Why Sustainable Water Use Matters

  • Liquid freshwater makes up only .024% of all water on Earth and it is continually purified and distributed through the water cycle. This water recycling system is irreplaceable and works well unless we alter it, contaminate it, and deplete reserves faster than can be replenished. Research shows that atmospheric warming is affecting the water cycle by evaporating more water causing wet places to experience heavy flooding, dry places to have more intense droughts, and fuel more violent storms. Deep underground water reservoirs called aquifers are being depleted much faster than they are being refilled. They recharge very slowly, only filling about three feet per year, and paved over urban areas prevent rainwater from penetrating the soil which makes this even slower. Agriculture accounts for 92% of humanities water use and almost a third of that is used for animal products. For example, producing and delivering the typical hamburger takes around 630 gallons of freshwater- most of which is for grain to feed the cattle. We can use water more sustainably by cutting water waste, raising water prices, reducing animal agriculture, and protecting aquifers, forests, and ecosystems that store freshwater. Using greywater systems in homes and businesses and wastewater from water treatment plants can be used for cleaning equipment, watering lawns, and irrigating nonfood crops. These ideas are important because only 7% of water in the U.S is cleaned and reused. Water is an environmental issue because excessive withdrawal from rivers and aquifers has caused land subsidence and shrinking, degraded aquatic ecosystems. The combination of degraded aquatic ecosystems with increased water pollution has also reduced fish populations and hastened the extinction rate of many species.

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