What is it? Why is it a problem? What can we do to solve it?
We, as humans, use fresh water almost every hour of the day. It’s used in our coffee, food, drinks, clothes, school supplies, and more. Availability of fresh water is more important to us than we realize, but we fail to recognize how quickly it can be taken away.
A great deal of water use is non-consumptive, which means that the water is returned to surface runoff, which is in turn used by companies. Usually that water is contaminated however, whether used for agriculture, domestic consumption, or industry. Pollution from industry, agriculture, and human waste adds to the pathetic situation of the lack of freshwater.
Decline of a Resource
The solution is simple. We just have to become more aware of the wastage of water and take an active role in its protection. The EPA says that even checking your water meter often is a simple way to help approach this problem. Fresh water means more to our lives than we realize, so we should make an effort to invest in our future by conserving our fresh water supply.
"Fix A Leak Week." Leak Facts. WaterSense, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Wastewater Management, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.
Frost. "Declining Freshwater Resources." Declining Freshwater Resources. Frost & Sullivan, 24 July 2008. Web. 02 Dec. 2015.
"Human Appropriation of the World's Fresh Water Supply." Human Appropriation of the World's Fresh Water Supply. University of Michigan, 04 Jan. 2006. Web. 02 Dec. 2015.
Mooney, Chris. "The Incredibly Stupid Way That Americans Waste 1 Trillion Gallons of Water Each Year." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.
A World Epidemic: The European Side
Over the past several years Europe, like the parts of the world is suffering from severe droughts and water shortage. Why you might ask is what happens in Europe important to me. The United States has not been around as long as Europe has. Due to this the populations of Europe have been able to diminish many for the fresh water supplies, such as rivers and lakes. This has cause the scarcity of the fresh water supply of to increase. Furthermore, since both the United States and European countries have very similar industrialization and desires, Europe could show the foreseeable possible water shortages the United States might have.
Water Waste Treatment currently used in Europe
Affecting Agriculture and More (Europe)
In the area of Agriculture, Many parts of Spain are suffering because of tremendous droughts. As the Center for Strategic and International Studies states, “Parts of southeast Spain and other areas in Southern Europe are drying to the point that they are beginning to resemble the climate of Africa.” Combining this with a Statement from Nicole Sageners article, “In a study by the European Environment Agency in southern Europe…80% of water is used for agriculture”, it becomes clear that the agriculture in Europe is going to have tremendous difficulty with the growing water crisis. This would affect people not just in Europe, but also those that depend on the agriculture of Spain. In addition, when one industry of an economy begins to falter it provides strain on many other areas because there is not as much money in flow. Meaning that Water is not just an ordinary crisis, but a major one.
Personal Testimony (Germany)
When a group of text A&M students went on a trip to Germany during the summer of 2015 for two weeks, they made some observations. First in Germany, Public restrooms have to be paid for when using them to allow cleaning and to pay for water usage. In addition, at restaurants all drinks require payment including water. In a few restaurants, they found that they would pay for water or get a different specialty drink for about the same price but more quantity with the specialty drink. As one student stated, “I could buy a 20 oz glass of water for the same price as a liter of Beer.” Emphasizing how precious water is in Europe.
Methods for Reduction (Europe)
Throughout the last several years, Europe has tried to fight their growing water shortage, but continually they may stop immediate dangers of water shortage. Their solutions so far have been only temporary and not very beneficial to the people of Europe. As Estimated by the European Commission, several cities could save an estimated 50% of overall water loss in the cities by fixing leaks in water transportation pipes. But Europe has not focuses on this solution as much, because of the initial cost. In the long run, this would be very beneficial and could end up saving more money then spent. In another example, European countries have tried cutting of luxuries of using hosepipes in houses to resupply lost water sources. This solution impacts the population greatly and is undesirable. Thus, it becomes crucial for the United States to develop other methods decreasing water shortage.
- "Convert United States Dollar to Euro | USD to EUR." RSS Exchange Rate. The Money Converter, 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. <http://themoneyconverter.com/USD/EUR.aspx>.
- Sagener, Nicole. "German Economy Vulnerable to Global Water Scarcity, WWF Warns." EurActiv. Euractiv, 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 22 Nov. 2015. <http://www.euractiv.com/sections/development-policy/german-economy-vulnerable-global-water-scarcity-wwf-warns-308082>.
- Stocks, Green. "European Water Shortages Coming." European Water Shortages Coming. Green Chip Stocks, 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. <http://www.greenchipstocks.com/articles/european-water-shortages-coming/1630>.
- "Water Scarcity and Drought in the European Union." Water Scarcity and Drought in the European Union. Luxembourg: Publications Office, 2010. Ec.europa.eu. European Union, 2010. Web. 22 Nov. 2015. <http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/quantity/pdf/brochure.pdf>.
