Conservation Corner

Water in our lives, part II

Pauline Lee

Fresh water is not always available and plentiful where we need it. The availability of fresh water varies from location to location and from time to time, depending on geography and climate conditions. Worldwide average usage of fresh water is 70 percent in agriculture, 20 percent in industries and 10 percent for household needs. As the world population increases and becomes more industrialized, our need for more fresh water grows daily. A World Water Development Report issued in 2015 warns that only 60 percent of the world’s water needs will be met in 2030.

The three main reasons for our unsustainable use of water are pollution, over consumption and wastefulness. Pollution is created by people, by industries, and by excess fertilizers used in industrialized farms. As the causes of pollution are discovered, we should all help to reduce and prevent pollution of our fresh water. Over consumption and wastefulness can be reduced by more efficient use of water and by recycling water whenever possible.

In agriculture, drip irrigation can replace overhead sprinklers, trench irrigation and flooding fields save 20-50 percent more water and possibly improve the yields at the same time due to direct application of water to growing roots. Moreover, the selection of plants more tolerant to drought will improve yields at lower levels of water usage.

Many manufacturing sectors are devising methods to improve water sustainability. Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor maker, was selected by the EPA as the 2007 water efficiency leader. Intel has reduced their water need from Chandler by 5.2 million gallons each day, 80 percent of their total usage. Their industrial wastewater is repurified to drinking quality for reinjection into aquifers or to reusable quality for internal use. Yet, for continued growth, water sustainability requires increasing efficiency in manufacturing to keep up with the demand.

Finally, household water consumption can be reduced by having more water efficient appliances and plumbing. Greywater, wastewater that does not contain fecal matter, can flush toilets or water the outside landscape. Furthermore, you can reduce your water consumption in any of the following ways.

Activity: Normal Use: Conservation Use

Flushing: Depends on tank size: 5-7 gallons: Displacement bottles in tank: 4 gallons

Showering: Water running: 25 gallons: Wet down; soap up; rinse off: 4 gallons

Bathing: Tub full: 40 gallons: Minimal water level: 10-12 gallons

Brushing teeth: Tap running: 5 gallons: Wet brush; turn water off; rinse: 1/2 gallon

Washing hands or face: Tap running: 2 gallons: Plug and fill basin: 1 gallon

Drinking: Run water to cool: 1 gallon: Keep water in refrigerator: 8 ounces

Cleaning vegetables: Tap running: 3 gallons: Fill pan with water to clean vegetables: 1/2 gallon

Dishwasher: Full cycle: 16 gallons: Short cycle: 7 gallons

Dishes by hand: Tap running: 30 gallons: Wash and rinse in dishpan or sink: 5 gallons

Washing clothes: Full cycle, top water level: 60 gallons: Short cycle, minimal water level: 27 gallons

Information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service.