How often have you asked yourself about water? You are generally aware of it’s necessity in your life and you’ve probably been told you can only live 3–4 days without water; but how much do you consider water?

If you’ve ever driven by a reservoir regularly and noticed the changing water level, did you think it was due to drought conditions or human consumption? Did you consider how many people the water supply of the world can support?

It’s altogether too easy to take for granted a simple thing like water. How many times have you let the sink run over a dish while doing something else, taken a long shower, done a small load of laundry or dishes, dumped a water bottle down the drain because it wasn’t cold?

We probably learned in elementary school and are often reminded when looking at a world map that 71% of the earth’s surface is covered in water. What we might forget is that only 3% of the earth’s water is freshwater. With less than 1% of the earth’s freshwater being accessible to us. This means 99% of earth’s freshwater is inaccessible. Source

  • 0.3% of freshwater is found in lakes, ponds, rivers, and wetlands
  • 30% of freshwater is found in groundwater
  • 68% of freshwater is inaccessible in icecaps and glaciers

With so little water accessible to us conservation is key. 1,320 gallons of water the equivalent of 32,911 glasses of water or 5 showers an hour are needed a day to support the diet of the average American. 2/3rds of this water is used to produce the food we eat.

70% of all the freshwater used by humans is for agricultural purposes. Producing the food we eat, the clothing we wear, electronics, and more all contribute to our freshwater use. Producing 1 pound of beef requires more than 1,750 gallons of water. Producing 1 pound of rice requires between 400–650 gallons of water. Rice, Cotton, and Sugar are thirsty plants requiring heavy water use. Check out this water footprint calculator.

With construction on once protected and public lands we eliminate streams, vernal pools, and wetlands. With the dumping of sewage and storm water we taint freshwater sources. With our use of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and other chemicals we taint groundwater, ponds, and streams. With our mining for fossil fuels and minerals we taint groundwater which eventually joins larger freshwater sources. While it is inaccessible to us, global warming is melting the icecaps and glaciers — raising sea levels, yes, but that’s another topic — our largest potential freshwater source.

While we continue to affect our freshwater sources with our activities we place greater demand on them as well. Today 780 million people lack access to freshwater and about 1.5 million people die each year from diarrhea. With projected population growth by 2025 (just 7 years from now) 35% (or 2/3rds) of the earth’s population (48 countries) will be affected by water stress and scarcity.

Take a step back each day with wonder, humility, and gratitude for the natural world. As small as it may seem, do your part, and use the bare minimum you need. Together we can make a difference.

A few ideas for water conservation:

  • Buy only as much food as you eat
  • Buy less “thirsty” plants and meats (Beef, pork, rice, etc)
  • Take quick showers and shower less
  • Flush less
  • Run only full loads of laundry and dishes
  • Don’t leave the sink running
  • Wash your car less and with only a bucket of water
  • Water the lawn less
  • Avoid filling that hot tub or pool