If you live in the US, remember the wide-spread unrelenting drought of Summer 2012? That summer, I recall one day they predicted a 90% chance of rain, and it still didn’t rain! It’s a bit unsettling – 95% of the Scientists have confirmed we are experiencing Climate Change, so extreme weather patterns and droughts will likely become more common. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, year 2013 ended with 31% of the contiguous US experiencing moderate to extreme drought. As droughts become more common, it’ll become more difficult to replenish our current water supplies and our soils become dryer.
It’s hard to imagine water scarcity when seventy percent of the earth is covered with water. However, only 2.5% of it is fresh and only 1% accessible. For a period of time, melting glaciers will add to or water supply.
Growing population also puts a strain on our water supply. The Columbia University Water Center reports a 90% population increase since 1950 resulted in a 127% increase in water use. Like most resources, the United States uses a disproportionate amount of water. National Geographic estimates the average American lifestyle takes 2000 gallons of water per day, twice the global average, 41% used for agriculture alone. The United Nations predicts around 1.8 billion people will struggle with water scarcity by 2025.
Our limited water supply is also becoming more polluted. EPA sites agriculture practices as our largest polluters – leaking storage and disposal of animal waste as well as fertilizer and pesticide run-off from fields. Factories and refineries further pollute our waterways. Pursuing unconventional oils for energy add further risks. Leaks from heavy tar sand transports are absorbed into the soil, waterways, and possibly aquifers. Fracking is not only water intensive, the chemical enriched water is blasted into the rocks also putting our aquifers at risk.
Dependable clean water supplies are critical. Our body by weight is up to 60% water. We need water to grow food, generate power, cool our machines of industry, produce products, carry our waste, keep our bodies clean, recreate, and provide habitat for all living things. Given the risk of scarcity, it’ll be challenging to effectively protect, conserve, manage and distribute the water we have.
Climate change, pollution and our growing population have put a strain on our finite water supply. It’s likely those who rely on wells have already experienced water scarcity. If you live in Boonville and your water source is the Missouri River, it might appear there is plenty of water. But processing the Big Muddy into drinkable water is no easy task. It takes a lot of energy and chemicals to render it drinkable. Then it takes energy to pump it out to you; after you use it and the water goes down the drain, it is pumped back to the water plant, reprocessed, and pumped back out again. Estimates are the average American household of four uses 400 gallons of water a day – certainly risky behavior for our finite supply!
Ways to Conserve
-Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, washing your hands and doing dishes.
-Fix your leaks. A faucet dripping one drop per second will waste 2700 gallons per year. A silent toilet leak could waste from 30-500 gallons every day.
-Choose efficient fixtures – Aerating faucets, low-flow toilets, efficient shower heads, energy star dishwasher and washing machines; don’t run half full, keep prewashing to a minimum
-Speed things up in the shower; Take showers instead of baths.
-Never throw away water – use to fill animal bowls, water plants or use for cooking
-Insulate water pipes so it takes less time to get hot; catch cold water while it’s heating up
-Use garbage disposal sparingly, better yet – compost those scraps.
-Lawn care – Reduce size of lawn, plant ground cover; keep grass longer so the soil doesn’t dry out; plant trees.
– Plant natives and plants that save water – sedums, daylilies, heuchera, lysimachia, shasta daisies, lamb’s ears, yarrow, milkweed, evening primrose, peony, sage, black-eyed susan, snow-in-summer, hen and chicks
-Collect roof run-off with a rain barrel to water your garden.
-If you must water, water early in the morning, better to use soaker hose; water deeper and less often so plant grows deeper roots and need less water.
-Use less electricity – power plants use thousands of gallons of water to cool.
We can also increase our water quality by consuming less, driving less, utilizing local toxic drop-off sites, avoiding chemical products and fertilizers, and by recycling.
It’s nice to know – simply by changing a few of our habits, together we can have a huge impact.