Here in Clark County and throughout the Pacific Northwest, it seems like water is everywhere. Not only are we lucky to have an amazing network of streams, lakes, and rivers, but our region borders the Pacific Ocean. Of course, we’re also known as an area where it rains … a lot! These water systems are connected by the water cycle, which is why water is considered a renewable resource. So why do we need to worry about water use if the rain will just keep falling? It’s complicated, and understanding it is important for becoming a steward of our area’s natural resources. Learn more below!
Water is renewable … but not limitless
Water is considered a renewable resource but it’s also a limited resource. This means that although rain will restock our water systems, it’s possible for humans to use water faster than it can be replenished. And the more humans that use water, the less surplus we have. For example, there are a lot of people in Clark County – almost 490,000 – and the number keeps growing. As more people rely on local water sources, it’s extremely important that everyone uses it wisely.
Only 1% of all the water on the Earth can be used by people. That’s not very much usable water! Most of the Earth’s water is salt water or frozen, which isn’t available for drinking, cooking, or watering.
Simple ways to conserve water
We can all take simple steps to reduce how much water we use:
- Turning off the water while brushing teeth and doing dishes can save water.
- Showering, especially with a water-saving showerhead, uses less water than filling up a bathtub. While a bath might be fun, it takes about 70 gallons to fill up. Compare that to the 10 to 25 gallons used during a shower!
- Choose and use your appliances carefully.
- Leaky sinks and toilets can waste large amounts of water — up to 200 gallons a day in the case of the toilet! Ask an adult to fix any leaks you notice.
- Washing a car or a bike? Use a bucket of water instead of a hose, which can waste six gallons of water a minute if left running.
- Install a duel flush toilet so you use less water when flushing liquids.
- Set up a rain barrel. This relatively simple DIY project involves a barrel or other large container that collects and stores rainwater from the roof. This water can be used to water plants.
While the Pacific Northwest is known for being rainy, it’s not as rainy as it used to be. For example, our region has experienced a growing number of droughts and heatwaves over the past decade, both of which affect how much water we receive and how quickly our aquifers refill.
Heatwaves affect the quantity and quality of drinking water in many areas. Above ground reservoirs can completely dry up, which doesn’t leave any water for the surrounding communities. And when rivers and streams have low water levels, the water can become stagnant and encourage the growth of bacteria so it’s unsafe to use. Today, some areas in our region are so dry that they’re considered in a drought, meaning there’s not enough water, and even a period of heavy rain doesn’t lift drought conditions.
Use food dye to check for toilet leaks!
You can usually hear if you have a leaky sink, but how do you know if your toilet is leaking? Ask an adult to help drop food dye in the toilet’s tank. If you see the color in the bowl without flushing the toilet, then it has a leak.