Water Makes Life Go Around
How many people on this blue planet understand how water connects to every living thing? It affects every aspect of our lives. How we use this primordial element is not just about our own future, but about our planet's very survival. And yet, billions of people do not have access to clean water.
An emerging consciousness is recognizing the critical nature of this universal solvent. Water is life: it touches all living things. Less than one percent of the world's water is presently fit for consumption. Water wars are the tenor of the times. How we share this precious liquid directly relates to peace and prosperity on this earth.
Our freshwater crisis currently affects 2.3 billion people directly and deeply. Having adequate safe water causes conflict not just between political entities but threatens wildlife, farmers, industry, all sorts of living species, and yes, the poor who can not afford the simple luxury of clean water.
Just a century ago it was common for many to have carry water. Today, a woman living in a developing country must walk an average of 6 kilometers each day to get freshwater. In the last century water use per capita increased by six times as our population tripled; our water rate use also doubled the rate of population growth. Presently, we use 54 percent of all available freshwater from streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers. In the next 25 years it is expected that human freshwater use will increase another 16 percent to 70 percent.
Our human development comes with a cost. One-fifth of the earth's freshwater fish are either threatened or extinct. Over one-thousand bird species are imperiled. In the United States half our wetlands have disappeared since colonial times. One resource economist has estimated we lose close to $5 trillion dollars per year in flood protection and waste treatment costs, and wildlife habitats, fisheries and recreation use through the loss of wetlands.
So why must we better conserve water? Throughout the world both drought and lack of clean water is alarming. While most Americans take clean water for granted, there are many who lack even this essential amenity. This is becoming increasingly true for rural Americans who rely so much on wells and springs. Polluted water is more of a risk to children and the elderly who are more vulnerable to waterborne diseases. Hundreds of thousands of low-income American households do not have running water in their homes. Already one-third our world population (or two billion people) live without safe drinking water. With an additional 2 billion people projected to be born by 2030, water scarcity is a fact of life. Droughts and water shortages are forcing us to reexamine water use.
An average person can survive for months without food, but only a few days without water. Just think- three fourths of our brain consists of this essential compound. One way to understand the value of water is to observe it in our own bodies. One-half to two-thirds of the human body is made up of water. An average adult contains roughly 40 quarts of water and loses several quarts of water per day through normal elimination, sweating and breathing. Water helps rid the body of wastes, metabolizes stored fats, and maintains muscle tone. We must begin to emulate how our bodies and the earth cycle water if we wish to maintain in good health. Ironically less then 1% of the world's water is available to meet our constantly growing human needs. Ironically, many of us who drink bottled water do not fully realize where it comes from.
Increased awareness to stimulate water conservation is critical to preserving our quality of life. We drink less than 1% of our treated water, while we use 99% in other ways. Our public water systems produce more than 180 gallons per day per person, more than seven times the per capita average in the rest of the world and nearly triple Europe's level. By comparison, the World Health Organization says good health require a total daily supply of about 8 gallons of water per person. We flush an average of 27 gallons per person per day of drinking water down our toilets, 17 gallons per day are lost through our laundry and 14 gallons per day go down the drain in our showers. Simply installing a more efficient showerhead and faucet aerators will save about 7800 gallons of water per year in an average household. Another tremendous use is of this valuable drinking source is watering our lawns. By switching to a landscape dominated by bushes and shrubs, as opposed to grass, you can reduce lawn watering by 80 percent. Sixty to ninety per cent of the world's consumable water goes to irrigation.
As water is being impacted by excessive demands, less water also magnifies pollution. Polluted runoff from agricultural operations, grazing, animal feeding operations, urbanization and other sources have been blamed for today's water quality impairment. Such pollutants include siltation, nutrients, bacteria, oxygen-depleting substances, metals, pesticides, herbicides, toxic chemicals and other habitat altering materials.
As we deplete our water, it becomes increasingly unlikely that we can stabilize water tables. It takes hundreds and hundreds of years for water to cycle back into new drinking water. Freshwater systems around the world are being degraded by urbanization, runoff, wetland loss, dams, diversions, and overuse, threatening our ability to support human, animal, and plant life.
U.S. Ground Water
Millions of Americans are unaware that water also comes out of the ground: the fundamental water purification system. Forty-seven percent of the U.S. population depends on ground water for its drinking water. Ground water is an important source of surface water. Its contribution to the overall flow of rivers and streams in the U.S. may be as large as 50 percent. It is also a major source of water for lakes and wetlands. Ground water is tapped through wells placed in water-bearing rocks and materials beneath the earth's surface. Precipitation and other sources replenish the ground water supply, but increasingly drought conditions--where the rate of pumping exceeds the rate of replenishment--are becoming common.
There are nearly 15.9 million water wells serving U.S. households, cities, business, and agriculture. Forty-two million Americans rely on this private drinking water supply. But this source is not without its own risks. Homeowners who have well water should schedule an annual maintenance check for their well, including testing the water for bacteria and any other potential water quality concerns. Water should also be tested any time there is a change in taste, odor or appearance, or anytime a water supply system is serviced.
Sixty-nine percent of all our freshwater withdrawal use is for agriculture. In the last 300 years, water use in agriculture has increased 35-fold. Industry accounts for 23 percent of our freshwater use, while 8 percent is used for such municipal activities as drinking, bathing, cleaning, and watering plants. How we Americans address water use and its quality has global ramifications. Half the people of this world live on less than two dollars a day. Adequate supplies of water to serve agriculture, sanitation, industry and drinking is essential for a reasonable quality of life wherever one lives on this planet. Our growing population and future development will force every person to wiser water use. Unless we awaken to this issue, our prosperity is in peril. Protecting, and preserving our water is essential. This is an international issue. We must find and implement innovative ways to sustain and conserve water resources for future generations.
Copyright Rob Arner - All Rights Reserved.
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