Boil water advisory was eye-opening experience

Published 6:32 am Monday, April 3, 2017

If you go to the nearest faucet and turn it on right now, what will happen? If it’s a typical day, water will come out of it and you could do anything with that water. It’s clean water that you can use to brush your teeth, make some tea or get a drink.

And while most of us are aware that in other places in the world, the water coming out of your faucet may not be safe to consume, here it almost always is safe for us, and that’s something that we take for granted. I’m guilty of it, too. The convenience of turning on a tap and getting clean water is something that I usually don’t think about.

This week, however, when I got home, I had a bright yellow door hanger on my front door that said “Boil Water Advisory.” This is actually the first time in my adult life that I have had a boil water advisory. It was a new and eye-opening experience. For a couple of days last week, I really had to think before I did a lot of everyday tasks.

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Before I brushed my teeth, I had to remember that I couldn’t use tap water. Before I got a drink out of the sink, I had to think twice. Instead of boiling water, I actually have a stock of bottled water that I dipped into. Any time I end up with a plastic bottle of water — which isn’t very often — I either clean and refill it with water, or leave it unopened. I stockpile these occasional water bottles in case of emergency. It’s a great way to ensure you always have water on hand and a great way to give plastic water bottles a second or third life, so they’re not quite so wasteful.

In this case, it wasn’t a real emergency so much as it was just easier to use the bottled water instead of boiling water. Now that I am no longer under a boil water advisory, I’m going to be refilling my plastic water bottles and putting them back in the laundry room until they are needed again.

Using water from water bottles really made me realize how much water I’m using. This was evident to me especially when I was brushing my teeth. I didn’t think that I used much water to brush my teeth, but when I can see exactly how much water I’m using out of the bottle, I realized that I’m using quite a bit. I don’t even leave the water running while I brush my teeth, but still I know I can conserve more.

The more water that we conserve the more that we help the environment. Once that water goes down the drain, it will have to be treated again, and that will take more energy and chemicals. So it’s best to use less in the first place — reduce comes first in “reduce, reuse, recycle” for a reason.

According to the EPA, turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth twice a day can save up to 8 gallons of water every day. Over the course of a month, that is about 200 gallons. That is enough water to fill a huge fish tank that can hold 6 small sharks. It’s also enough water to make a difference in your water bill.

Every little bit that you do helps. Make sure you are turning off the water while you brush your teeth and wash your hands. That water is just going straight down the drain, along with your money.

If you want to see how much water you are using, challenge yourself to use only a glass of water while brushing your teeth. Fill the cup with water and see if you can go through your teeth-brushing routine and only use one cup of water.

Amanda’s Animal Fact of the Week

Great White Sharks can have up to 300 triangular shaped teeth in several rows.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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