Water Conservation – The Big Picture

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The world is experiencing water shortages on all continents and water conservation is more and more important. One of the vital human needs, clean drinking water, can no longer be relied on to be available forever, even in regions with seemingly sufficient rainfall. Safe drinking water is already scarce in many places and not only in the arid, desert Southwest.

Over the last five years, according to an US Environmental Protection Agency 2008 report, nearly every region in the US experienced a shortage of water. These shortages are either due to groundwater being withdrawn in amounts that exceed the rate at which it is being refilled, or to municipal drinking water systems that are not large enough. Many towns already impose limited outside watering and irrigation for gardens and lawns. The answer to insufficient water supply systems is water conservation, not building a bigger and better distribution system and adding another waste water treatment plant.

Large amounts of water are consumed to sustain our way of living. The production of the goods we so quickly buy on a daily basis uses huge amounts of water. And we mostly are not aware of this. The list below gives a few examples of the water necessary to grow food, make paper or clothing.

  • 1 cup of coffee: 37 Gall. Does not include washing the cup
  • 1 pound of potatoes: 108 gallons
  • 1 slice of wheat bread: 11 gallons
  • 1 pound of beef: 1,860 gallons (yes, that IS correct)
  • 1 cotton T-shirt: 713 gallons
  • 0.6 gallons for one sheet of recycled paper. Up to 8 gallons for new paper

The above list was found at www.waterfootprint.org, a great educational resource for water use and water conservation.

Daily we consume hundreds of gallons of water without being aware of it, because we do not see that water. Reducing the water used for producing our food, paper, clothing, etc is essential to accomplishing successful water conservation. First though, we must know about this and get educated about where and how water is used. Once we know and understand, we can take the necessary steps.

So how can you conserve water in the home? For example, when you recycle paper, in addition to saving trees, you also drastically decrease the quantity of water used. Or, you can consider keeping that T-shirt that might be out of fashion but is still in good condition, instead of buying another new one. That way you can save over 700 gallons of water. Ask yourself if you really must I have a 16-oz steak for dinner, given that you already had 2 eggs for breakfast at 53 gallons of water each, and a 1/4-pound hamburger at lunch time which used about 500 gallons of water?

And how can we conserve water outside the home? Millions of gallons of precious water are wasted by excessive watering of lawns. Too many irrigation systems can be seen in operation in the middle of the day, with the sun beating down, when nearly all of the water will evaporate without it ever reaching the roots of the plants. A lot of homeowners water their lawns too often as well, wasting water and ending up with weak plants, that have shallow roots. A lush green lawn in arid climates is not possible without wasting, yes wasting, an unbelievable amount of precious water. Commercial farming or landscape watering systems are also culprits by using automatic irrigation systems on rainy days or at noon.

Humans, animals and plants require water to survive. It is urgent that we begin conserving water right now so that we humans, as well as animals and plants, can thrive. What we do as individuals and as society as a whole, has a immense impact. How we live, and the daily choices we make, either waste water or help to support water conservation.

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