Help Solve the Water Crisis

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Many of us don’t think about how much water it takes to do everyday household tasks such as washing a load of laundry or taking a quick shower.

But what if fresh water wasn’t so easy to get? According to LiveEarth, almost one billion people worldwide live without access to clean, safe drinking water.

Among many factors, pollution from industrial and household contaminants as well as changing weather patterns threaten water supplies globally, while shortages in parts of the U.S. have lead to enforced rationing in many heavily populated areas, such as Los Angeles.

Photo: LiveEarth
"More than half of our world's freshwater is found in just nine countries," says Jessica Biel. "And one out of eight of us cannot get access to it." Photo: LiveEarth

Thirty-seven years ago, the Clean Water Act put in place the basic structure for regulating pollutants in water and setting a quality of standard. But according to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in a hearing before the House of Representatives, “we have a long way to go.”

What Advocates Are Saying

Earth911.com sought feedback from renowned water advocate Alexandra Cousteau, as well as musician Pete Wentz and actress Jessica Biel as they promote LiveEarth’s international water conservation project. So what are some of the real implications of the water crisis? Here’s what they had to say:

Jessica Biel: “Like most of us, water is not something I’ve thought about through most of my life – it’s just an ordinary part of an ordinary day. You turn on the faucet or get in the shower and it’s there. Then the severity of the global water crisis became apparent, and the reality was startling. I’m changing the way I live because this isn’t a problem for ‘them’ or for ‘those.’ It’s a problem for ‘us’ and ‘we.’”

Pete Wentz: “It’s mind-blowing to me that around the world, people are dying simply because they do not have access to clean water. And these are regular kids, just like my son.”

Alexandra Cousteau: “Access to safe water is one of the defining issues in the progress of women and girls. In a significant number of cultures around the world, women are the water-bearers, meaning that if a member of the family has to skip school or miss out altogether on an education in order to make the daily treks for water, it’s typically one or all of the daughters.”

What’s in the Headlines

From local pollution and droughts to conservation efforts and legislation, water is a hot topic in the environmental sector. Here’s a quick rundown of the most-talked-about stories:

  • Researchers from Columbia University found that the Southeast U.S. drought that lasted from 2005 to 2007 was due to severe water shortages as a result of population growth, rather than rainfall patterns. Figures show that in Georgia alone, the population rose to 9.54 million in 2007 from 6.48 million in 1990.
  • A major drought in East Africa has been a top source of conflict as climate refugees begin to migrate and crowd larger areas. Organizations such as Oxfam and Cafod have launched emergency appeals.
  • In Jackson’s latest address on water conservation, she said more innovative approaches will be taken to address “the most serious violations.” According to The New York Times, this will most likely include mining companies, large livestock farms, municipal wastewater treatment plants and construction companies operating on sites with polluted stormwater runoff.
  • After a three-year drought in California that has resulted in forest fires and extreme water shortages, officials are now tossing around the idea of restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a collection of channels, natural habitats and islands that is a major source of the state’s drinking water. According to reports, it would be the largest environmental restoration project in the U.S., surpassing the effort underway in the Florida Everglades.
Two-and-a-half billion people lack access to improved sanitation, including 1.2 billion people who have no facilities at all.Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com
According to Alexandra Cousteau, "Water is the defining issue of our generation and of the 21st century." Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

How You Can Help

The best way to make a difference is by simply changing your mindset: Instead of thinking of your tap water as an infinite resource, think of it as having limits.

“When it comes to trying understand the challenges to understand water, I really think we focus too much on ‘scarcity.’ Water is, and always has been, scarce,” Cousteau says. “The truth is, we really need to go back to grade school Earth Science class and remember that water on the planet exists in an interconnected cycle.”

To put things into perspective, check out your own water footprint. Not only will you find out how much water you use on a day-to-day basis, but you will also learn how to save it by making simple changes in your diet or lifestyle.

There are several other ways to reduce your water consumption while saving big bucks on your bills:

1. You don’t have to buy it.
Americans consume an estimated 1,500 water bottles per second. However, our tap water systems are regulated for drinking purposes, so fill up your reusable bottle for on-the-go refreshment. You can fill up to five, one-gallon jugs with water from your tap for about one cent.