- "Water Shortages Turning Spain into the New Africa." Water Shortages Turning Spain into the New Africa. Center for Strategic and International Studies, Nov. 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2015. <http://csis.org/blog/water-shortages-turning-spain-new-africa>.
Water Usage in California
- Water in rivers protected as "wild and scenic” under federal and state laws
- Water required for maintaining habitat within streams
- Water that supports wetlands within wildlife preserves
- Water needed to maintain water quality for agricultural and urban use.
- Approximately nine million acres of farmland in California are irrigated, representing roughly 80% of all human water use.
- The value of farm output in California was $22.3 billion in 2010, up from $16.3 billion in 1998, accounting for inflation.
- Today, farm production and food processing only generate about 2% of California’s gross state product, down from about 5% in the early 1960s.
- Despite population growth and urban expansion, total urban water use has remained roughly constant over the past 20 years.
- Per-capita water use has declined significantly, from 232 gallons per day in 1990 to 178 gallons per day in 2010.
- This is due to efforts to reduce water use through pricing incentives and mandatory installation of water saving technologies like low-flow toilets and shower heads.
Water Supply in California
- Mountain snowpack
Mountain Snowpack and Reservoirs
The state’s reservoirs store water from precipitation events and receive the runoff from melting snowpack. Less precipitation and snowpack results in decreased reservoir storage.
Thanks to El Nino, the snow supply has started to return. The snowpack is double what it was last year. Unfortunately, the water supply in this snow is at 56% of average. Although the string of recent snowstorms is welcome, they have done little to ease four years of drought.
The United States relies on aquifers to meet half of our needs. Nearly 60 percent of California's water needs are now met by groundwater, up from 40 percent in years with normal precipitation.
Water is released from from Lake Oroville in order to supply water for nearby rivers. This water must be released so that nearby rivers can provide fresh water for irrigation, human consumption and fish.
Lake Oroville, Before the Drought
Lake Oroville, After the Drought
Dimick, Dennis. "If You Think the Water Crisis Can't Get Worse, Wait Until the Aquifers Are Drained." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 21 Aug. 2014. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.
Mount, Jeffrey, Emma Freeman, and Jay Lund. "Water Use in California." (PPIC Publication). N.p., July 2014. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.
Rocha, Veronica. "California's Snowpack Is Deeper than Last Year, but More Is Needed,Officials Say." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 1 Dec. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.
"Saving Water in California." (2015): n. pag. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA, Sept. 2015. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.
Where Is The Water Going?
The Average US Household uses around 400 gallons of water a day!
- Washing the Dishes, by hand? 20-40 gallons
- Washing the Car, by hand? 80-140 gallons
- Washing your Clothes? 27-54 gallons
- Flushing the Toilet? 3.5-7 gallons
- The Sprinkler System, per hour? ~265 gallons
- The Faucet, per minute? ~2 gallons
We also end up wasting a tremendous amount as well
- Rinsing dishes before putting dishes in the dishwasher
- Allowing contaminated water from a car wash to flow into the lawn instead of sewage for treatment
- Full flush for what is usually a very small amount of sterile, liquid waste
- Leaving the faucet on during shaving, brushing your teeth, or washing the dishes
- Turning the sprinklers on during the middle of the day, when a lot of water ends up evaporating before getting to the grass
Farming needs more water than you think
Now that you're thinking about it, you might assume that you're just tossing out the water that is literally in the foodstuffs, but even that is more than you might imagine. Apples contain around 80% water, that's obvious as apples are a juicy fruit, but what about wheat? Believe it or not, wheat is around a tenth water. All food will contain water, and this doesn't even get in to all the water that was used to physically grow your food, and when it comes to the production of meat, farmers end up using eight to ten times more water because the livestock consumes so much vegetation that in turn needs lots of water to grow.
Agriculture uses around 185 trillion gallons of water per year, which accounts for about 70% of all water usage. and 24% of that water (approximately 45 trillion gallons) is found in the food that is wasted.
As more and more humans begin to populate the Earth, the demand for food will go nowhere but up, and already we use so much water for agriculture that some of our largest bodies of freshwater have been shrinking due to overuse. For example, the Aral sea (shown below) is now only ten percent of its former glory and has split into three distinct sections, two of which have such a high salt content that all the fish that used to habit these areas are now dead, and the Lake Victoria is half of what it used to be.
Now a good deal of water waste from wasted food ends up evaporating, but that does not mean that the water will be recovered for reuse, it could fall in to the ocean or somewhere similar where it can not be reclaimed easily.
When you toss out food you end up wasting the resources that were committed to putting it on your plate, or in your fridge, so make sure that the trash can is the only possible destination before you decide to toss it out.
