It may seem easiest just to leave the water running while you brush your teeth, but wasting all of that water has serious consequences for the environment and human health. Why is water conservation an issue? Although water appears to be abundant, it is a limited resource and making it drinkable uses a lot of energy. Only a small proportion of Earth's water is fresh water, and less than 1% of that is accessible for human use. It is important to conserve water now because, if the human race does not conserve water, there may soon be disruptions in the supply of food and clean water available for human consumption.
Current Water Shortages
Many areas in the western United States already experience water shortages. At the beginning of 2014, California faced its worst drought in 500 years, according to B. Lynn Ingram, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The State Water Project, which supplements the local water supply for several California towns, is completely out of water.
California's drought conditions are not unique – dry conditions are causing reservoirs to dry up, wildfires to ignite and livestock to starve all over the world. Water shortages are commonplace in many of the other southwestern states of the United States, like Arizona and New Mexico. If humans do not start saving water now, a growing number of people will struggle to find fresh drinking water. The situation will only be made worse in the near future by global climate change.
Impact on Food Supply
Dwindling water supplies mean less available water for agricultural irrigation. Almost 70 percent of the water used by people is used to water crops and livestock for food production. The global population is increasing, which will increase the demand for food and thus the demand for water. However, global water supplies are decreasing due to pollution and contamination.
Conserving water will help maintain the water supply necessary for food production. Crops cannot grow without adequate moisture, so if the water supply diminishes, food prices will rise and more people will experience food insecurity. Conserving water at home and at workplaces will make more available for the essential task of producing food crops.
Ecological Consequences of Water Shortages
Water scarcity threatens ecosystems worldwide. More than half of the Earth's wetlands have dried up or been destroyed due to demands for fresh water and the changing climate. Wetlands are home to a diverse array of animal and plant life. They often act as nurseries for birds and fish, so their disappearance has had a significant effect on several species and food webs.
Other ecosystems, and the species they support, have been negatively affected by drought. People rely on nature as a food source, as well as a source of income from hunting, tourism and other recreational activities. Water conservation helps preserve various ecosystems and the plants and animals (including humans) that rely on them.
Water Conservation Strategies
Nearly a billion people worldwide lack a reliable source of clean water, and there is a big discrepancy between water consumption in developed and developing countries. Conserving water ensures that everyone has the opportunity to quench their thirst, regardless of which country they call home.
What does water conservation mean? You can help by being mindful of your water consumption and limiting it whenever possible. Take short showers and turn the water off while brushing your teeth. Run the dishwasher only when it is full and only do full loads of laundry. Instead of pouring water down the drain, use it to water plants. When it's time to replace toilets, faucets and washers, purchase water-conserving devices.
About the Author
Sarah Cairoli began her writing career in 2002, as a reporter for the "High Country Independent Press" in Belgrade, Mont. She then spent two years writing and editing for an online publishing company, and earned her master's degree in English from Northern Arizona University. Cairoli also writes for "Bozeman Magazine."
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