By Rachel Roberts
About seventy percent of the earth is covered by water, yet roughly only one percent of that can be used for drinking (Sustainable World Coalition, 2014). Globally, water is often limited in both quality and quantity. It is even being considered the oil of the 21st century (Sustainable World Coalition, 2014). With populations increasing and industries growing, how will we be able to keep up with the growing demand for water? It is currently estimated that, worldwide, around 783 million people still lack access to reliable, clean drinking water (Shah, 2010)—and climate change is expected to only make matters worse (Sustainable World Coalition, 2014).
Water is circulated through the hydrologic cycle, where it flows between the ocean, land, and atmosphere renewing freshwater resources. This cycle, however, shows how susceptible water is to adverse changes—especially those of global climate change. Water is a non-substitutable resource, essential to agriculture, wildlife, and human life. The World Health Organization estimates that about 80% of human illnesses are a result of insufficient water supplies and poor water quality (Raven, Berg, & Hassenzahl, 2010).
Shortages in clean drinking water are primarily a result of two causes: pollution and population growth. Water pollution is a result of many different practices including fertilizer and pesticide use, discharge from farmlands, sediment runoff from construction sites, and various industrial practices. Many human activities both intentionally and unintentionally add chemicals and pollutants into both surface waters and underground aquifers. It is estimated that by 2050, global population will be around 9.6 billion people with about 523 million people in Africa lacking clean water resources (Sustainable World Coalition, 2014). According to the Washington Post, one flush of the toilet in the West uses more water than most Africans have to do an entire day’s work including cooking, cleaning, and drinking (Eliasson & Blumenthal, 2005). Rapid population growth, economic development, and industrialization have started to deplete freshwater resources faster than natural processes can replenish them—something needs to be done.
While it will take innovation and water resource policies to meet the water needs of the 21st century, we can individually make a difference by curbing our own water use. Fixing leaky sinks and faucets can save up to 140 gallons of water per week, while taking 5-minute showers save up to 70 gallons of water (The Water- Use it Wisely, 1999). Use your garbage disposal sparingly and opt for composting fruit and vegetable waste instead. Simple life style changes can save gallons of water! For more water saving tips, visit http://wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/. Share these tips with your family and friends—let’s not take water for granted—it’s a limited resource.
“100 Ways To Conserve – Water Use It Wisely.” Water Use It Wisely. 1 Jan. 1999. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/>.
Eliasson, Jan, and Susan Blumenthal. “Dying for A Drink of Clean Water.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 20 Sept. 2005. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/19/AR2005091901295.html>.
“Environment: Healing the Web of Life.” Sustainable World Sourcebook: Critical Issues, Viable Solutions, Resources for Action. Berkeley, CA: Sustainable World Coalition, 2014. 30-34. Print.
Shah, A. (n.d.). Water and Development — Global Issues. Global Issues : social, political, economic and environmental issues that affect us all — Global Issues. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from http://www.globalissues.org/article/601/water-and-development
Raven, P. H., Berg, L. R., & Hassenzahl, D. M. (2008). Environment (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.