Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Conserving Water or Marriage

"Will Lick for Food"
When writing about dishwashers, I am entering a foreign land ruled by my wife Barb.  On Bull Creek with no dishwasher, we do hand-to-hand combat with dried egg yolk and remnants of spaghetti sauce.  There is an even easier way but Barb won't allow it.

David Casaletto wrote an interesting article about the effect of mandated changes in detergents in the February 7th issue of Ozark Waters newsletter.  
"Last year 16 states decided to ban phosphates so the manufacturers figured it would be easier and cheaper to just have one formula nationwide. The change happened on July 1, 2010 and caught many consumers by surprise when their dishwashers no longer performed at previous levels."
He goes on to describe studies, both personal and scientific, on efficacy of low phosphate detergents.  So why address this in a newsletter on Ozark water resources?  Two reasons come to mind: water quality and water waste.
He points out the problem of phosphates in our streams and lakes.  These come not only from detergents but from excessive use of fertilizer and subsequent runoff into our watershed.
Phosphates "get into natural water bodies and act as fertilizer, accelerating plant and algae growth. When the plants and algae die, a feeding frenzy of bacteria consume all the oxygen dissolved in the water, creating an environment inhospitable to fish and other aquatic life. These oxygen-devoid "dead zones" can occur in freshwater or in the ocean. In fact, two of the world's largest dead zones are in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, the result of fertilizers running off of farmland."
There is lots of evidence that dishwashers use less water than washing dishes by hand.  1Greengeneration.com reviews some of the evidence.  They quote a study showing dishwashers used 3-4.25 gallons of water, while washing dishes by hand used as much as 16.5 gallons.  A University of Bonn (PDF) study of people washing 12 place settings (PDF) showed that "All in all, the dishwashers got the dishes cleaner, in less human time, using less water and energy."

Last year, a major leak in our kitchen sink at Bull Creek provided the opportunity to study our personal water use in washing dishes.  I proposed simply catching the water in buckets which might have led to an interesting scientific study.  Barb's counter-proposal:  "Fix the sink, now!"  Barb-1, Science-0.

*Ozark Waters is the newsletter of Ozarks Water Watch.

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