3 Questions We Ask Ourselves About Water Conservation

This week’s blog by Patty Lawson, Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Intern

Sometimes we ask ourselves “Why?”  Why should we care about conserving water? The world is extensively covered in water.  In fact, 71% of the planet’s surface is blanketed with water.  Don’t we have enough?   If only it were that simple.  Water is one of the main limiting factors for life on earth. It is one of our most important resources, vital for life, and it is important that we conserve water so there is plenty for every human, animal, and plant to survive. Here are the big 3 questions we want to answer.

How much water do we really have?

We have always have had the same amount of water on earth, and it is in a continuous cycle. However, only .003 percent of the total water on earth is available for us to use. On a global scale, only a small percentage of water is available, but this percentage represents a large amount per individual. There is about 1.6 million gallons per person. However, this water is not immediately available to most of us. Here is an idea of how much water we have and its location.

  • Imagine 1 liter of water. This represents all the water on earth.
  • 30mL of this is freshwater, and 970mL is salt water, which is unsuitable for human consumption.
  • 24mL is unavailable freshwater, frozen in glaciers and icecaps.
  • 6mL is unavailable freshwater (atmosphere and deep groundwater), which we cannot access.
  • This leaves a single drop that is available for us to use. (Project WET).

Why should we care about conserving?

Growing global populations and economies place bigger demands on already-depleted water supplies. Pollutants like agricultural runoff make the water we have undrinkable. This scarcity of water is raising prices, so there is an increasing level of regulation and competition among stakeholders, leaving those without money without water.  We are putting a big demand on a very small amount of water, while at the same time we are ruining it with pollution (Boccaletti).

How can we conserve?

The biggest way for us as a population to conserve is through changes in agriculture and industry. Agriculture accounts for 71% of global water withdrawals (Boccaletti).  If agriculture can do more with less, then we will see big impacts.

We can all do our part, too, by making little changes in our daily lives.

  • Run only full loads of laundry and dishes, turn off the water while we brush our teeth, and cut our shower time.
  • Reduce our consumption of meat in favor of eating more veggies to reduce our water footprint.  More water is required to produce a pound of beef than a pound of potatoes.  Even choosing poultry over beef reduces water use.  A pound of chicken meat requires less water to produce than a pound of beef.

Conserving water in your home protects our local water supplies, but we use water from all over the world when we consume other products.  Go to http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/home to learn about other ways to reduce your impact on global water resources.

Boccaletti, Giulio, Merle Grobbel, and Martin R. Stuchtey. “The Business Opportunity In Water Conservation.” Mckinsey Quarterly 1 (2010): 67-75. Business Source Complete. Web. 8 Oct. 2013. (http://ehis.ebscohost.com.proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu/eds/detail?vid=3&sid=4f7f2c71-3862-42bf-8ea5-7e7443aa944f@sessionmgr114&hid=109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU=#db=bth&AN=47918208)

Martínez-Espiñeira, Roberto, and María Á. García-Valiñas. “Adopting Versus Adapting: Adoption Of Water-Saving Technology Versus Water Conservation Habits In Spain.” International Journal Of Water Resources Development 29.3 (2013): 400-414. Business Source Complete. Web. 8 Oct. 2013.

Project WET Curriculum and Activity Guide, Generation 2.0. Bozeman: The Watercourse/Project WET International Foundation and Council for Environmental Education, 2011. 257-262. Print.

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