Water conservation programs typically include residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural uses. Programs to conserve water use might be voluntary or mandatory, depending on region. They include strategies to consume less water, recycle water, and eliminate waste through run-off from poor drainage systems. Some water conservation programs offer incentives to replace landscaping needing frequent irrigation with drought-tolerant plants.
One of the most common water conservation programs encourages low-flow toilets and shower heads. Cities and counties might offer audits to measure water consumption, which could identify leaks that waste water. Cash incentives might be offered for homeowners or business owners who retrofit toilets and showers with newer water-saving devices.
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Recycling and re-using water represents another facet of water conservation programs. These strategies include collecting rain water to wash vehicles and water landscaping. Bath water can also be used to water outdoor plants. Treated wastewater is used in some areas to water city parks, golf courses, and other areas requiring frequent irrigation.
Conservation when irrigating might include agricultural users and private homes. Reducing run-off from poor drainage systems might lower the amount of water needed. Farmers who use large-scale irrigation systems might place the devices on timers to cut waste. Some timers come equipped with sensors that turn off automatically when rain is detected. Avoiding irrigation during the hottest part of the day also saves water.
Water conservation programs might offer rebates for buying appliances rated as water-saving devices, such as washing machines and dishwashers. Municipal water companies might also reward citizens for reducing consumption through lower water rates. Customers who exceed recommended limits might be penalized with higher water bills. In some areas, water conservation plans are incorporated into energy conservation programs that include recycling, composting, and preserving air quality.
Restrictions on water use typically apply in areas where research predicts a shortage of this natural resource. Some regions prohibit washing down exterior hard surfaces or limit outdoor irrigation to certain days of the week. The government might require all new development to install water-saving bathroom fixtures and drought-tolerant landscaping. These water conservation programs might be implemented in arid regions where rapid growth and scant rainfall threaten existing water supplies.
Most conservation programs include an educational component to encourage reduction of consumption. Education might include statistics on existing water supplies and threats to future availability. Studies might show how underground aquifers fail to recharge fast enough to meet demand or that lake levels are consistently dropping. Loss of wetland areas might also affect resources.