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How are you celebrating World Water Day?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/22/12 @ 8:33pm

Today is World Water Day, a United Nations awareness campaign for the 1 billion people on the planet who survive without practical (or any) access to water. Our European colonists carved out an encampment in Northeast Ohio because of its strategic location as a shipping channel, and for its abundant resource, Lake Erie, still our source of drinking water.

I'm inspired by Whole Living magazine's "50 ways to save water"-easy steps we can take every day to conserve our most precious resource. I've decided to build on the motto, "do one thing green every day" and focus my attention on water for the week. Here's one small thing I'll try every day to improve Lake Erie water.

Thursday March 22, 2012

Drink Local, Drink Tap. It's not only an inspiring campaign led by Cleveland youth to keep Lake Erie's waters clean, and to dig a well for a Ugandan village. It's also a great idea. I'll drink Cleveland tap today because:

  • Drinking 8 cups of water every day helps keep me looking and feeling great
  • Cleveland tap is regularly checked for toxins, bacteria and because of that I know it's safe to drink (check your water system's Consumer Confidence Report, which lists contaminants and violations of water standards. Go to http://www.epa.gov)
  • I support the local economy drinking water pumped from Lake Erie and treated in a Cleveland facility
  • I kicked the bottled water habit. As Fiji found out, Cleveland water is cleaner. Plus, did you know it takes three liters of water to make a 1-liter bottle of water? (I kicked the plastic bottle habit after watching "Tapped" and hearing Marcus Eriksen talk about the Texas-sized patch of plastic junk floating in the ocean).


I think I'll kick back with a locally produced brew tonight. There are so many great local beers to choose from, but I'm still loyal to Great Lakes Brewing Co. They recycle their glass bottles, they upcycle spent grain as a food ingredient, they green-built their enclosed patio, and they hire refugees to work on a farm across the street in Ohio City and a second farm in the Cuyahoga Valley-using the food and herbs in their beer and food. And they sponsor the Burning River Fest, a reminder that Cleveland cut way back on polluting the Cuyahoga River and now sees it as a source for healthier living.


I'm starting a new tradition, Take a Shower Sabbath. Like some families taking an Internet Sabbath, I'm told showering every other day is waaay better for your skin and scalp. An average person uses about 123 gallons (466 liters) of water daily, and the shower is the biggie at 15-20 gallons. In our shower, we installed a low-flow showerhead about 8 years ago-its water use is 2.5 gallons per minute. You can save up to 500 gallons of water a year by installing aerators on faucets and low-flow shower heads that today offer 1.5 gpm. Whole Living recommends the Neoperl 1.5 GPM Household Aerator Replacement Kit with four aerators and a wrench available for $11 at Home Depot. (Btw, this morning for World Water Day I challenged myself to take a five minute shower-I did it!).


Here's a little challenge-Go for a hike and find your nearest watershed. For me, it's Doan Brook and I can find it flowing right through my neighborhood. Thanks to some intrepid environmentalists-Shaker ladies in tennis shoes back in the 1960s-I can hike upstream and experience nature in the city, where the brook is dammed to form the Shaker Lakes. Downstream, when I walk to work, I see ? and often smell ? the brook flowing through Lakeview Cemetery. As I walk or bike along Mayfield, I wonder what possessed us to build such a giant spillway and dam in Lakeview? What natural disaster were they expecting? Today, new thinking has emerged that collectively as homeowners we can reduce the need for a hundred foot tall concrete dam or a part of a billion dollar sewer project by installing rain barrels, rain gardens and a native plant garden, which we're doing instead of a front lawn at our house. Water used on lawns and gardens accounts for 40 percent of household use (native plants are more drought resistant) Maybe when we've all captured rain on our property, we'll be able to take down the dam in Lakeview or unbury a brook?


Laundry day. Have you taken the cold water challenge washing your clothes? We did and it works just as well as warm, even with phosphorous free detergents (we buy brands from Whole Foods that are eco-friendly). Chemicals from washing clothes and from factory farms are killing fish and are the biggest source of pollution in our drinking water (Lake Erie)-bigger than industry. Environment America held a press conference today to alert us that we're "Wasting Our Waterways". Also, did you know that an EnergyStar washer can save 43,000 gallons of water over its lifetime?



Must. Resist. Temptation to mow lawn. I couldn't believe my eyes walking in to work this morning ? the big mowers were out on Wade Oval. Most of us should be spared from mowing for a few months. Actually, I read that it is healthier and saves a ton of water to let your grass grow to three inches tall. In fact, set your mower higher now and you'll help your lawn stay green longer-so say the better lawncare companies. Also, keep the lawn and garden looking great and save money by only watering early in the morning or in the evening. Never in Midday when 80% will evaporate or worse, burn the leaves with the hot sun. We're looking forward to the annual native plant sales-Natural History Museum, Shaker Lakes Nature Center, Holden Arboretum to name a few-to fill in our native shade garden. And we're crossing our fingers for a less flood-or-famine growing season in our community garden plot.


Here's GCBL's vision for sustainable water use in Northeast Ohio:

We are water beings. Our bodies are mostly water, and at every moment we are exchanging water molecules with the surrounding environment. Indeed, we have a more intimate relationship with our local lakes and streams than with any person. As people of the Great Lakes, we are also stewards of the largest bodies of freshwater on the planet-a global resource of incalculable value. In many ways, our legacy will be determined by how well we care for water. We have come a long way in the past 40 years, and we are committed to doing even better in the future. We will celebrate water and be an example to the world.

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