March 22 is UN World Water Day, which highlights the importance of freshwater worldwide. One vital part of World Water Day is water conservation, which is essential as water is a finite resource. To learn more, read on to discover everything you need to know about water conservation.
Why is Water Conservation Important?
Water conservation is essential for two main reasons. Firstly, we are facing a global water shortage that climate change is exacerbating. Secondly, we are reliant on water for survival.
The combination of an increasingly desperate water crisis and how dependent we are on water is a fundamental issue of our time.
Water is all around us. It covers 70% of our planet, making it easy to think it will always be abundant. However, only 3% of the world’s water is freshwater, which we use for drinking and irrigating our crops. Additionally, two-thirds of that 3% is unavailable to us as it is stored in frozen glaciers and polar ice caps.
Sadly, we are facing a water scarcity crisis around the world. Currently, 2.2 billion people live without access to safe water. Entire cities are at risk, such as Cape Town, a city of 500,000, which was a few months away from running out of water in 2018 until finally, rainfall filled dams again.
By 2050, around 1 in 4 people will be affected by water shortages, primarily in the developing world. As a result, one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure access to clean water for all by 2030.
For millions of people in developing nations worldwide, water conservation is so vital that it can be the difference between life and death.
In developed countries like Canada, we may feel that water scarcity is only a problem in developing nations and that water conservation doesn’t affect us. However, this is not the case. Across the developed world, water scarcity is currently an increasing problem.
For example, in the United States, the Colorado River, the primary water source for 30 million people, is at its lowest recorded history level. In California, shortages mean that over a million residents do not have access to clean drinking water, while cities from Texas to Florida are quickly running out of freshwater.
You can find similar problems in Australia, where areas in the country have been in a constant drought since 2016. In Europe, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal have recently faced high water stress.
Even Canada – home to the world’s third-largest per-capita freshwater reserve – is not immune. In 2019, residents in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, were advised to boil their water before consuming it due to contamination. Scientists believe that that summer’s severe drought caused the contamination.
Climate Change and Water Scarcity
Climate change is also exacerbating water shortages around the world. Global warming causes warmer air, resulting in more water evaporation and a drier planet with more severe drought periods. Also, a warmer climate leads to more precipitation in the form of rain and less snow. This is potentially devastating as almost two billion people rely on snow-melt as their primary source of fresh water.
Climate change is also increasingly causing aquifers, the primary source of drinking water for 1.5 billion people worldwide, to become contaminated. This contamination occurs because steadily dryer waterways are forcing animals to seek water closer to where humans live. As these animals seek water, they increasingly pass diseases to humans through water systems.
As climate change worsens, the effect on water is likely to deteriorate. If global temperatures continue to rise, the World Health Organization estimates that by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.
As time goes on, this effect will worsen if we do not halt runaway climate change. For example, by 2040, a quarter of the world’s population and one in four children will face high water stress. By 2050, six out of 10 people will lack regular, reliable water access.
Modern Water Uses
As discussed, the primary reason water conservation is so important is that, as a species, we are reliant on water to survive. This reliance, coupled with the increasing global water crisis detailed above, combines to create an increasingly precarious global situation.
We use water in many settings, including domestic, agriculture and mining:
|Domestic||Water is used domestically every day for household purposes, including drinking, bathing, and food preparation. Globally, domestic use accounts for 10% of total water consumption. The average Canadian uses 329 litres of water a day at home.|
|Agriculture||Agriculture is the largest use of water globally, using 70% of the world’s water. For example, water is used to irrigate crops and raise animals for meat consumption.|
|Industry||Water is used in various industries, including steel production, chemicals, petroleum, and fashion. Industry uses water for numerous reasons, such as cleaning, processing, dilution and cooling. Industry accounts for 20% of all global water use.|
|Mining||Water is used extensively in the mining process for numerous activities, including the separation of minerals through chemical processes, washing equipment, and cooling system.|
|Commercial||Water is used substantially by office buildings, restaurants, hotels, and other commercial businesses.|
How Can You Conserve Water?
The good news is that there are numerous steps you can take at home to conserve water and help solve the global water crisis we are facing. Doing so will also save you money.
One of the simplest ways to conserve water at home is to take shorter showers. For instance, by lowering your daily shower time by just one minute, you could conserve enough water to save $30 annually.
Also, it pays to install a low-flow showerhead. The average Canadian family could save 42,340 litres of water and 1180 kWh of power annually by installing a high-quality, low-flow showerhead. Such showerheads can cost as little as $8 from home hardware stores.
Thankfully, this saving doesn’t come at the expense of comfort. Studies have shown no reduction in comfort and cleanliness compared to conventional models.
Turn off Taps
Another simple way to conserve water at home is to turn off taps when shaving, washing hands and brushing teeth. Doing so can reduce hot water usage by 5%.
Also, make sure to fix leaky faucets. A leaky faucet that leaks at the rate of one drip per second can water up to 30,000 gallons of water per year, which is enough water to take 180 showers.
Toilets are the primary source of water use in a home, accounting for almost 30% of an average home’s indoor water consumption.
Leaky toilets can waste a lot of water and cost you money. To test if you leak, place a drop of food colouring in the tank. If colour shows up in the bowl, you have a leak that you need to fix (make sure to flush after the experiment to avoid staining).
Use a Dishwasher
If you have a dishwasher, use it as opposed to washing dishes by hand. You can use up to 100 litres of water per load washing by hand, compared to 23 litres of water per cycle for a conventional dishwasher. You can make even more water savings with ENERGY STAR dishwashers, which use 30% less water than standard models.
To save more water, only run your dishwasher when it is full. Remember to scrape food off before running as food can clog the dishwasher and cause it to run inefficiently.
If you don’t have a dishwasher or prefer to wash dishes by hand, a method of saving water is to double-dip dishes. Double-dipping dishes is where you fill one sink with hot soapy water and the other with clear water for rinsing. Doing this stops you from running the tap needlessly and wasting water.
Boil Only the Water You Need
Save water and energy by only boiling as much water as you need.
You can save money when washing your clothes by purchasing an ENERGY STAR washing machine. Such models use an average of 33% less water than a standard model.
However, whatever type of washing machine you have, always remember to run the device when it is full to avoid running it unnecessarily.
Eat Seasonal Food and Less Meat
Rearing animals for meat and dairy and growing vegetables out of season uses a tremendous amount of water. Therefore, by cutting down on meat and eating more vegetables in season, less water is used to produce the food you eat.
Reduce Food Waste
All food requires water to produce. Therefore, if that food is wasted, the water used to produce it is wasted too. 1.3 billion tons of food is discarded every year, leading to 45 trillion gallons of water being wasted.
Reduce water costs by only watering plants at dawn or dusk when the water will not evaporate as quickly. Also, it is better to water your garden with a watering can than a hose since a hose can use as much as 1,000 litres an hour.
Rainwater harvesting systems harvest rainfall that falls onto a home. Water is then used for appliances such as washing machines and toilets. A rainwater harvesting tank can store and filter up to 6,500 litres of clean water and reduce your water consumption by up to 40%.
In conclusion, water conservation is vital because we face a worsening global water crisis and rely on water for survival. While industry and agriculture use the most water comfortably globally, there are steps that we can take at home to conserve water. Not only will doing so help ease the pressure on our planet, but it will also save you money.