Water, Water Everywhere
So Why Do We Need to Conserve?
by Sarah Kingsbury
Conserve water? Are you crazy? Have you left your house at all this summer? Watched the news? Anyone who hasn’t spent the last couple of months locked in a closet knows that we have enough water in Iowa. Too much.
So why am I writing an article on reducing water consumption? Because we live and consume in a global economy, and access to clean fresh water, that essential, life-sustaining liquid, is a serious global issue, one that we play a part in, even in soggy Iowa.
While anyone who has seen a map of the world can tell you that there is abundant water on this planet, only 3 percent of that water is fresh water, and only 1 percent is available for human consumption. The other 2 percent is frozen in glaciers. In the meantime, while the U.S. population doubled between 1950 and 2000, our water usage in the home tripled. If you add in the water that is used to produce the food and goods that we purchase, our average per capita water usage is 8,136 cubic feet or approximately 61,023 gallons per year, while the average for the rest of the world is 4,078 cubic feet per year or approximately 30,585 gallons per year. Since the food and goods we purchase come from all over the world, not just Iowa, this means we are consuming water all over the world and far more of it than anyone else. And since water shortages are causing wars in places like Darfur and since Unicef estimates that lack of access to safe drinking water contributes to the worldwide deaths of 1.5 million children under 5, it may be time to reconsider how we treat this precious resource.
Closer To Home
Water in Iowa comes from two main sources: groundwater and surface water. Surface water cannot really be seen as separate from groundwater since, according the Iowa DNR, 50 percent of the water in our rivers, lakes, etc., comes from groundwater. So when we deplete the water underground, we are also depleting the water available on the surface. According to the EPA, as aquifers get depleted, human pollutants from agriculture and industry as well as natural contaminants such as arsenic become more highly concentrated in our water. On a community level, increasing water usage also means increasing costs for expanding water treatment facilities and sewer infrastructure.
Fortunately, there is a lot that we can do on many levels to reduce our water consumption. From finding and fixing leaks, to changing our habits, to installing water-saving devices like low-flow showerheads and water-efficient toilets, there are many ways we can save water in the home without drastically changing our lifestyle. Visit this website for tips on how to save water in Iowa.
You Can Do More
If you visit www.waterfootprint.org and calculate your water footprint, you will notice that the calculator takes into account your eating and buying habits as well. Water is used in the production of everything you buy and everything you eat. The production of some foods, like meat products, requires significantly more water. For example, it takes 1,857 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef and 156 gallons to produce 1 pound of wheat. That’s around 90 showers versus about 8. If you want to get serious about reducing the amount of water you consume, eat more of the foods with low water input and less of those that require massive quantities of water.
Where your food comes from is important, too. For instance, a great deal of the produce you buy from the store comes from California, a state that faces serious water shortages. Its largest water user is the agricultural sector. If you have a choice between produce grown in Iowa, where we get lots of rainfall, and produce grown in California, where large amounts of irrigation are required, buy the produce from Iowa. When it comes to other goods, consider purchasing used items when it is practical, since no additional water will have to be used. For fun you can visit waterfootprint.org’s product gallery to see how much water is needed to produce a wide range of products from apples to t-shirts.
If the idea of flushing away human waste with drinking quality water offends you, if you can’t imagine dumping grey water (water that has been used for laundry, showering etc.) when it could still perform some other function (watering plants, flushing the toilet), then you may be more interested in less common methods of conserving water, like composting toilets. (Grey Water Guerrillas. But however far you want to go with conserving water, do something, because every drop counts.
p>Visit this site for 100 Tips for Conserving Water.
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