Hey Mr. Green,
How can I convince others that household water conservation is important?
--Matthew in New Paltz, New York
You better believe conservation is important: Waste precious water and you should be sentenced to take a cold shower with Dick Cheney. You can choose from gallons of arguments to convince people of this, but let's start with four points--pollution, wildlife, money, and stench.
When lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers contain less water (in part because more of it is irrigating lawns and dripping from faucets), pollutants become more concentrated. If we decrease water use, it could reduce the need for new dams and reservoirs that can mess up wildlife habitat.
That might be enough to win over outdoorsy types. When dealing with those who don't give a damn about nature, aim for their wallets. Pumping and treating water in the United States uses around 56 billion kilowatt-hours a year--enough power for 5 million homes. Based on the average national electric rate (about nine cents per kilowatt-hour), that's more than $5 billion worth of energy. The cost of wasting water also affects individual households, where heating water typically accounts for about 14 percent of total energy use.
Finally, stench: Conserving water--36 states expect to have shortages within five years--helps ensure that we have enough H2O to keep us tolerably clean (and safely hydrated) for years to come.