When I first saw Sinead O’Connor’s hairless scalp pop up on MTV, I was a bit flabbergasted. I assumed the pop artist’s baldness was due either to a medical problem or an attempt to stand out among the many freakish rockers of music videos. Later, I learned that Sinead had shaved her head to conserve water. I guess she figured that people waste a lot of water when washing their hair.
Understandably, many of us do not feel quite generous enough to sacrifice our hair to save water. But it often seems as if we are doing nothing at all to conserve one of our most valuable yet most undervalued natural resources. Water is such an asset to our everyday lives. It cools us on hot days by filling our swimming pools and showering us with soft, summer rain. It pipes through our houses, making it possible for us to wash our hands and bodies and dispose of our excretory waste with ease and safety. It nourishes us, enabling us to cook our food, quench our thirst, and grow our fruits and vegetables. Our very lives depend upon the presence of water.
And how do we treat this resource that is such a priceless necessity to us? We pour tall glasses of water that we do not drink and carelessly toss it down the sink. We leave faucets, hydrants, and garden hoses running when we are not even using it. Unlike Sinead, we indulge ourselves in the shower, many of us washing our hair every day and running the water excessively when we bathe. Worst of all, we often acknowledge water only as a garbage can, lazily tossing our trash in it while picnicking or driving alongside a river. Many factories spill oil and toxic waste into our water, sometimes by accident, sometimes deliberately.
We cannot live without water; therefore, we must stop abusing it. Because the water cycle is our sole provider of water, we are using the same water over and over again. In order to keep a healthy, lasting supply of water, we can begin by doing a better job of keeping it clean. One of the simplest acts, which even a small child can make, is to refrain from throwing trash in the water. It takes so little effort just to walk to a garbage can or, when on to the road, to keep the trash in the car until it can be thrown away at home. We can also implore our government officials to aid in keeping the water clean, writing letters to them with suggestions for doing so. For instance, the government could develop a system that uses prison labor to clean up the litter thrown in the water. Certainly, prisoners would be doing more for society by cleaning up the water than by sitting in their cells watching television. We could also suggest that our government impose stricter fines for water pollution and use part of our taxes for, upgrades of water purification systems, and even research into superior systems.
Research is needed on water systems because they are far from perfect. Some of the water we use, clean and unclean, cannot pass through the purification system without exposure to bacteria and unclean water. When this happens, the water may not be able to be sanitized enough for reuse. Until we have perfect purification systems and endless water supplies, we must do everything we can to preserve the water we have. There are simple, little things we can do in our everyday lives to keep from wasting water. We can fill our drinking glasses with only the amount of water we know we will drink and only the amount of ice needed to keep water and other liquids cold. We can turn off the garden hoses, faucets, and hydrants while we are not using them. Many of us have formed the bad habit of leaving the faucet on the entire time we are brushing our teeth. The water is really needed only when we wet the toothbrush, rinse our mouths, and rinse out the sink. Thus, we could run the water only before and after brushing our teeth, leaving the faucet off while we brush.
Sometimes we do not really waste water; we just use a little more when we could get by with a little less. Obviously, water must be used to wash our belongings, such as cars and clothes. Yet we can cut down on the frequency with which we wash both. Cars usually get dirty right after they are washed anyway, and clothes that have been worn for only a couple of hours to dine out or attend church usually are not dirty at all. Whenever we do wash clothes, we can do our best to wash as many clothes as we can in one load without overloading our washing machines. We can also use less water when we shower and bathe. We can take shorter showers and fill the tub up with less water. We do not have to shave our heads like Sinead, but the average person’s hair does not get dirty after twenty-four hours, so we do not usually need to wash our hair every day. Finally, as the slogan on numerous bathroom plaques suggests, we can “shower with a friend.” Of course, this is a little more practical for small children than adults, but some couples may find the idea of showering with each other romantic. Following these suggestions can save not only water but also money; knowing that should motivate most of us to try them.
All of these suggestions for saving water are small ones. Some individuals may feel that following these suggestions is futile, believing that “one person cannot make a difference.” Indeed, one person who follows some or even all of these suggestions may leave only a drop in the bucket. But if several people put forth the effort, the drops in the bucket may finally add up to a full bucket of water.