25 – it’s a coast-to-coast celebration to improve understanding of water, in conjunction with World Water Day on March 22. Watch tvo’s new educational series, The Water Brothers, premiering March 19 (or check out tvo’s other water-themed programming for Water Week), or see The Water Brothers live at the Green Living Show in Toronto for Eco Youth Day on April 13. Download their free mobile app, Quench, to find the nearest water fountain in the Greater Toronto Area.

Water is a hot topic globally too – not only has the United Nations declared 2005-2015 as the World Water Decade, but March 12-17 marks the sixth World Water Forum, designed to facilitate discussion about key water issues. There are endless opportunities to get involved, whether you take part in an event, reduce your water consumption (calculate your water footprint here), voice your ideas, get your household water tested, or simply celebrate water by enjoying your favourite river or lake with friends and family.

A number of Canadian non-profit organizations are dedicated to finding solutions to our water challenges, and want you to take part. Support the Clean Water Foundation, the Centre for Sustainable Watersheds, and the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association and their great work towards preserving, protecting and improving our water. Join Waterlution for a discussion or workshop about our evolving relationship with water. Attend Water Canada’s Blue Bash party, and help 15 inspiring individuals (including Ben Mulroney) climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to support WaterCan’s water and sanitation projects in East Africa.

Saving our precious resource starts with individuals. Follow the three golden rules for the wise use of water – reduce, repair and retrofit – and cut your water use nearly in half. (Bonus: you’ll save money too!) Green Living has some ideas to get you started:


  • Only run your dishwasher or washing machine when it’s completely full, and use only during off-peak hours. Check with your local utilities to find out what the peak times are.
  • Take shorter showers. By stepping out a minute or two earlier, you could save up to 150 gallons per month.
  • Collect water in a rain barrel to water your garden (better yet, xeriscape). Or plant a rain garden to add beauty to your yard and absorb runoff. Keeping water in the ground prevents polluted storm water from ending up in our lakes and streams.
  • Find out how much water your plants really need, or choose drought-tolerant species. Water in the early mornings or evenings, and not on windy days, to limit the amount evaporated or blown onto your driveway or sidewalks.
  • Don’t let the tap run when brushing your teeth. This could save up to 25 gallons a month.
  • Don’t flush the toilet unnecessarily – throw tissues in the trash instead.
  • When washing your car, fill a bucket with water and use a sponge. This can save 300 litres of water each wash! (Use one of our favourite products, GoClean Waterless Carwash.)
  • Eat less meat. It takes over 4,500 litres of water to make an average-sized steak, or 1,170 litres for a chicken breast.


  • Fix leaky faucets – usually it’s as simple as replacing a worn-out washer, and you could save up to 140 gallons per week.
  • Test if your toilet is leaking. Put a few drops of food colouring in the tank. If the colouring shows up in the bowl, you have a leak. One leaking toilet can waste up to 200,000 litres of water a year.
  • Check your sprinkler system for leaks, and make sure you’re only watering your lawn, not the whole sidewalk.


  • Install a toilet dam inside your tank. This could save up to five litres a flush.
  • If it’s time for a new toilet, buy an ultra-low-volume (ULV) model.
  • Replace your showerhead with a water-efficient model.
  • Check out Environment Canada’s rebates, and find out how you can save on repairs and retrofits in your home.

The importance of protecting our water cannot be overstated. If you don’t already, make it a priority to know about the water use in your home. If we each save a little, it can add up to major savings in water, energy and money, and future generations can continue to swim in, drink, enjoy and celebrate water!

Green Living wants to make it easier for you.

Click here to win your own rain barrel from www.rainbarrel.ca, and let us know how this or other steps you take help save water at your home.

E-mail editor@green-living.ca