Swimming beach in Calumet Park, Illinois
Photo by David Riecks, courtesy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
While 75% of the Earth's surface is covered by water, only 3% of that supply is freshwater. Of that 3%, merely 1% is accessible for drinking, and the remaining 2% is frozen in glaciers (American Water Works Association). As population growth continues to soar, the finite amount of fresh, potable water continues to be extracted at a faster rate than the hydrologic cycle can recharge. This situation will inevitably lead to the continuation of conflicts over this vital resource.
There is just no substitute for H2O and the human body needs roughly 2.5 quarts per day. Countless simple water conservation measures can be implemented by individuals and businesses alike. Measures such as installing low flow water fixtures, employing natural landscaping to reduce or eliminate intensive watering, harvesting rainwater or simply being more conscious of our everyday water use, can have a profound impact on water consumption. Best of all, such measures are all relatively inexpensive, easy, and up-front investments that can lead to long term savings.
Not only is the tiny relative amount of freshwater on earth a critical issue, but water quality is perhaps an even bigger issue. In 2000, one in five or 1.1 billion people in developing nations did not have "reasonable access to safe drinking water" (The Worldwatch Institute). Many of these regions have inadequate wastewater treatment facilities leading to the contamination of potable water supplies by untreated sewage and industrial wastes. Such unsanitary conditions allow illness and infectious disease to run rampant.
Water resource issues will undoubtedly intensify leading to the exacerbation of an already intense problem. As the global population is expected to double by 2050, there is no time like the present to act. Learn more about what you can do in your community by practicing and spreading water consciousness!
Funded by the Steelcase Foundation of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Header photo by Carol Y. Swinehart, courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant Extension
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