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Planet Water

Another Name for Earth

Earlier this year, The United Nations’ World Water Day 2007 renewed the global S.O.S. for a vigorous response to a worldwide scarcity of water—a resource we no longer can take for granted. Our planet’s surface is 70 percent water and blessed with moisture-rich air and soils, yet less than 13 percent of that is the freshwater that humans need to survive, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. We rely on water for everything from drinking, bathing and cleaning our homes to raising food and running industry. But much of our good water is fast becoming unsanitary, and it’s costly to clean it up.

Current Crisis According to the United Nations, 31 countries are now facing water scarcity, including the United States, where seven western states are suffering a seven-year drought. The number of states could rise to 36 by 2013, as even America’s Great Lakes are showing signs of distress. “With some 700 million [people] around the world currently suffering from water scarcity, a figure that could increase to more than 3 billion by 2025, integrated cross-border management of this vital resource is crucial,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message marking World Water Day.

Currently, global water consumption is doubling every 20 years, at more than twice the rate of human population growth. Water research agency projections reviewed by show that world water use is expected to triple in the next 50 years.  Researchers have determined that Planet Earth’s 6.6 billion people already use at least 54 percent of all the accessible freshwater found in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers. By 2025 the human share will be 70 percent, based on the anticipated increase in population. If per capita consumption of water resources continues to rise at this rate, humankind could be using more than 90 percent of all available freshwater within 25 years. The United Nations projects that by 2025 two-thirds of the world’s population will face water shortages or a lack of clean water.

Americans are among the greediest domestic consumers, typically using 147 gallons of household water per person each day, ranking us third after Canadians and New Zealanders.  Municipal water conservation programs repeatedly prove that at least 30 percent of this is wasted inside and outside the home. Making matters worse, upwardly mobile populations in the East are catching up to the developed West and now far exceed the daily minimum of 5 to 13 gallons of water needed for sustenance, reports U.S. News & World Report. Add in water-hungry industries that support a modernized society, and the statistics soar.

Precious Fluid

“Everyone knows that water is the basis of life, but we don’t behave that way,” says Dr. Christine Feurt, director of the Center for Sustainable Communities at the University of New England. “It’s time for a wholesale change in how we think about water in this country.”

Harvesting rainwater appears to be the most promising solution. As President Herbert Hoover commented 80 years ago, “True conservation of water is not the prevention of its use. Every drop of water that runs into the sea without yielding its full commercial returns to the nation is an economic waste.”

Australia, India and the American Southwest are among the thirsty spots planning to capture more rainwater, both through storage cisterns and landscapes that encourage infiltration. That can make a huge difference, particularly in the United States where residents spray anywhere from one-third to half or more of all municipal water on their lawns and gardens.

In Kansas City, Missouri, a voluntary 10,000 Rain Gardens project has already built more than 250 native plant basins designed to capture storm- water and improve the quality of its flow into waterways. The idea’s also growing in popularity in Oregon, Michigan and Minnesota.

Seattle, Washington’s water utilities are now targeting a 1 percent savings per person per year, based on a 1990 conservation initiative. Since then water use has dropped citywide by 24 percent even as the population grew 11 percent. Individual consumption has dropped from 150 to 100 gallons a day.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) comprehensive “WaterSense” education program launched in 2006 cites old, inefficient toilets as the primary culprit behind water wasted inside American homes. EPA officials say that replacing those toilets with WaterSense-labeled models could save at least two gallons per flush, or “approximately 2 billion gallons per day across the country.”

With the average person flushing a toilet eight times a day, in just one year, San Diego, California’s low-flow toilet program has saved enough water to support 80,000 residents. “It’s very easy to have a grasp of the savings every time you flush,” observes Don Schultz of the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College.  Low-flow showerheads, faucets, appliances and irrigation systems, along with smaller lawns, will also help. According to the EPA, “If all U.S. households installed water-efficient appliances, the country would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water a year.”

A grander and more costly solution presented in a recent World Wildlife Federation study of the world’s diminishing water supply calls for repair of aging infrastructure. “In nearly all the megacities, 40 to 60 percent [of water] never reaches the consumer” due to leaks and poor maintenance of the water system, states Asit Biswas, renown advocate of realistic water management practices and winner of the 2006 Stockholm Water Prize.

