The Colorado River supplies more than 40 million people with clean drinking water, not to mention farms that feed people across the United States. If you’ve eaten a salad in winter, you’ve most likely eaten lettuce grown by a farm in southern Arizona or southern California, which use the Colorado River for irrigation water.
Unfortunately as towns and cities have increased in population, more and more water has been taken from the Colorado River. If we don’t use water more wisely, communities and farms in places like Arizona might see drastic water cuts. Without enough water, the majestic river—and the fish and wildlife that depend on it—could be irreparably harmed.
The positive news is that small steps can add up to a lot of good, starting with our everyday water use. You may have heard about turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth (which can save a whopping 3000 gallons of water per year), and there are other easy things you can do to be a hero for the West’s hardest working river:
1. Use your fridge, not your faucet to defrost frozen foods.
Defrosting food in the fridge instead of under running water can save up to 1,800 gallons of water a year!
Composting rather than putting food waste down the garbage disposal could save 50 – 150 gallons of water per month. Plus, it’s excellent for your garden.
3. Only run your dishwasher or washing machine when they are full.
Clothes washers and dishwashers are more efficient with water and energy when washing a full load. By maximizing what you wash at one time, you can save on your utility bill, and help the Colorado River thrive. (In the market for a new machine? Choose high-efficiency models with the EnergyStar label and check with your local government for incentive programs. Some cities offer significant rebates to customers who purchase water-efficient appliances.)
4. Got a lawn? Raise your blade and cut grass so that it’s 3 inches in height or more.
Avoiding a close shave on your lawn encourages grass to form deep roots and retain more water. Set your lawnmower blade so that it never cuts more than 1/3 of the grass blade. Don’t forget to aerate for maximum water penetration, too. (Ready for a landscaping re-do? Consider replacing your lawn with attractive xeriscaping and plants that work well for your local climate. The Colorado River will thank you.)
5. Water landscaping smartly.
In the arid West, about one half of residential water is used for irrigation, and according to the EPA, nearly 50% of that water is wasted. Water only when necessary, and avoid watering the pavement. Set sprinklers to water in the early mornings and evenings, and don’t run the system in windy weather.
6. Share your knowledge about saving water and its benefits for the Colorado River.
Ok, we said 5 easy tips—but here’s a 6th. Raising awareness about how our personal water usage directly affects the Colorado River will go a long way toward solving the problem. Many people don’t realize when they turn on the tap that their water can come directly from the river or one of its tributaries. (Did you know about 50% of the city of Denver’s water comes from the Colorado River!?) Share this article or share our pledge to be a Colorado River Hero.
By taking water-wise steps, you’re supporting the mighty Colorado River in a big way.