We all know that water is essential to life. But according to the National Geographic Society, while three-quarters of the earth’s surface is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of that water is fresh. The rest is mostly salt water in our oceans. And more than half of our fresh water exists in the form of snow and ice, making barely 1% of it easily accessible.
While the amount of fresh water on the planet has remained fairly stable over time—being constantly recycled by evaporation and rain back into our lakes and rivers—the population has exploded. This means that every year, competition for an adequate supply of clean, fresh water grows more and more intense.
So in addition to all our other environmental concerns, we have a full-blown water crisis on our hands. What can we do about it? Here are three tips from Sandra Postel of National Geographic’s Freshwater Initiative:
- “First, waste less food. It takes a lot of water to grow and produce the foods we eat. (Did you know it takes 630 gallons of fresh water to produce an average hamburger?) In fact, every day we ‘eat’ about a thousand times more water than we drink.
- “Second, conserve water at home. Upgrading toilets and washing machines to efficient models, for example, can reduce our indoor water use by 36%. Outdoors, planting climate-appropriate grasses and shrubs, and irrigating them only when necessary, can cut outdoor water use by 20–100%.
- Third, buy a little less stuff. A simple cotton T-shirt can take 700 gallons of water to make. If 1 billion consumers each bought two fewer new cotton shirts a year, the water saved could [grow enough food to] feed 4.6 million people for a year.”
Doesn’t sound too hard, does it? In fact, I’ll bet a lot of people have upgraded their toilets and washing machines already. So why not give it a shot?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.