Earth is known as the blue planet for a reason. Salt water oceans make up 71% of our planet’s surface and 97.5% of all Earths water, so it is no surprise why people seem to struggle with the concept that we may be at the beginning of water shortages around the globe. However, that only leaves us with about 2.5% fresh water, most of which is locked up in glaciers and snow cover. I decided to write a blog post about water issues because I think that everyone can very easily incorporate ways to conserve water in their day-to-day activities. If you search the web I am sure you will find hundreds of articles discussing water scarcity and water shortage issues. So the real question is then, why don’t we care? Without water life would not exist, so this should be making our eyeballs pop and our jaws drop. Or maybe, we do care and the real problem is that we think that we can’t make a difference. If you have read any of my other blog posts you will clearly know that I believe each and everyone of you do matter, make a difference, and are the key to answering many of the world’s current problems. Without one person making a change, nothing will change. And while climate change may still seem to be the largest environmental issue, Christie Matheson, author of Green Chic, believes that water may be the new hot button issue.
“Water shortages may become the new global warming (by which I mean the next hot environmental topic). Though there is quite a bit of water on the planet, only about 1% of it is usable for humans. This isn’t a problem just for people living in the middle of the desert. In the United States, where water use has tripled in the past 50 years, 36 states are predicting water shortages by 2013″(1).
Hmm… 2013. That sounds a little too close for comfort. When Christie Matheson was writing her book it was 2008, so what was once a little farther off is now only a year away. The unfortunate truth is that those predictions are sounding to be about dead on. Several major rivers are already beginning to run dry including the Colorado River, Ganges, Indus, Rio Grande, and Yellow (2). Rivers running dry can be a very scary scenario, as they tend to provide water for famers, and local economies.
The interesting point to note is that the water we drink has been circling around our planet in the water cycle for millions of years. Meaning, that the water we drink today is the same water that was here when the dinosaurs were roaming the planet. So, if we have always had the same amount of water to be using what has changed? The three main contributors to water shortage and scarcity seem to be population growth, climate change and industrialization
As usual, the United States is the largest consumer of water on the planet. The average European uses 200 liters of water everyday, while North Americans use 400 liters. An even larger gap emerges when you look at individuals in developing countries, who use only 10 liters of water a day for all of their needs (3). It is easy to see that even if we make small changes to lower our water consumption, a huge difference can be made. Don’t get me wrong, water is amazing and is essential to a healthy and happy life. This is the easiest to see when you witness what is happening in countries where water is not easily accessible or affordable. “More than 3.5 million people die each year from water-related disease, 84% are children. Nearly all deaths, 98%, occur in the developing world”(4). I beg of you to sit and read those sentences over just once more and realize how unnecessary those deaths are. If we can just get our fellow human beings the water they so desperately need, millions of lives will continue on to follow their dreams, to fall in love, to build families, and to enjoy life.
Now that I have your attention let’s talk about what steps you can take to make a difference! Your response to water scarcity and shortages can be small and it will still make a large difference. Check out the tips below to see what you can do!
1. Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
2. Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Compost vegetable food waste instead and save gallons every time.
3. Water your lawn and garden in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation.
4. Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap.
5. If your shower fills a one-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, replace the showerhead with a water-efficient model.
6. Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you’ll save up to 150 gallons per month.
7. When cleaning out fish tanks, give the nutrient-rich water to your plants.
8. When running a bath, plug the tub before turning the water on, then adjust the temperature as the tub fills up.
9. Designate one glass for your drinking water each day or refill a water bottle. This will cut down on the number of glasses to wash.
10. Don’t use running water to thaw food. Defrost food in the refrigerator for water efficiency and food safety.
11. Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
12. Use a commercial car wash that recycles water.
13. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month.
14. Direct water from rain gutters and HVAC systems toward water-loving plants in the landscape for automatic water savings.
15. If your toilet was installed before 1992, reduce the amount of water used for each flush by inserting a displacement device in the tank. (We talked about this in an earlier post!)
16. Washing dark clothes in cold water saves both on water and energy while it helps your clothes to keep their colors.
17. To save water and time, consider washing your face or brushing your teeth while in the shower.
18. While staying in a hotel or even at home, consider reusing your towels. (I haven’t been able to make this change yet, but it makes sense!)
19. When you are washing your hands, don’t let the water run while you lather.
20. Look for products bearing the EPA WaterSense Label for items that been certified to save 20% or more without sacrificing performance (5).
That is only 20 ways to save water, visit http://www.wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/index.php for many more ways to conserve water! A great organization to check out is The Water Project. Visit the website http://thewaterproject.org/ to find additional ways to get involved with providing water to those that need it most. The changes you make create an impact that you cannot even imagine. You have the power and ability to save people’s lives. Take on the challenge, because I know you can do it!
Unit next time,
1. Matheson, Christie Green Chic: Saving the Earth in Style (18-19)
3. Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)