Ask Eartha Steward: Water conservation |

Ask Eartha Steward: Water conservation

special to the daily
High Country Conservation Center

Dear Eartha,

We live in one of those areas that water is a factor all the time. One day soon water will be the new oil. Don’t you think we can do better to conserve as a society than we are? I think the time to discuss this is now, do you agree?

” Fran Savarick, Breckenridge

I certainly agree that more conservation education and action is crucial. The Conservation Center does not focus on water specifically, although as an organization working on general resource conservation (in addition to waste reduction, efficient and renewable energies, and sustainable building) we encourage discussions on the subject.

When we expanded from a waste reduction organization in 2006, we discussed including water conservation as a focus area.

It was determined that water issues are so large in Colorado that it should be the main focus for a single organization, which it is for the Blue River Watershed Group, whose mission is to protect, restore and promote a healthy Blue River watershed through cooperative community education, stewardship and resource management. The organization is growing and poised to be the water resource here.

Additionally, Scott Hummer, our local water commissioner has won awards in the past few years for his hard work on water conservation issues.

Therefore we do have local experts working hard and their voices will only become more important as time passes.

There is much that each of us can do to reduce our impacts on water use:

– Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators. If your shower can fill a one gallon bucket in 20 seconds, a low-flow showerhead is needed.

– Retrofit older toilets with an easy to install device that will convert that old water hog (or use the old trick of placing a tub in the back of the toilet to reduce the water released with each flush). When installing a new toilet consider a fancy dual-flush that has one button for “liquid-flushes” and another for “solid-flushes” … if you get my drift. This and the retrofit for older toilets are both available at the Ecoasis next to 7-Eleven in Breckenridge.

– Replace your lawn with beautiful natives and Xeriscape plants.

– Compost. This will reduce the need for water on both indoor and outdoor plants.

– Catch gray water (such as the water you run waiting for the proper temperature in your shower) and reuse it for your plants.

– Only run your dishwasher and washing machine when they are full.

– Purchase water and energy efficient appliances only.

– Recycle. Much water is saved in recycling, for example recycling aluminum saves 95 percent of the water used processing new aluminum and paper 60 percent.

Do you do all of these things already and yet feel that more can be done? Or that just these simple changes can’t quite possibly make the dent we need to make in order to make a difference?

You may now expect me to say, as I often have before, that small changes have a collective impact. And usually that is all I have to say, for it is true. But in this case there is one thing that you can do that is often not mentioned in water conservation discussions and yet, it truly has a much larger impact than the before mentioned actions … although, those are important too.

This change, if taken by all Americans, would reduce water use by 256,000,000,000 (that’s 256 Billion) cubic meters per year. That is equivalent to the annual flow of 14 Colorado rivers.

What is this change with such a large impact? Well, you may not like my answer, but it is reducing your meat intake by half. Even better, obviously, would be to quit eating meat entirely.

I have heard people argue that it isn’t fair to compare the gallons of water that beef requires per pound to that of wheat, as beef provides more calories and protein per pound. Unfortunately, that argument doesn’t hold water.

The Global Water Policy Project did the math and found that per ounce of protein, beef uses seven times as much water as wheat. When you compare them on equal calorie counts, beef uses 25 times as much water.

And when you compare other meat (poultry, etc) and non-meat (veggies, beans, etc) options it becomes painfully obvious that even those animals that skimp on water, use more than the biggest water hogs of the plant world.

So there you have it. Point blank. Your biggest step to conserve water is to go vegetarian ” so the next time you get frustrated with your neighbor running the sprinkler in the rain, take a look at your plate. If a big juicy burger lies before you, perhaps you should start making changes at home first.

Check out the Vegetarian Starter Kit from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine ( to get started.

Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier, Holly Loff, and Beth Orstad, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylie shoes.

Submit questions to Eartha at or to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.

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