Growing up, we must have been told many times to not waste water. I remember my parents telling me to “get out of the shower, you are taking too long”, “turn the water off while you are brushing your teeth” or “quit wasting water” sometimes daily. My parents were practical people who believed the adage waste not, what not and they had a way of making it difficult for me and my siblings when we were not compliant. Looking back, I’m glad they persisted instilling in us the value of water and conserving it. 

Water is our world’s most precious natural resource and it is especially important to Florida in that we depend on it for our economy as well as our health and wellbeing. In Florida, we are blessed with an average of 50 inches of rainfall annually. That amount spread over our state’s 58,500 square miles equates to 50.5 trillion gallons of rainwater each year. While that may seem like it would be an ample supply for our 21,000,000-plus citizens and 100,000,000-plus annual visitors, the Natural Resource Defense Council named Florida one of the 14 states at high risk of a water shortage by 2050.

The focus for this year’s Save of Water Week is CONSERVATION and to be successful in achieving that goal we all need to take a long hard look at ourselves and how we use water. You might be surprised to know that most of us use about 100 gallons of water a day in our daily routines. Many of us use much more. In fact, often several times that amount. In Florida, that average translates to roughly 800 billion gallons per year and that doesn’t begin to include what is used in our home maintenance, service industries, manufacturing, agriculture, personal animals, recreation, or automobiles.   It takes 9 gallons of water just to process one small can of fruit or vegetables.  Our water usage has more than doubled in the last 30 years, irrespective of our population increases, and that trend is accelerating. 

The best way we can help conserve our water is by reducing waste. Believe it or not, most of the water we use on a daily basis goes down the toilet. Many times, toilets are not being used for their intended function and items such as baby wipes, tissues, and other items are being thrown into toilets and flushed instead of being disposed of properly in the trash or recycle. This not only wastes water, it can damage septic systems that can lead to other issues and pollution. Also, the seals in toilets often tend to not seat properly or wear out leading to leaks and constant running that wastes gallons of water daily. We need to make a conscious effort in checking our toilets to ensure they are operating properly and use them only as they are intended and not as trash receptacles.  

Another major source of water usage is our washing machines. We should try and do laundry when we have a full load so we get the most efficient use out of the water being used each cycle. This may take some planning and a routine schedule, but it will make a big difference in the water we use. 

In recent years, the Florida Legislature and governors Scott and DeSantis have developed significant policy initiatives and  invested billions of dollars in protecting, restoring, preserving and conserving Florida’s waters. Many of those dollars have found their way into our communities to restore our rivers, protect our first magnitude springs, reduce the nutrient run off through septic to sewer conversions, broader use of agricultural best practices, managing storm water, recycling waste water and, more recently, planning resiliency for climate change and sea level rise. These efforts are making a significant impact, but we also need to look to ourselves and what we can do personally. 

Lastly, there are the showers, tubs and sinks. Without going into any detail about the why we spend so much time with the water running, we just need to all spend less time with the faucets open during those daily practices.  It’s important to teach our children to do the same. Think about saving whenever you turn on the faucets.

Conservation is never easy. It takes a conscious effort and a little sacrifice on the part of everyone to make a noticeable difference. Human nature tends to lead us towards self-gratification and that often leads to indulging ourselves and being wasteful. Success rarely happens in one fell swoop, it is more often the culmination of consistent hard work, dedication and self-sacrifice over an extensive period of time that achieves results.   

With respect to our water, we need to consider the next generation in how we use the water available to us as well as educate them to consider the generation after them so that through all our efforts to conserve this amazing resource, we’ll preserve it for use long into the future. 

Let’s make our parents proud and our children grateful.  Let’s preserve Florida’s wonderful water for tomorrow by conserving it today! 

Dr. Ralph Massullo is a state representative in the Florida Legislature representing District 34.  He has degrees in industrial engineering and medicine.

Article last accessed on Sept. 15, 2021 here.