You probably tell your kids to do things like “turn off the faucet when you’re not using the water to brush your teeth,” and not to “leave the shower water running for minutes before getting in.”
The logic behind your requests is simple, save water to save money on the utility bill. But saving water is important for other reasons that you and your kids, should know. Below we’ll explore some ideas behind the importance of water conservation that will hopefully be passed along from generation-to-generation.
Everything on Earth requires water to sustain itself. But abusing water means that we are lessening its ability to provide us with this basic necessity. Water is a limited resource and while Earth is a self-contained ecosystem, meaning Earth always has, and will always have, the same amount of water, the population growth puts a strain on water supplies and clean water is reduced by the pollution and contamination we create.
In essence, humans are decreasing our own water supply due to pollution. On top of that, we are polluting the water for all of Earth’s creatures, sending chemicals like oil and fertilizers through our rivers that ultimately end up in the ocean. Sure, we can rely on water treatment plants to send us cleaner water, but a baby dolphin obviously can’t build these facilities.
Water makes a lot of the energy we use possible. The extraction of common sources of energy (oil, gas, coal, biomass etc.) requires water. Hydropower, energy derived from falling water, uses fresh water. The less fresh water that we have the more expensive energy becomes.
A full 70 percent of humanity’s fresh water supply is used to grow crops. Furthermore, freshwater fish, another major source of our diets and a large sector of the food chain, requires fresh water to survive. The more we pollute and/or abuse our water supply, the less likely we are to maintain a sustainable source of food as would all of Earth’s creatures.
There are several factors that are to blame for the decreased supply of fresh water on Earth. We already mentioned how pollution from human activities, especially agriculture, makes its way into lakes, streams and ultimately our oceans. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 40 percent of lakes prohibit fishing and swimming due to pollution.
One of the other factors is population growth. While we can’t spur the population, we can spur our abuse of water so that we can prevent millions more from dying from water-related illnesses. These water supply issues don’t necessarily hit close to home to those of us in Canada, but it doesn’t mean we have to turn a blind eye.
Climate change is also to blame and is caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The effects include reduced rainfall in some areas, halting the flow of fresh water to regions that were formerly accustomed to nature providing this very necessary resource.
Last we have deforestation, an impact that prevents our forests from collecting, storing, purifying and providing fresh water to populations that lie downstream.
You can start by saving water at home. Canada has abundant freshwater resources, but these aren’t evenly distributed across the country. To put things in perspective, Brazil, a country that has the highest water yield per person per year, provides its citizens only 40 percent of what is available to a person in Canada.
Get involved in non-profit organizations that are dedicated to helping provide clean water to cities and countries where it is scarce or they don’t have the resources to treat water. On a local level, do what you can to get involved in local events or gatherings where factors that affect water – pollution, deforestation, poor agricultural practices, etc. – need to be addressed.
Even if you feel overwhelmed about the global impacts of water scarcity and conservation, do what you can locally and encourage others to follow your lead.