I have a pocket of downtime at home when I confess indulging in my obsession of breaking news saga and tribal wars on TV. After hearing the same issues milked over and over even by my favorite commentators, this time I changed the channel to learn something about water conservation and educate myself on an issue I had no previous knowledge of.
Netflix had a program called “Explained.” The show reviews various subjects, about music and how we hear it, for example. Another one was the female orgasm, and all the myths surrounding it. One episode was much more compelling to watch, called, “The Scarcity of Water.” I confess, while I am mindful of not wasting water, I have been woefully in the dark about the value and the scarcity of it. Feeling a bit under-educated and concerned about this issue, I learned so much through further research.
My quest in doing this is to understand on at least a basic level on why this is an issue and how I might support water conservation in the future.
Water is a commodity that we take for granted, especially those of us living near the coast. What I didn’t know is that water is becoming more polluted, wasted and dried out in areas previously solvent, and erratic with respect to availability and quality. Certain parts of the world experience water scarcity and water crisis daily. These facts blew me away: 70% of water covers our earth while only 1% is for consumption. The rest is unusable—salt water ice, glaciers and waste.
Three terms are crucial for an overall understanding of our water issue:
Physical water scarcity: This is a quantity problem where there is not enough water to meet the demand.
These cities are at water scarcity risk: São Paulo, Bangalore, Cape Town, Cairo, Jakarta, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo and Miami. Several of these cities might reach Day Zero—meaning they will run out of water in the next few decades unless their water use radically changes.
Economic water scarcity: This is a quality problem that exists where there is not enough technology or monetary resources to utilize existing clean sources of water, so cities choose more convenient and less costly ways to access water—water that may have lead in it.
Remember Flint? I learned that it was cheaper to rely on the lead-laced water from the local Flint River rather than the clean water that was delivered previously from Lake Huron. While the issue is far more complicated, I recall watching news programs about this and wondering how it could have happened.
Water footprints: This is the amount of fresh water used in the production of goods. More and more companies are mindful of their water footprints. Hopefully when companies advertise, this will be one of their selling points.
I also confess to not knowing that water is necessary for every part of production of products, raw and finished. Consider the difference between these two products to see how many “water footprints” are in them. Just one bottle of soda, (the bottle and the soda) needs 46 gallons of water. One pound of beef requires 1800 gallons of water.
Less we think other than Miami, that the rest of our country is spared, here is a sobering picture. Research completed at Michigan State University demonstrates that over a third of Americans are at some risk of losing affordable drinking water in the next few decades, with areas in the Southwest and Southeastern states at high risk.
So why should we start conserving in our own lives? Here are some reasons:
If we are without water for a few days, we are dead. I don’t want to leave a legacy of no water to my future generations;
We can save money if we use less water with just a few changes. Our water bill goes down and water savings goes up;
If we protect our natural eco-systems from further damage, we keep the diversity of plant and animal life so vital to our survival as a species;
Conserving water reduces energy consumption and reduces our carbon foot print. Therefore, conserving water also has the double benefit of our country being less dependent on energy.
Here are few things that we can do. While it doesn’t look like much, if every family became committed to conserving water, much more would be available to our future.
We don’t have to run water needlessly in our bathrooms and kitchens. Run dishwashers when they are full. The same goes for washing machines.
Yes, who doesn’t like a long hot shower especially in the winter. If you reduce your shower time just two minutes; you save 10 gallons of water! Multiply that by the number of showers you take in a year that that is a considerable savings.
Fill a jug of tap water and place in the fridge, or better yet, invest in a reusable water bottle.
Nip the drip in your sinks, tubs, showers. This can save 15 liters of water a day, and 5,500 liters of water a year.
There are many more ways to conserve. See this list to get some inspiration.
On a personal note, 30 years ago when at Belmar Beach, Monmouth County, medical waste was coming up on the shore. This included needles, bottles and other infectious materials. Medical companies were dumping their junk in our ocean. Enough people complained, so rules for dumping were enforced and we haven’t seen this since. An acquaintance of mine was around when the ocean was contaminated by these medical supplies and he was incensed, as I was. Recently, he complained about government control and socialism. I replied, “without laws and government, we would not have a clean ocean.” There was no response.
With water conservation, less is literally more. Now I will take more steps towards learning and how to conserve my water footsteps. One person at a time! On Friday, while researching this article, I noticed a quote on the wall of the cafeteria of the elementary school where I work. How relevant!
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Native American Proverb
Let’s not borrow our children into water bankruptcy.