~Jackie Sherry, Water Conservation Graduate Assistant
Yesterday marked the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, but you might ask how did it all begin? Well in 1969 Wisconsin U.S. Senator, Gaylord Nelson, wanted to create a massive environmental movement with the same amount of energy and enthusiasm that he witnessed from the student anti-war movements. He hoped to channel student’s energy and enthusiasm toward air and water pollution concerns, forcing environmental protection on to the national agenda. As a result of his and others’ efforts, 20 million Americans took to streets, parks, schools, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment on April 22nd 1970. The first Earth Day brought together a wide range of people all with the similar interest of protecting our earth. The first Earth Day eventually led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
We still celebrate Earth Day 44 years later. The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts have improved our air and water quality immensely. However, thinking about the future, my biggest concern is not of quality, but quantity…water quantity that is. Let’s take a look at our Earth and figure out exactly how much water is on it.
The Earth is 71% water and 29% land. That seems like a lot of water on Earth, right? Then why I am so concerned with water quantity?
Of all the water on Earth roughly 3% is fresh water, the remaining 97% is salt water. We usually do not use salt water for drinking. It takes a lot of time, money, and resources to turn salt water into drinking water. Instead we use fresh water for drinking. However, of all the fresh water on Earth 68% is frozen in glaciers and ice caps. We can not access this frozen fresh water for drinking. Groundwater comprises 30% of freshwater and similar to frozen water, groundwater is very difficult to access for drinking. Only a little more than 1% of the freshwater on Earth is surface water and other fresh water that we can use for drinking.
Every five years, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) compiles data to understand how much water is used by different water users in the United States. This information assists water managers in planning for present and future water needs by understanding how water resources are used throughout the nation. In 2005, the results from the research show that 49% of water use was for thermoelectric power, 31% for irrigation, 11% for public supply, 4% for industry, 2% for aquaculture, and 1% for domestic, livestock, and mining. (The USGS is in the process of updating this data. It will be interesting to see how water use has changed over the last decade.)
There are a lot of water users that must share the limited freshwater we have on Earth. These water users must work together to conserve water. That means me and you must CONSERVE! Check out 100 ways to conserve water and 100 ways to conserve energy, so that you can do your part to conserve water and energy in your daily lives!
Conserve Water Today so Water Can Serve You Tomorrow!