Drought-stricken Australians have had to take more immediate measures, instituting residential and commercial water restrictions that are enforced by hefty fines for non-compliance. The city of Sydney has consequently reduced its consumption by 13 percent over the past three years. Meanwhile, the country is moving forward on plans to build costly plants to desalinate seawater and turn sewage into drinking water. They’ve even flirted with the concept of a 2,300-mile-long pipeline or canal to carry water from a rain-soaked wilderness to residential areas.

Looking Forward

Among these efforts to secure water for humanity’s future is Public Citizen’s “Water for All” campaign to retain water supplies as a public trust. Campaign leaders proclaim that privatization is not the answer for any of the 60,000 publicly owned and operated non-profit water systems in the United States. The Public Citizen website documents several chilling case studies where taxpayers have footed the bill while companies have profited after corporate takeover of a municipal water system. As Fortune magazine observes, “Water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century; the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations.”

At issue is the basic human right for universal access to water resources, and the ongoing need for everyone to use vital water resources more efficiently. Doing so will help maintain supplies at safe levels while more long-lasting solutions are developed. Citizens of the world already are adapting to what could be a very different future.

Additional sources:,,,,,

GREENING UP THE HOUSE... 23 Ways to Save Water at Home

RESPONSIBLE RESIDENTS OF THE PLANET understand that we’re privileged to drink the same water the dinosaurs drank. They left it in great condition for us. Can we do less for the next generation?

Saving water not only preserves water supplies and lowers utility bills, it prevents additional polluted water from contaminating nearby waterways and watersheds. Today every drop counts. And following these simple everyday tips for wise water use makes it easy to save up to hundreds of gallons of household water each week.

In the Kitchen:

  • Rinse fresh produce in a sink or pan of water instead of under running water.
  • Chill drinking water in the fridge instead of running the tap until it’s cool.
  • Run the garbage disposal only every other day or abandon it for a compost pile.
  • Run a dishwasher only when full. Use a short cycle. No pre-rinsing is needed.
  • Stack hand-washed dishes in a rack or stoppered basin and spray-rinse all at once.
  • Think of ways to reuse cooking water, maybe to water houseplants.
In the Bath & Laundry:
  • Close the drain while waiting for hot water to come. A ShowerStart device automatically pauses a running shower once it’s warm.
  • Take short showers and consider a bath a treat. But be aware that a shallow bath consumes less water than a long shower.
  • Turn off the tap while brushing teeth and shaving. Run a shallow basin of water for wash-ups, which does double duty for rinsing a razor.
  • Install low-flow showerheads, water-saving aerators on faucets, and low-flow or ultra-low-flow toilets. In old toilets, sink a pair of water-filled sealed plastic bottles in the tank safely apart from the mechanism.
  • Flush less. And never for some bug or bit of trash; use a wastebasket instead.
  • Install instant water heaters in bathrooms and kitchen and/or insulate hot water pipes.
  • Wash only full loads of clothes in an Energy Star water-saving front-load machine.
In the Yard & Garden:
  • Replace grass with less-water-intensive plants. Smaller lawns rule.
  • Cut grass to three inches or higher to reduce evaporation. Adding compost, mulch or peat moss improves water retention. So does root-filled, aerated soil.
  • Water only at dawn or dusk and only as needed. Avoid windy days. Do an occasional deep soak instead of multiple light waterings. A maximum one-half to three-quarters of an inch is enough (measure via a tuna can set on the lawn).
  • Use a drip system or soaker hose. Put any sprinkler system on a timer with a rain shutoff and consider using automatic soil moisture sensors. At least set a kitchen reminder timer. Don’t overspray pavement.
  • Look for drought-tolerant plants, then water roots not leaves. Group plants according to water needs. Pull out thirsty weeds.
  • Don’t use a running hose to “sweep” drives and walkways. Instead use a broom or blower. Cap the hose with a shut-off nozzle.
  • Plant a rain garden catchment landscape and set rain barrels under downspouts to capture stormwater.
  • Wash the car from a soapy bucket, quickly rinsing with the hose afterwards. Washing the car on a lawn makes the water do double duty.
  • Use a pool cover to slow evaporation.
Finally, remember that, like the human body, toilets, faucets, pipes, taps and hoses inside and out do well with a regular checkup, for leaks. Detect them by watching for water meter movement when no water is in use. (Bonus tip: replace a rubber washer with a new drop-stop valve to stop leaks for life.) Finding and fixing drips is the first best thing we can do.

Compiled from multiple sources: See for how-to details.

Source: by S. Alison Chabonais

Additional Information:

Date: 2007/09/26 02:05:00 GMT-7

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