Friday, May 21, 2010
The world is focused on oil these days and rightly so since we are quickly depleting the planet's resources. Conserving power, turning off lights and unplugging those little electricity thieves when they are not actually in use is admirable but how many of us are trying to conserve water? How many of us even think of clean water as being a finite resource?
Oil, gas, electricity...all very convenient to have but humans have lived long without them. Clean potable water though is another finite resource and it is one that we absolutely cannot live without...literally.
Our lakes and rivers are polluted, we have dead zones in our oceans not to mention all the trash and garbage that floats around in them, so much water is being removed from our rivers by irrigation and damming that some of them don't even reach their end destination anymore, drying up before they reach the ocean. Our aquifers are shrinking and springs that have been eternal are disappearing. Wells are drying up. Even the rain is polluted at times.
And speaking of rain, it's illegal in some states to collect it for your own personal use because the ranchers and farmers think it all belongs to them, even if you have your own personal food garden.
In our current geo-political climate, the countries with the oil are the ones with the power. It won't be too long before the countries with fresh water will be the ones with the power. There has been many a battle waged over a water source throughout history and very likely many more will be fought in the future if we don't turn our attention to preserving our clean water sources and ending wastefulness. People are already living without access to clean water and rationing is becoming more and more common.
Clean water is essential. We are so used to being able to turn on that faucet here in this country and having all the water we want that we give no thought to where it comes from. Hundreds of gallons a day are wasted on golf courses in the desert while drought stricken areas watch as their reservoirs shrink daily. Evaporative cooling systems spray water outside shops and outdoor seating areas of restaurants in arid parts of the country even when no one is there. Automatic sprinkler systems go on even in the rain.
The water we use is, of course, sent to sewage treatment facilities in cities and towns where it undergoes processes that remove the solids, the grit and dirt, the bacteria. It is finally chlorinated and then released into our rivers and oceans. If you live in the country or unincorporated areas likely you have a septic system which filters out the solids and sends the liquid through pipes to be dispersed underground. Some urban areas are starting to use the reclaimed water for irrigation and landscaping purposes which makes way more sense than releasing it unused into our waterways and oceans. Reusing the wastewater for non-potable applications saves our clean fresh water for more important uses...our consumption. However, most of our uses of water are not for actual consumption. We bathe ourselves, we wash our clothes, our dishes, we water our yards and gardens. A lot of it simply goes down the drain unused.
I've always tried to be conservative in my water use, turning it off while I brush my teeth, wash a sink full of dishes and then turn on the water to rinse them all at the same time using a low flow. Leaky faucets get fixed promptly and I hand water the garden and flower beds instead of using sprinklers. I never waste water on grass. Now that we have moved out of the city, I have been installing water collectors to catch the rainfall and I am laying soaker hoses in the gardens. Lately, I have been keeping a bucket in the kitchen to catch the water that runs while I am waiting for it to get hot to fill the sink, to catch the water I use when I wash my hands or rinse off the vegetables and then I use it to water the flower beds or pots.
Small things, simple things, easy things to do. But if everyone did those small things just think how much water we could save, conserve. It will make a crucial difference not too far in the future.