This week, we celebrate World Water Day on March 22.
Water , our most under-appreciated, under-priced commodity, is worth celebrating. It sustains us. And if you’ve been reading or watching the news about water, you’ll be celebrating amid pangs of fear and trepidation, because water shortages are spreading like a toxin around the globe.
Developing nations continue to struggle to find adequate sanitary water; an estimated 780 million people — more than twice the population of the U.S. — lack access to clean water. In the U.S., which has enjoyed water abundance, we are getting our own abrupt lessons in water scarcity.
The widespread drought that devastated agriculture in the U.S. West and Midwest is not over. Even with good spring rains, the farms will continue to feel the pain. Agriculture will proceed, but at a higher cost. We’re depleting aquifers to maintain production. Our cities are drawing on reservoirs and rivers that are running low (think Phoenix).
So while we celebrate water, it would be a good idea to cogitate on some ways to conserve it.
Two things you can immediately do in your own corner of the world:
1 — Give up some water-thirsty lawn — if you live in the western half of the US (minus the rainy Pacific Coast areas) or another arid location. Reducing the turf you irrigate can greatly reduce your household water consumption. In the Southwest, lawn irrigation can account for 70 percent of your water use during the warm months. You can replace turf with a rock garden, pathways and native shrubs and plants that can survive on rainfall after their first year.
2 — Cut down on your meat consumption. Meat compared to plant-based foods simply gobbles water. The food chain is just longer, beginning with the irrigated grain crops that are grown to feed livestock. Some 80 percent of the corn grown in the US is fed to cattle, pigs, chickens and other livestock, which go on to consume water in CAFOs seemingly everywhere. Finally, the meat must be frozen or refrigerated, requiring more water inputs, and we haven’t even counted the water involved in making fertilizer for the row crops, fuel for transporting the feed and livestock. Read more in our story The quickest way to reduce your water consumption.
We’ll be revisiting these topics soon.