How Is Water a Renewable Resource?

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Water is a finite resource on Earth. The rain cycle--powered by the energy of the sun--distributes water to the different areas of the planet. You might have experienced a drought near you and wondered why water is considered to be a renewable resource. Renewable resources come in many forms and are all basically powered by solar energy, a force that powers the heat, rain, wind, and weather cycles of the Earth.

Water is a finite resource on Earth.
Water is a finite resource on Earth. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Misconceptions

Many people have the misconception that a resource's status of renewability means that it is an endless source. A renewable resource is not endless; rather, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) defines a renewable resources as "Fuels that can be easily made or 'renewed'." Water continually moves throughout the planet, with each climate receiving its own kind and volume of precipitation. If a community overuses water, the source can temporarily run out, but it will come back eventually.

Each climate on earth receives its own kind and volume of precipitation.
Each climate on earth receives its own kind and volume of precipitation. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Conservation

A method of renewing or replenishing our resource is conservation. If a local drought takes hold of an area, often conservation efforts can help replenish the reservoirs and eventually eliminate the drought. Because the rain cycle continues to be energized by the heat from the sun, water will continue to be distributed throughout the planet, replenishing water storage.

The rain cycle is energized by heat from the sun.
The rain cycle is energized by heat from the sun. (Image: Anup Shah/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Fossil Fuels

Unlike water, fossil fuels are not renewable because no reasonable effort will help replenish them at a useful rate. Humans can slow the depletion of the fossil fuels stored in the earth by conserving how much they use, but because the process of forming fossil fuels takes millions of years, no conservation feat can replenish the supply. Water is replenished quickly by the process of condensation and evaporation, and reasonable conservation efforts can help build up the water reservoirs in a local affected area.

Lake Powell in Utah is a reservoir.
Lake Powell in Utah is a reservoir. (Image: Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Hydropower

According to "The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook" by Greg Pahl, hydropower has been developed that can wrangle power using a generator that is powered by the moving water in the pipes that bring bath and drinking water to our homes and businesses. Municipally powered hydropower can bring renewable water power to areas that do not have access to a running water source such as a river or stream.

Hydropower is the process of using water to generate electricity. Hydropower can be powered by steam, by the movement of the river, or, more recently, by the movement of water in municipal pipes. Municipal hydropower is a renewable resource. The flow of water can be replenished or restored by tapping new sources of water or conserving your water source until it replenishes.

A dam may provide hydropower.
A dam may provide hydropower. (Image: Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Environmental Impact

The most significant environmental impact of hydropower is the size needed to harness the flow of rivers and streams. Emerging technology in hydropower is yielding smaller, more efficient hydropower generators that are helping to eliminate the problems caused by large, unwieldy hydropower plants. Hydropower can be harnessed without taking water out of the system through which it flows. A drawback to hydropower is that it depends on the continued performance of the rain cycle. If an area goes dry for an extended period, it will need to find a new source of water or seek alternate power sources such as solar energy.

If an area goes dry for an extended period, it will need to find a new source of water or seek alternate power sources such as solar energy.
If an area goes dry for an extended period, it will need to find a new source of water or seek alternate power sources such as solar energy. (Image: Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

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