Water conservation is an increasingly critical concern for people across the globe.
According to the United Nations, more than one out of six people (1.1 billion) in the world lack access to safe drinking water, and more than two out of six (2.6 billion) lack adequate sanitation.
As global population continues to rise, the resulting increase in demand for clean water will put enormous strain on the environment and some experts predict that the global wars of the next generation will be fought not over fossil fuels, but water.
The Blue Planet
Three-fourths of the Earth's surface is covered by water. Ninety-seven percent of the Earth's water is in the oceans and is too salty to drink. Of the remaining 3 percent that is fresh water, 2 percent is frozen in polar ice caps, glaciers and icebergs, leaving just 1 percent available for human use.
The average American uses between 140 and 160 gallons of water per day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Scarce water resources are fragile and very susceptible to industrial contaminants from factories and agricultural runoff.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a very volatile and toxic class of odorless, tasteless chemicals that were used in the first half of the 20th century in many industrial applications. In the 1970s research proved that PCBs were highly carcinogenic and were making their way into the American water system in high concentrations. Since the 1970s their manufacture, use and transportation have been highly curtailed, though PCBs are just one of many potentially lethal water contaminants.
Water-borne vector diseases like malaria still plague many parts of the Third World and the use of pesticides to curb these diseases has equally harmful effects on water sources.
Management and Regulation
Water management includes the study, monitoring and measuring of consumption rates and quality.
Regulation is the process by which government and industry groups set standards to maintain a healthy and balanced state of use and quality.
Both management and regulation are requisite components of any good water strategy, whether locally or globally.
Preservation and Conservation
Preservation is the act of protecting existing water quality from future contamination and pollution. Conservation is the physical act of changing individual behavior to use less.
Depletion and impairment of water resources from irresponsible overusage results in shortages when demand outpaces supply. Droughts and shortages are especially prevalent in the American West and have reached critical levels in sub-Saharan Africa.
What Can We Do?
The average American household can conserve water and save money by implementing some very simple tips and advice. Repair leaky faucets and other outlets. Install low-pressure shower heads and low-flow toilets. Take shorter showers. Run dishwashers and clothes washers only when they are full to capacity. Compost organic waste instead of running it through a garbage disposer. Water your lawn every other day in the summertime, and never between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizer. Wash your car from a bucket rather than at a car wash. Store drinking water in the refrigerator rather than running the faucet until it runs cold.