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Issue 9: Water, Water...Everywhere?

Water, Water . . . Everywhere?
Two basic human needs are for food and water. Where you live, you may think that we have an abundance of both, but that is not the case on a global scale. In fact, out of every ten people worldwide, only five are directly connected to a piped water supply to their homes or on their property; three must use some other source of water supply, such as a protected well or a public standpipe; and two have no available water service. (Source: WBCSD Water Facts and Trends)

Water, water . . . everywhere? No—and its supply continues to dwindle.

Globally, we drain precious freshwater to continuously supply rapid population growth, industry needs, and agriculture needs. Agriculture, the world’s largest water consumer, inefficiently uses 70 percent of the world’s water supply. Industry, the biggest consumer in developed countries, is moving more to the already water-stressed developing world.

What’s more is there is a relatively miniscule amount of useable water worldwide. The UN’s 2nd World Water Development Report states, “Only one percent of the total water resources on earth are available for human use. While 70 percent of the world’s surface is covered by water, 97.5 percent of that is salt water. Of the remaining 2.5 percent that is fresh water, almost 68.7 percent is frozen in ice caps and glaciers.”

Water scarcity is compounded by lack of water quality. Poor water quality is due in part to countless chemical contaminates added to water from industrial processes, agricultural fertilizers and pesticides, human excrement, as well as medicines including birth control pills and antibiotics.

UNICEF weighs in, too, stating that there are 1.1 billion people, or 18 percent of the world’s population, who lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion people (42 percent of the world’s population) who lack access to basic sanitation—both of which give rise to infectious waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid, malaria, and cholera.

The most recent Global Environment Outlook (GEO-3) report indicates that one-third of the world’s population lives in countries suffering from moderate-to-high water stress, which is defined as areas where water consumption exceeds more than 10 percent of renewable freshwater resources. Furthermore, the GEO-3 scientists project that more than half the people in the world could be living in severely water-stressed areas by 2032.

  • There are several ways a home or business can reduce water consumption:  
    Recycle and reuse water for indoor/outdoor activities—including water for your plants, garden, or cleaning needs. 
  • Check for water leaks and repair dripping faucets and running toilets; retrofit all wasteful faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors. Check all hoses, connectors, and spigots regularly. 
  • Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily; take shorter showers. 
  • Turn water off while shaving, face-washing, and teeth-brushing. When dish-washing by hand, fill the sink with water instead of running water the entire time. 
  • Don’t over-water your lawn; generally, lawns need watering every 5 to 7 days (summer) and every 10 to 14 days (winter). (A hearty rain eliminates lawn-watering needs for up to two weeks.) 
  • Water lawns during early morning hours when temperatures and wind speed are lowest, thereby reducing losses from evaporation. Position sprinklers so that water lands on the lawn and shrubs, not sidewalks, etc. 
  • Install water-efficient sprinklers such as micro or drip irrigation. Regularly check sprinkler systems/timing devices to be sure they operate properly. Install a rain sensor device/switch to override the irrigation cycle of the sprinkler system after adequate rainfall. 
  • Avoid over-fertilizing/over-mowing lawns. Fertilizers increase water need; a higher-cut lawn encourages grass roots to grow deeper, holding moisture more efficiently. 
  • Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees; they require much less water and are not prone to plant disease.

To improve home/office water quality, try these recommendations: 

  • Have water professionally tested to determine water quality issues/needs. 
  • Install chemical-free water purification, treatment and conditioning systems for conditioning of hard water, disinfection, bacteria/algae control, and sediment filtration. 
  • Use all-natural, organic, biodegradable fertilizers/pesticides, which are less likely to pollute water systems, property, or people and pets due to water run-off. 
  • Install a rain garden filled with concentrated native vegetation. Rain gardens soak up rainwater from roofs, driveways, and lawns and slowly filter it into the ground instead of into storm drains, sewers, lakes, and streams.

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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