2. Load it up.
A large percentage of our water is wasted in the laundry room. The average washing machine uses about 41 gallons per load, so always make sure you get the most bang for your buck and fill your clothes to the brim. For extra points, install an ENERGY STAR-certified washer.

3. When in doubt, go low-flow.
The average faucet flows at a rate of two gallons per minute, and a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons of water. Consider installing a low-flow showerhead or aerator on your sink. You don’t need a complete bathroom remodel to start saving.

4. Take it outside.
According to the EPA, the typical single-family suburban household uses at least 30 percent of its water outdoors for irrigation. Try watering your lawn in the morning or the evening when it’s cool outside. This will cut down on evaporation due to sunlight and heat.

5. Plug the leak.
Leaky faucets that drip at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water each year. To check for a leak, read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, you probably have a leak. To tell if your toilet has a leak, place a drop of food coloring in the tank. If the color shows in the bowl without flushing, it’s time to call a plumber!

  • http://leavethejobbehind.com Tim

    Great points. I would also add that few people really understand that they can benefit greatly by drinking the right kind of water. This is a much bigger deal than what is on the surface- as most water looks about the same. Here’s an interesting website on that, and the video on it alone is worth seeing, and it will stick with you.

    http://phkey.com

  • http://www.mngeos.com Mark Hayes

    Sionix Corp (www.sionix.com) can turn almost any aqueous fluid to potable water. Their units are portable which makes them ideal for disaster relief. Water processing runs from $0.17 to $0.23 per thousand gallons. These units are designed to fit perfectly on a standard semi trailer or cargo ship and are plug and play once delivered to the site.

  • Don Smith

    This is right to the point and I could not have said it any better.’For the last 5 years I have been trying to get this same message across to the citizens in my city and the local municipal government. In all cases deaf ears are turned on and I’m referred to as a rabble rouser.
    How do you make people realize water is the necessity of life as there is no substitute?

  • Sean R Cordaro Sr

    I think this article is great because it points out things to be done to converse water. It is not an renewable source like electricity. I want to say thank you for pointing techinics to converse water. I take these reading very seriously. please keeep them coming our way.

  • Sally Cummings

    I just came back from Germany where they have dual flush toilets and they have had them for years. There are two buttons on the toilet, you use one button when you do # 1 and the 2nd button for #2. The first flush only uses .8 of a gal of water and the second flush uses 1.6 gal for #2. In a year, this would save a lot of water and also a lot of money when water is metered.

  • http://www.BigGreenHead.com Big Green Head

    This is such an important topic. Thank you for running it! I’m definitely sharing this on Face Book.

  • Diane

    Great info. Will be using this with my school kids. Does anyone know of low flush toilet that are suitable for high usage? My school’s toilets must date back to the 1960s. They use a LOT of water.

  • Pingback: Ways To Help The Water Crisis | Jefferson Point

  • http://www.quest4change.org/ Heather Rayment

    This is a very good article covering a wide range of ideas about the water crisis. The current drought in East Africa is very worrying, let’s hope people stand up and pay attention now to avert a disaster.

  • Simiya House

    HiGreens

    I live in Jamaica where rivers run in almost the 14 Parishes
    “Land of wood and water”yet water is in recession!
    3/4 of the Earth is cover with water. So how come 1 Billion people don’t have clean water and I can bet the poor is the ones that fell the blunt of the water shotage.This article will aid me to be more careful and considerate when the water is runing.

  • Tony

    Try to wear your clothes more than once if you can. If you didn’t get them dirty, do you really need to wash them everyday?

  • http://sewaenvironmentanimals.com Prof.K.K.Sharma

    My Dear Water friend,
    After watching your website/blog on water issues, I am happy to note that you are generating awareness about importance of water on earth . In order to save water in the laboratories and industries during distillation process where water is used in the condenser Unit for cooling purpose and is left in the drain pipe as a waste , I have devised a simple technique for which a video is available for your view and comments on the following link.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aUwoFn-U1A