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Nature & Environment Understanding the Best Ways to Conserve Water

Understanding the Best Ways to Conserve Water

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First Posted: Mar 03, 2014 04:28 PM EST
 Study Knocks Claims between Fluoridated Water and IQ Deficits
Study Knocks Claims between Fluoridated Water and IQ Deficits (Photo : Maegan Tintari)

A national survey conducted by researchers from Indiana University shows that many are confused about the best ways to conserve water.

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According to experts, the best strategy to conserve may consist of focusing on improvements through devices such as toilets and washing machines. However, the largest group of study participants at nearly 43 percent cited taking shorter showers as the best way to conserve water when in fact, this may save water but is not a very effective action for coping with the problem. Hardly any cited replacing toilets or flushing less as a way to reserve water resources, according to background information from the findings.

"People may be focusing on curtailment or cutting back rather than efficiency improvements because of the upfront costs involved," said lead study author Shahzeen Attari, an assistant professor at Indiana University Bloomington's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, via a press release. "It is also surprising how few participants mentioned retrofitting their toilets. Even though toilets use less water volumetrically than washers and showers per use, the frequency of use results in the highest water use overall."

The survey asked 1,020 participants to estimate the water used by 17 different activities, including everything from flushing the toilet to taking their car through a car wash. Results showed, on average, that participants typically underestimated their water use by a factor or two, with severe underestimates involving heavy water use.

Researchers said they believe that many side factors could lead to better accuracy regarding individual's better understanding of both water and energy use. For instance, participants with stronger pro-environmental attitudes show more accurate perceptions of energy use but not water use. Being older and male also showed a more accurate perception of water use but not energy use.

Lastly, the research showed that participants had no clue regarding how much water was involved in the production of such foods as coffee, rice, cheese and sugar.

"Given that we will need to adapt to more uncertain fresh water supplies, a problem that the state of California is currently grappling with, we need to find ways to correct misperceptions to help people adapt to temporary or long-term decreases in freshwater supply," Attari concluded, via the release.

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More information regarding the findings were presented at the March 3 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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