by Margaret Mendel
& Diana Hockley
After an article on water by Margaret Mendel, KRL writer Diana Hockley shares a poem about water.
“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” Ben Franklin
Water can easily be taken for granted. We turn on the faucet and water quickly runs from the tap. And when there are rows of bottled water in the grocery store it’s hard to believe that the fresh water we expect to always be there might someday become a scarce commodity. But that is exactly what scientists are beginning to predict.
Fresh water tables are notably falling, not only in the USA but globally as well, while at the same time use of water has tripled worldwide in the last 50 years with agriculture accounting for 85% of freshwater consumption.
The eight states in the Great Lakes region are so concerned about holding onto their water that they have signed a pact banning the export of water to outsiders, which includes any U.S. state. Fresh water in the upstate New York reservoirs has dramatically dropped in recent years sending officials in that state scrambling for solutions. Due to rising temperatures, droughts, population growth, waste and excess, the government predicts that it is quite possible that within the next five years 36 states will be dealing with water shortages.
California, Florida and Texas are the leading users of water in the USA.
California recognizes its responsibility and is pushing conservation as the cheapest alternative to dealing with water shortages. The state is also looking to increase its supply of treated wastewater for irrigation and has built desalination plants to help relieve the water shortage problem. It is estimated that Californians uses nearly 23 trillion gallons of water a year, most of which come from the Sierra Nevada snowpack. But with the changing climate affecting the amount of the snowpack in the mountains the future of the water runoff is jeopardized.
A hundred years ago Florida’s main problem was too much water, but after years of building dikes, dams and water diversion projects swamplands have been turned into thriving cities and this state now leads the nation in water reuse by reclaiming more than 240 billion gallons of water annually. However, Floridians use about 2.4 trillion gallons of fresh water each year for consumption, agriculture and for cooling power plants. Tampa Bay has the largest desalination plant in North America, producing 25 million gallons of fresh drinkable water every day.
Texas, the fastest growing state in the union, is experiencing the driest period on record since 1895 and this summer temperatures have hovered in the triple digits for over a month making water conservation all the more critical. Last year the National Wildlife Federation and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club released a joint report recommending common-sense water conservation measures. Texas has also begun a public conservation outreach program encouraging farmers to use irrigation that minimizes evaporation and to use conservation tillage, a method of soil cultivation that leaves the previous year’s crop residue on the fields before and after planting the next crop which helps to reduce soil erosion and water prevent runoff.
WATER FACTS ABOUT OUR PLANET
-Fresh water makes up less than 3 % of the water on earth.
-Two-thirds of this fresh water is tied up in polar ice caps and glaciers.
-Fresh water lakes, rivers and ground water (water that is below ground level) account for less than 1% of all water.
-97% of the earth’s water is in the oceans.
-Salt, brackish and fresh water cover 75% of the earth’s surface.
-Water makes up 60% to 70% by weight of all living organisms and is essential for photosynthesis.
It would seem logical since there is so much ocean water that one solution to the fresh water shortage could be more desalination plants. Desalination is the removal of salt and other minerals from the oceans and seas to create fresh and drinkable water. There are over 1500 desalination plants in operation in the world, but the process is expensive and at this point not energy efficient. Several experimental desalination projects using solar power are underway, though patents are pending and any breakthrough results are kept hush-hush as large corporations like General Electric and prestigious university labs work toward making desalination a more economical and eco-friendly process.
WHAT CAN THE INDIVIDUAL DO?
Even though the water shortage issue is a global matter and major industries are struggling to find answers to solve this problem there are hundreds of ways that individuals can help to save. Here are just a few:
-Fix any leaky faucets, because drop by drop, water is easily squandered.
-Install water saving showerheads.
-If possible replace old toilets with modern water saving toilets.
-Plant less thirsty grass seeds, or better yet, in hot arid climates replace lawns with desert-friendly landscaping.
Click here to see 100 ways to save water.
By Diana Hockley
Essential to the life force.
In paintings, depicted as violent, serene, sparkling.
Why then wasted?
Needed by mankind to mature the harvests of the earth,
Allowed to soothe the soul, but
Permitted only as a liquid trickle.
Essential to the lives of animals
Who know my value
As the maintenance of life.
Why reduce my essence to commercialism?
You celebrate my existence until the rains come again,
When humanity forgets once more, that I am life itself.
So now that I am scarce
And often a stagnant green,
Fears of loss make me valuable.
Gushing through downpipes of skyscrapers
Humanity perceives me as infinite,
Available for all eternity.
But be sure–
When the pipes dry out
And rust coats the metal
Then you, mankind, will become aware,
That I am finite and
You cannot live on air.