Water Conservation: Appreciating and Conserving Lake Michigan

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Every day two million gallons of water are pumped out of Lake Michigan and 15-20% is wasted. We got tips on conserving water at home and at work through the Chicago Green Office Challenge.

What is our water worth? Chicagoans sometimes take Lake Michigan for granted. From its beautiful fresh-water beaches to all of the recreational activities the Lake and River support, it’s easy to forget how important Lake Michigan is to us in supporting the less fun things that we need to do everyday.

According to the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago’s three million residents, and many residents from the surrounding suburbs, rely on the Great Lakes for water, using one billion gallons of water bathing, laundry and industry every day.

Regardless of how Lake Michigan has bettered your life, as Chicagoland residents, we all have the responsibility in maintaining and preserving this great resource for our own use and for future generations.

Chicago's skyline from Lake Michigan

Chicago’s skyline from Lake Michigan

Water Conservation: A HOT TOPIC

Water conservation is a hot topic, discussed not only in the United States but throughout the entire world. In high school, my environmental sciences teacher would say that future wars wouldn’t be fought over oil, but over a lack of clean water.

You may have recently read headlines in August about radioactive contaminations at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, ongoing clean up from oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, wells running dry in Texas near the sites of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), or caught the buzz on social media about the ongoing struggle to provide clean water to the one in nine people in developing countries who currently lack it.

My teacher may not have been that far off.

Chicago Green Office Challenge: Water Conservation Training

In late August, I had the opportunity to attend a Water Conservation Training session at Willis Tower for the Chicago Green Office Challenge.  At the session, we were able to learn more about how water is transported throughout the City of Chicago.

For those of us in the northeast part of Illinois, Lake Michigan accounts for 77% of all the water we use, with groundwater making up 19% and the Fox and Kankakee rivers accounting for the remaining 4%. The water pumped out of Lake Michigan travels as far out Plainview, IL which is approximately 65 miles west.

Each day, around 2 billion gallons of water is pumped out of Lake Michigan and each day, between 15-20% of this water is wasted. While the Metropolitan Planning Council is working hard to lower these percentages, residents of the city should also be more conscious of their usage as well.

Make Small Changes For A Big Impact

So how can I personally help conserve water and preserve Lake Michigan? Well there are a ton of small changes people can make in their daily lives that can make huge changes in the amount of water in Lake Michigan. For example, taking shorter showers, making sure there are no leaks or water issues in your home (such as a running toilet), purchasing efficient dishwashers and laundry washing machines, and many more. While your efforts may not seem like much now, in the long run, it can make a huge difference and you will feel much better about yourself for your conscious efforts.

At the presentation, I also learned from the Alliance for Water Efficiency that buildings in general within the United States use approximately 15 trillion gallons (or 14% of all water usage) of water a year; with office buildings making up 9% of that.While household water conservation is important, we must remember to continue habits of water conservation beyond our personal lives.

At Mightybytes, we try our best to conserve as much water as we can. For example, we strive to waste the minimal amount of water when making coffee; reaching a 1% wasted water percentage during certain weeks. We tracked this by putting up a sheet of paper above the coffee maker, where people could track how many cups of coffee were brewed and how many were poured, out of a given pot. Additionally, we provide filtered tap water to discourage the purchase of bottled water, purchased an EnergyStar rated dish washer, and meet all the federal requirements and/or better for water efficiency in regards to our toilet and sinks.

Coffee chart

A simple chart tacked up above the coffee maker helps Mightybytes track water waste. Not surprisingly, Mightybytes is extremely efficient when it comes to caffeine consumption.

What are your favorite tips for conserving water? Leave a comment below and we’ll share your suggestions on social media.

Mightybytes' savvy intern Kevin Ma is also a student at Bentley University, majoring in Marketing and Earth, Environment, and Global Sustainability. Mightybytes is a full-service creative firm for conscious companies and a certified B Corporation. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest or fill out our contact form.