isn’t oil, natural gas or coal; it’s water. Less than three percent of the Earth’s water volume is readily potable — drinkable — without extensive and costly purification measures. The advantage that water holds over other scarce natural resources — its cyclical nature and renewability — does not adequately account for human interaction. Cities built in arid zones typically divert rivers from other sources of freshwater and can send ripples through the greater watershed.
Further, human pollution is a major threat to many sources of fresh water. Runoff from both farms and cities can contaminate entire watersheds, depositing pollution hundreds of miles away. While this is not the overt overuse of water, it can still ruin potential sources of fresh water for the rest of natural ecosystem.
With all this in mind, there are a few ways concerned citizens can work to use less of this scarce resource.
The U.S. leads the rest of the world in water consumption. Per capita, American citizens used 1583 cubic meters in 2013, exceeding the rest of the world. For many Americans, water usage is not an issue: the country is crossed with rivers and lakes, comparatively abundant to most other places on Earth. However, overirrigation, in particular with farming, has significantly impacted many of these water sources. For certain cities — Los Angeles tops the list — water scarcity is a significant issue.
In America, water is used more recreationally than in many other parts of the world. A considerable percentage of the average American’s daily water intake comes from gardening, watering lawns, filling pools and other similar uses. These activities, which are deemed “consumption” activities, result in the water being unable to return directly to its natural area.
Australia is one of the driest countries on the planet. Although is more arid areas Australians need to be careful with water usage, in water-rich areas, Australia has some of the world’s highest water usage. The current daily water consumption is 340 litres per person, or about 900 litres per household.
Europe has the most expensive water supply in the world. Water averages $1.91 per cubic meter in Germany and $1.23 in France . To put this in perspective, water costs $0.51 per cubic feet in the U.S. and $0.50 in Australia.
This expense for water, however, does little to decrease usage. The majority of water consumption goes toward agriculture. The public water supply loses as much as 50 percent of water in its production, but the average European still uses about 53 gallons of water per day.
Limiting water use
There are a few preliminary options for cutting back on domestic water use. Some of the biggest culprits of water wastefulness come from appliances, which can use a deceptively high volume if outdated or inefficiently used.
When washing dishes, it is typically more efficient to wash by hand. However, for that intent on keeping a dishwasher, make sure your mode is up-to-date, as more recent models are typically much more efficient than older ones. Of course, if you’re rinsing your dishes by hand, try to limit the water flow coming from your faucet: a trickle of water can work just as well as a geyser in many cases, and you’ll save tons of water in the process. Beyond that, soak cooking pots instead of simply scrubbing them under water.
Likewise, replacing outdated showerheads can help save water. Often, older showerheads have mineral buildup which ruins your water pressure and requires a longer time in the shower. A longer time in the shower means more water being used. With this, take shorter showers and avoid bathing as much as possible. Investing in water-saving appliances — both in the bathroom and the kitchen — can save thousands of gallons of water over the course of a year.
The biggest overt waste of water comes from recreational water use — from swimming pools to lush desert gardens. In the case of pools or hot tubs, this water is heavily treated with chlorine and is not able to be safely returned to the environment before retreatment. With gardens, this water is consumed by plants, and is therefore unavailable in the greater water cycle, exacerbating the effects of a drought.
Water for the future
By employing some — if not all — these tactics, citizens from countries with high water usage can begin pulling their weight. Something to keep in mind: the world’s water comprises an interconnected system, both subtle and significant. When we act irresponsibly with our water, we are indirectly impacting water systems both near and far. Given this, it is essential to be conscious of your choices when using water.
This is a guest post written by Emily Folk.
Emily is a conservation and sustainability writer.
She is the editor of Conservation Folks, and you can see her latest updates by following her on Twitter.