Published: June 18, 2015

    2nd Place Pelican Water Scholarship Winner: Valerie Chen

    Valerie Chen is a junior at the University of Washington. A member of the Dean’s List, Valerie placed second in the 2015 Pelican Water Scholarship Competition, winning a $1,000 scholarship.

    Valerie’s submission suggested using role models to promote practical, easy-to-implement water conservation strategies, such as installing water-efficient showerheads and low-flush toilets. Her essay is available below. Pelican Water would like to congratulate Valerie, and we wish her success in her studies. Check out her submission below!

    Think Before You Flush

    By: Valerie Chen

    “Think Before You Flush” should be Pelican Water Systems’ new slogan.

    Did you know, according to WaterSense, an average American family of four uses approximately 400 gallons of water a day? What exactly do we use it on? Much of the water is being drained down due to showers, faucets, and washing machines. Leaks are also one of the big contributors of water usage. According to National Geographic, 10 gallons per day is lost to leaks. The unnecessary leaky hose you may have is costing big bucks and also taking up Earth’s water supply. The biggest contributor however is toilets! “Standard toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush, while older toilets can use as much as 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush” WaterSense.

    UntitledIt may seem like Earth is supplied with endless amount of water since Earth’s surface is made up 71% water. However, out of that 71% only 2% is fresh water. Not only that, but out of that 2% only 1% is drinkable water according to Sunnyslope County Water District. The human body is made up of 75% water. Water is essential to our lives and to the many others that inhabits this planet. Water is also used in many ways that may not be apparent at first. All according to National Geographic, one gallon of gasoline takes 13 gallons of water to produce. Water is also a way to generate electricity. The t-shirt you probably have on, well it took about 100 gallons of water to process a single pound of cotton. And the laptop you may be reading this essay off of, it took enough water to wash 70 loads of laundry to make. Water is used in many indirect ways we never thought of, not just for drinking and plumbing purposes. Many things you enjoy to do or enjoy to have most likely consist of water as an ingredient.

    The reality of using up Earth’s water supply results in affecting the water cycle according to EPA. And changes have already occurred:

    Over the past 50 years, the amount of rain falling during the most intense 1% of storms increased by almost 20%.  Warming winter temperatures cause more precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow. Furthermore, rising temperatures cause snow to begin melting earlier in the year. This alters the timing of streamflow in rivers that have their sources in mountainous areas.

    The rise in water temperature will raise the demand of water for people and animals. Plants and food crops will also be needing water but as long as the temperature increases so will the competition for water resources.

    The water cycle effect will also impact the water quality. EPA also mentions the increase in rainfall is a factor in changing water cycle. The increase in rainfall will overwhelm rivers and lakes, causing “sediment, nutrients, pollutants, trash, animal waste, and other materials into water supplies, making them unusable, unsafe, or in need of water treatment”. Sea level will also rise, making saltwater move into freshwater. The source of freshwater will decrease as saltwater slowly mixes with our freshwater source. Water managers will need to seek for alternative water sources or increase desalination, removal of salt from water, from our saltwater supply.

    EPA gives great tips on how to significantly reduce our water usage at home. EPA mentions to turn off the faucet when brushing or shaving to “save a person more than 200 gallons of water per month”. Or “not rinsing dishes prior to loading the dishwasher could save up to 10 gallons per load”. Sunnyslope County Water District also provides helpful suggestions to decrease the staggering statistics of how much water is being used. Watering your grass and trees more heavily but less frequently not only saves water but builds stronger roots. If you step on your lawn and the grass bounces back up, it is unnecessary to water it; however, if it remains flat then it needs to be watered. Do not drain water when it can be used to serve another purpose, like water plants or cleaning. An automatic dishwasher can actually save up to 11 gallons of water in oppose to hand washing. Just from these two sources I was able to find an abundant amount of tips I can implement into my lifestyle that can drastically decrease water usage and my family’s water bill.

    It is not difficult to reduce the amount of water we use. It is just a matter of applying these techniques into our lives. What is difficult is to raise awareness and inform the public. We have to market water conservation. Marketing branches off to various strategies. For an example, marketing a Mcdouble is different for marketing a high end watch. A Mcdouble may have a BOGO coupon whereas the watch may have a reliable warranty. Both marketing strategies do come to similar results, a great return on the product that attracts consumers. Selling the idea of conserving water is a bit different because you are not selling a product but awareness and a conservationist lifestyle. Some marketing techniques I would implement is having a highly looked upon role model advertise the idea, like how NFL players endorse Nike. This will attract the public into this topic that they were originally not aware of. Or have products that can promote water conservationist lifestyle and attract new members. Similarly, how PETA allows you to be a member of their program by a quick online sign up and each member has potential to win points win they go through a task PETA creates. They can be small tasks like changing your Facebook profile picture of you holding a PETA sign. This way the members are spreading the word of PETA’s mission and PETA in return gives points to that person and with those points they can select an array of PETA products. Giving out PETA products is another win for PETA because it promotes their name by having their members wear or use their item. There are multiple ways to successfully market a proposition; you just have to create the strategy for what works best.

    The reason why I chose the slogan “Think Before You Flush” is because of its simplicity, catchiness, and unusualness. It is not a typical cliché slogan that leaves many overlooking the meaning. Not only that, but it also reflects the ordinary actions we find ourselves doing on the daily basis that can cause a bigger impact tomorrow. “Think Before You Flush” not only questions our toilet flushing, it captures the idea of unnecessary water usage. Think before you wash a car, think before you shower, think before you brush your teeth, think before you water your plants, all of this is captured in the “Think Before You Flush” notion.

    To begin impacting a positive change to our limited water, we will all have to re-evaluate our lifestyles. That being said, I hope this paper makes you think before your actions that may cause consequences tomorrow.