refers to water that has been withdrawn and used in a way that prevents its immediate reuse. This is typically because the water has evaporated, been contaminated or incorporated into a product, including crops.
Only 2.5% of the water on earth is freshwater, and approximately two-thirds of that is inaccessibly in ice caps or glaciers. Less than one hundredth of one percent of the world’s water is both drinkable and renewed each year through rainfall or other precipitation. The amount of water on earth is finite, so as the human population grows less and less water will be available to each individual. Despite this, statistics show that global consumption increased steadily throughout the twentieth century and is expected to continue to rise.
There are a number of reasons why water consumption has increased in the past century. In some areas of the world there has been a general increase of living standards, which has in turn led to the increased use of water-using domestic appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, and power showers. During that same period of time irrigation and industrial water use has been on the rise in all parts of the world due to increased industrialization and a demand for higher crop yields as the population continues to grow. Humans increased water consumption in causing serious damage to many of the earth’s water ecosystems. Many plants and animals rely on bodies of water for their survival and their habitat.
Many people in developed countries greatly over consume water. This is because water is so readily available and the cost of it is also falsely cheap. People in developed countries often spend a far smaller portion of their income on water than those in developing countries. This often gives people in developed countries the impression that water is common and that it is not a precious and finite resource. In fact, lawn watering and toilet flushing are the two greatest water wasters in individual households. Traditional toilets use 3.5 gallons per flush when only about 1.6 gallons are needed to get the job done. In addition, cities in arid desert regions use copious amounts of water for swimming pools, lawns, and other watering needs.
A large part of the reason that people in developed countries consume so much water is because it does not cost them much money. Water is becoming an ever increasingly scarce and precious resource, but this fact is in no way reflected by the price of water in industrialized countries. If water were more expensive in these countries, then it is likely that people would use less of it, helping to preserve what water is available to people.
All of this water consumption by humans is having great impacts on water-reliant ecosystems. Several rivers that once reached the sea year round now dry up in the summer time and come nowhere close to ocean shores. Vast bodies of water, such as the Aral Sea have virtually disappeared as a result of human consumption. In the case of the Aral Sea severe health consequences have resulted for people in the area. Natural bodies of water are important to all forms of life. These bodies of water must be protected from humans if consumption continues to rise as it did throughout the last century. Waterways all over the golbe like the Aral Sea not only support human life, but also a vast number of animal species and plants who also suffer when they dry up. The number of animals that live in, or depend on, aquatic environments in enormous, including not only all fish but also mammals, birds, and amphibians as well as the less noticeable but innumerable invertebrates. Besides simply over consuming water, humans have altered many water ways to cater to the needs of an ever growing population. Humans have built countless dams to harness the power and energy of rivers for a number of different uses. However, when these dams are built they vastly change the types of ecosystem that the river is, and many species are harmed by the change in habitat. Water supports all life and most ecosystems. Humans rely on this biodiversity for survival as well, so it is in the best interest of humans to protect these ecosystems and decrease water consumption.
At the rate of current water consumption and human population growth, the earth will not be able to sustain all of human and other forms of life for much longer. Simple things can be done to reduce the amount of water used in homes on a daily basis. In addition, new technologies are being developed to help people maintain their current standards of living while still conserving water.
Ways to conserve water:
- When washing dishes by hand, don't let the water run while rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.
- Some refrigerators, air conditioners and ice-makers are cooled with wasted flows of water. Consider upgrading with air-cooled appliances for significant water savings.
- Adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street.
- Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full. You can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
- Install covers on pools and spas and check for leaks around your pumps.
- Monitor your water bill for unusually high use. Your bill and water meter are tools that can help you discover leaks.
- Water your lawn and garden in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation.
- Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap
- Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway and save water every time.
- Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you'll save up to 150 gallons per month.
- When cleaning out fish tanks, give the nutrient-rich water to your plants.
- When running a bath, plug the tub before turning the water on, then adjust the temperature as the tub fills up.
- Designate one glass for your drinking water each day or refill a water bottle. This will cut down on the number of glasses to wash.
- Don't use running water to thaw food. Defrost food in the refrigerator for water efficiency and food safety.
- Use a water-efficient showerhead. They're inexpensive, easy to install, and can save you up to 750 gallons a month.
- Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
- Use a commercial car wash that recycles water.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month.
- Encourage your school system and local government to develop and promote water conservation among children and adults.
- Drop your tissue in the trash instead of flushing it and save water every time.
- Washing dark clothes in cold water saves both on water and energy while it helps your clothes to keep their colours.
- Turn off the water while you wash your hair to save up to 150 gallons a month.