Not all is lost
- If you're going to wash dishes, don't bother to rinse them, just put them in the dishwasher
- If you can help it, avoid washing them by hand in the first place, because dishwashers tend to be more water efficient then us humans are
- However, this is only the case if the dishwasher is operating on a full load, so also only do the dishes when you've got a full load
- For the same reason, don't do the laundry unless you've got a full load of clothes
- Nowadays for every appliance that uses water, there also exists a variant that is many more times water efficient, from toilets to dishwashers, even faucets
- When you use the faucet, if you're not actively using the stream of water, turn it off
- If you plan to wash your car, instead of doing it at home go ahead and take it to a car wash as they can use up to 34% less water. In addition, thanks to the EPA the runoff is guaranteed to be sent to a treatment plant
- Set your sprinkler system to operate during dusk or dawn to ensure that your lawn gets the maximum water the duration that it's on
- Avoid taking/buying more food than you will eat/use as to avoid tossing out what's left
These are just a handful of examples, but as mentioned, all you need to do to save water is to pay attention to how you use water
Barclay, Eliza. "When You Waste Food, You're Wasting Tons Of Water, Too." NPR. NPR, 7 June 2013. Web. 02 Dec. 2015.
Hadhazy, Adam. "Top 10 Water Wasters: From Washing Dishes to Watering the Desert." Scientific American Global RSS. Nature Publishing Group, 7 July 2008. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.
"Indoor Water Use in the United States." US Indoor Water Use. EPA, n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.
Lipinski, Brian, Criag Hanson, James Lomax, Lisa Kitinoja, Richard Waite, and Tim Searchinger. Reducing Food Loss and Waste. Working paper no. 2. N.p.: World Resources Insititute, 2013. Print.
What Can We Do? by Garrett Holland
Desalination is already utilized today.
- San Diego county has a massive 1 billion dollar plant under construction.
- According to Talbot, the plant will "take more than 100 million gallons of Pacific Ocean water daily and produce 54 million gallons of fresh, drinkable water."
- 16,000 plants are running around the world.
The process of desalination is called Reverse Osmosis.
- "Water is forced through [a] membrane , the polymer allows the water molecules to pass while blocking the salts and other inorganic impurities."
In the past, desalination has been an expensive alternative; new technology has made it more feasible and attractive.
- Talbot also talks about small mobile desalination units that are being developed.
- These units could be used in more remote agricultural areas where building large plants is an unrealistic option.
- One of the most significant developments in desalination technology is a new filtering membrane
- According to Tarantola, Scientists at Lockheed Martin are working on a membrane that consists of "single atom-thick sheets of graphene."
- The holes that would filter out salt and other unwanted organisms would be out 100nm in diameter.
- "The energy...and the pressure that's required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less."
- This decrease in energy would dramatically decrease the cost of desalination.
Waste Water Reuse is another very promising method of creating fresh water that should continue to be exploited.
The EPA defines waste water reuse as "using waste water or reclaimed water from one application for another applications" as quoted in McKenzie's article,
- The reused water can be applied in urban areas such as parks, highway medians, and residential landscapes.
- There are agricultural uses like irrigation in food and non-food crops.
- Industries can use the water for cooling and other applications.
The US has already seen impressive results with this method.
- "In 2001, Florida reused 584 million gallons per day of treated waste water for beneficial purposes."
- Honolulu opened a massive reuse facility in 200 that processes 13 million gallons a day according to McKenzie.
What some proof on this method, here is a video of Bill Gates drinking water made from poop.
Waste water reuse is also used to "recharge" aquifer according to an EPA article on Water Recycling and Reuse.
- "Recycled water can be spread or injected into ground water aquifers to augment ground water supplies."
- San Diego is working on a project that, if approved, will augment local aquifers with approximately 12,000 acre-feet per year of reused water.
Grey water is another form of reused water that is reused on sight and saves water, energy, and money.
- Grey water can "meet up to 50% of a property's water needs by supplying water for landscaping."
- Fresh potable water can then be used elsewhere.
- This reduces the amount of waste water being introduced directly to facilities which saves processing energy and in turn, money.
Smart irrigation systems can help a lot in the effort to save water.
- According to WaterSense, an EPA article, "Residential outdoor water use in the United States accounts for more than 9 billion gallons of water each day, mainly for landscape irrigation."
- As mucha s 50% of this water is wasted due to inefficient watering.
- Smart irrigation systems are basically a thermostat for sprinklers.
- They monitor weather and take in to account the types of plants being watered.
- They also monitor landscape condition to figure the best and most efficient watering schedule.
- These systems could save the average home over 8,000 gallons of water used annually.
- They could also save over 400 million dollars in water costs annually.
McKenzie, Caigan. "Wastewater Reuse Conserves Water and Protects Waterways." NESC. 2005. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.
Tarantola, Andrew. "Making Salt Water Drinkable Just Got 99 Percent Easier." Gizmodo. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.
Talbot, David. "Desalination out of Desperation." MIT Technology Review. MIT, 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
"Water Recycling and Reuse: The Environmental Benefits." EPA. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.
"WaterSense Labeled Irrigation Controllers." WaterSense Labeled Irrigation Controllers. EPA. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.