Our Golden State produces half of the nation’s produce and crops, yet its fertile lands have been under extreme duress the past few years because of the California drought. The state has traditionally relied on diverting water from the Sierras, as well as irrigation techniques, to make up for the lack of rain. However, the recent drought has forced farmers to turn to aquifers, the natural reserves of groundwater that has accumulated over centuries from water naturally seeping into the ground. Although this problem is readily apparent in California, other states are also facing similar issues.
Farmers are now drilling 24/7 in order to get to the water underground for their crops, at a rate far faster than the aquifers can recharge themselves. Researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography predict that Lake Mead, which currently supplies water to 22 million people in Arizona, may be dry in 7 years. Even the Colorado River is running dry in some places and threatens the drinking and irrigation supplies of those who depend on it.
Water scarcity is not just a domestic issue, confined within our borders. According to the World Resources Institute, more than one billion people currently live in water-scarce regions. By 2025, in less than ten years, as many as 3.5 billion people will experience scarcity of water. That’s half of the world’s current population.
Numerous factors increasingly deplete our water supply. Pollution degrades freshwater and aquatic ecosystems. Climate change shifts precipitation patterns and hastens the melting of the glaciers. However, another pressing reason, completely within our control, is our domestic, personal use of water. Wasteful flush toilets, non-insulated pipes, and generous shower heads are all culprits to the water crisis. So what can you and I do about it? There are three main practical and feasible avenues through which we can conserve water: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
An easy way for all of us to make a difference is by reducing our personal water usage. A few simple ways include turning off the water when you’re applying soap in the shower or washing your hands and just shortening your shower time one to two minutes, which can save up to 150 gallons of water per month. There are numerous other ways as well, such as watering your plants deeply but less frequently to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance as well as monitoring your water bill to identify sources of intensive water use. You don’t have to apply every single water saving tip you find on the Internet, but just a few water saving strategies applied consistently could go a long way in reducing your water footprint. If everyone reduced their personal water usage, we would have a lot more water.
The second way to conserve water is by reusing it. Whenever you wash your hands, the water that goes down the drain is actually quite clean and can be reused — this even includes water used to wash your vegetables or boil pasta for dinner. Instead of letting this water go to waste every day, you can save the water to water the plants or the lawn. Another method is to use a barrel to collect rainwater that runs off the roof for reuse around the house. By incorporating water into our recycling habits, together we can save millions of gallons of water in our parched state.
An excellent way to recycle water is from the toilet. Florida and Orange County both have water reclamation programs that purify wastewater and turn it back into tap water. Orange County’s program was established in 2008, and since then, it has recharged the county’s underground aquifer with billions of gallons of reclaimed water. The county is currently expanding its facility. By the end of 2015, the facility will be producing 100 million gallons of potable water a day at half the cost of imported water. The main obstacles to this type of program in other counties are public perception and political support. However, the growing scarcity of water means we can no longer afford the luxury of allowing 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater flow from Southern California sewers into the Pacific Ocean every day. We must make sure that our county officials know that we fully support the reclamation of waste water and that we think a waste water reclamation facility is crucial not only for our county’s water supplies, but also for the nation’s as well.
Freshwater is only 4% of the Earth’s entire water supply. Especially in such a naturally dry environment like California, we need to treat water like the precious resource it is. It is increasingly becoming scarce due to drought, climate change, and numerous other factors. By just participating in easy ways for us to reuse, reduce, and recycle water, we can all help preserve the abundance of water we enjoy every day. But change cannot take place if we do not actively pursue better water conservation practices. Let’s actively contact and inform our local county officials about the importance of water conservation and a waste water reclamation facility. Let’s turn this conversation into conservation.