Translations Blog

By: Josh Richards, Corporate Director, ESG

April 17, 2023

On Earth, there is currently no known living creature – from the smallest cyanobacteria to the largest blue whale – that does not require water to live, grow and propagate. Even astronomers use the presence of water on other planets as an indicator of potential life. Water by its very nature is a key ingredient to life because it’s a solvent, something that helps facilitate biochemical processes within each cell and throughout our bodies.

Beyond hydration and hygiene, water is essential for agriculture and food production. In the U.S., about 42% of all freshwater withdrawals are for the purpose of irrigation – that’s approximately 118 billion gallons of water each day! A combination of surface water and groundwater, this goes to managing upwards of 60 million acres of irrigated farmland across the country.

But water isn’t just for growing things. The use of water in thermoelectric power, or power plants fired by coal, gas, nuclear or other inputs, is also responsible for a huge portion of water consumption –approximately 34% of all freshwater withdrawals. While not consumed directly, this water is drawn from public infrastructure for use in cooling and processing of plant waste.

It may surprise you to learn that public-supply withdrawals, which include household use, account for only 14% of freshwater withdrawals, but still amounts to more than 39 billion gallons per day! The scale of our water usage demonstrates the immense impact our personal behaviors can have. This Earth Week, we invite you to consider some simple ways we can adjust these behaviors to improve efficiency and create a more resilient future.

Part 1: Water in Your Home

Did you know that the number one source of water use in your home is your toilet? The average family of four uses nearly 100 gallons of water flushing each day, accounting for nearly a third of total household water. Compared to 80 gallons for showering and 5-15 gallons for laundry and dishwashing, it goes to show that a good commode will keep your flow low.

When it comes to your toilet, here are a few quick ways to reduce leaks and improve water efficiency.

  • Inspect the flapper valve. The flapper valve is the rubber or plastic seal attached to a chain that opens when you flush. This valve wears over time and may need replacing to provide a tight seal.
  • Displace some water in the tank. Fill a plastic, sealable bottle with water and some small stones or marbles and place it inside your tank. Be careful not to use a brick or other object that will break down over time and introduce particles into your system.
  • Install a dual-flush conversion kit. Rather than replace the entire unit, install a conversion kit that will let you vary flush volume as needed. This can save you up to 40% on water usage!

Just because the lavatory is a prime place to start doesn’t mean you should stop there! Similar to your car, it’s important to think about routine maintenance for all your home’s features. The average home leaks upwards of 10,000 gallons of water each year, so challenge yourself to inspect water heaters, laundry machines, sinks, dishwashers and outside spigots at least annually for leaks, mold and corrosion. You’ll save water and some serious money along the way!

Part 2: The Impact of Plastic

When we think about single-use plastic bottles, we often think about the aftermath. What happens to the bottle when we finish our water? Will it actually get recycled or will it end up in the ocean as waste?

What is often overlooked is how much energy it takes to generate these bottles in the first place. It’s estimated that ONE typical single-use plastic bottle requires 1.4 gallons of water to produce! That means each 20-ounce bottle you purchase took almost 90 ounces of water to create in the first place. With approximately 50 billion water bottles purchased in the U.S. each year, the resource expenditure becomes staggering.

One way to support water efficiency is to avoid the bottle altogether. Thanks to the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, the U.S. touts some of the safest drinking water in the world. Adding in a water filter can help remove certain heavy minerals and improve taste. If you can’t avoid using a single-use water bottle, help reduce waste by upcycling your plastic. Did you know a 2-liter bottle can be attached to the end of most garden hoses? With a few quick holes, it becomes a sprinkler for the family to enjoy. Old bottles can also be fashioned into small planters for starter seeds and herb gardens or into drip irrigators with a simple hole poked into the caps.

With a few simple changes in how – and how often – we use plastic bottles, we can make a major impact on our water resources and our planet’s health.

Part 3: Water as a Resource

Managing water is a full-time job. Across the country, thousands of public agencies and local governments are hard at work balancing water inputs with water withdrawals. With demands on the water budget such as irrigation, new development and increased population, it’s an ever-changing situation for these water management agencies.

The U.S. has also experienced a dramatic shift in water availability over the last several years. With more than half the country experiencing moderate to severe drought – while other parts are experiencing record flooding – deciding who gets water access and how much they get is a steep challenge. But for many of us, we see these decisions in the form of household water restrictions and guidance around pool and lawn maintenance.

There are some easy ways to change our behaviors so we can help create a better water balance in our residential and commercial properties and for our communities.

  • First and foremost, focus on maintenance. With the average home leaking some 90 gallons of water each day, checking main fixtures like restrooms and water heaters once a year is an easy way to prevent leaks from going unnoticed.
  • Second, invest in native and drought-tolerant species for your landscaping. While we might love grass, most species aren’t native to the U.S. and are responsible for a lot of water consumption throughout the year. Native plants also encourage pollinators to thrive.
  • Lastly, make baths less frequent and take a shower instead. Every time you opt for a shower, it could save as much as 15 gallons of water!

If we think of our homes as small water districts, we begin to see the water we use each day – and the water we could be saving.

Part 4: Make a Splash!

In the U.S., we often take access to safe, clean drinking water for granted. Unfortunately, approximately 2 million Americans live without this basic access. More than a quarter of these people are experiencing housing insecurity, but an additional 250,000 live in Puerto Rico alone. Rural communities, in particular, are susceptible to water quality issues due to reliance on well water and aging sewage systems.

One of the most common reasons folks live without access to clean drinking water comes from natural disasters. Hurricanes, tornados, floods, drought, wildfires – all of these can have a major impact not just on homes and businesses, but on the very water infrastructure itself. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, it is imperative that clean drinking water be made available to survivors and assistance teams.

What can we do to make a real splash in our communities to help address these issues? Here are a few ways we can help each other out this Earth Day and beyond.

  • Avoid littering or dumping liquids. Liquids poured down a drain at home are first routed to a water treatment facility. However, when we pour liquids on the street or down a storm drain, they often go straight to the local waterways, which can degrade the natural systems that help maintain water quality.
  • Support local water infrastructure. One of the simplest things we can do is vote and make our voices heard. Where possible, support local bills and projects focused on repairing and improving sewer and stormwater systems.
  • Donate to verified nonprofits. The American Red Cross and other disaster recovery charities provide incredible support to survivors, but they rely heavily on donations to deliver water, food, shelter and medical services.

Whether big or small, each of us has an important role to play in ensuring clean water access for all.

As Corporate Director, ESG, Josh Richards leads Transwestern’s Energy & Sustainability efforts, supporting national operations for all clients. He is spearheading projects from energy and water efficiency to enhancing asset valuation through cost-effective and environmentally conscious investment.


Energy & Sustainability 
Indoor Air Quality: Building Alternatives