Learn about the intent to conserve water for water sustainability, why it is important, and actionable water conservation initiatives you can implement at your home or business to reduce your indoor and outdoor water usage, save money, and reduce your eco and carbon footprints.
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What Does it Mean to Conserve Water?
When we talk about water conservation we ultimately want to achieve “sustainable water”, which means using water wisely so that there is a sufficient supply of fresh water to meet the needs of both people and nature and will not be depleted for future generations’ use. The definition of sustainability applies to water as well.
Developed countries have modern irrigation and utility water systems to provide water for drinking, plumbing, and food production and preparation. Unfortunately, not many in industrialized, developed countries don’t know how safe, or unsafe, that water is to consume.
Many undeveloped countries’ populations do not have proper access to water at all. An estimated 880 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.7 billion people do not have adequate sanitation.
So, sustainable water needs to also ensure that there is a sustainable supply of water above and below ground so that human health and sanitation needs are met; pollution is not introduced to our above and below ground water ways so potable water is safe to drink; it does not pollute the ability to provide for safe, healthy food production and preparation; and, it does not harm wildlife.
Why is it Important to Conserve Water?
Conserving water is important because fresh water is a finite resource, and we cannot live without fresh water. As the graph below indicates, 97.5% of Earth’s water is saltwater while only 2.5% is fresh water with less than 1% of that fresh water existing in our lakes, rivers and streams.
Fresh water is also a renewable resource; however, much of it is lost in the natural water cycle (see image below) with particulates being picked up in the air and ground.
Additionally, poor fresh water policies and use have caused water tables to sink and aquifers to be depleted. The Nestle Corporation is famous for going into local areas around the globe for extracting water for bottled water and depleting water tables so low that local communities can no longer support themselves. Many communities and organizations, like Story for Stuff, are having to fight back.
Aquifers provide “fossil water” – water that has taken millions of years to collect below ground. Like fossil fuels, fossil water cannot be replenished our lifetime. The most important of these aquifers in the U.S. is the Ogallala Aquifer that spans across eight states in the midwest and is responsible for 30% of our country’s crop irrigation.
In fact, a Kansas State University study in 2013 demonstrated we are depleting this aquifer so quickly, there is fear it could run out in 50 years. If this aquifer depletes, experts state it would take 6,000 years to replenish. How would it impact our health and economy if we run out of this water?
When We Don't Conserve Water: The Effects
How about 4 million people in Cape Town, South Africa facing running out of water in 2018? Or reports that 100 million people in India will be without groundwater by 2020? Or that Chennai, India is already without water and millions are forced to live off of trucked-in water? How expensive – mentally, physically and financially – or sustainable is this?
It’s also not just a matter of running out of water. How about available water that is too toxic to drink, like in Flint, Michigan? Since 2014, 12 people died and dozens more afflicted. However, what are the lasting costs?
As the human population grows, it is imperative we have a system of water governance in place everywhere to ensure we do not run out of fresh water. Water is the #1 commodity consumed worldwide. Water is also one thing we cannot live without.
As you can see, when the environment is negatively impacted, it has negative impacts on society and economy. It’s a viscous cycle that will not end until we reduce our use of water and build better water governance systems to conserve and protect it for sustainable water ways, ground water and aquifers. Benefits would also include lowered water costs for users and providers.
How To Conserve Water
The good news is there are ways you can help now. From little to big methods of change, when implemented individually, they will accumulate for major, positive results towards reducing our negative impact on the environment, which will in turn, will reduce negative impacts to our health, well-being, and finances.
Many of these day-to-day changes are easy to do. They involve simple purchase habit changes or changing plumbing fixtures, appliances, or both.
These can be done in different levels, if you will – from the easiest “low hanging fruit” methods (see lighter-colored boxes below), to more complex or up-front-cost methods (see darker-colored boxes below) that may have long-term financial savings. If you want more tips and ideas, check out the Conserve Water Blog posts that are continually added for your convenience.
In any case, I encourage you to review these initiatives, pick some, and take the Water Conservation Challenge below.
Indoor Water Conservation Initiatives: How and Why
Outdoor Water Conservation Initiatives: How and Why
Take the "Water Conservation Challenge"!
Go a step further and take the CORR Concepts “Water Conservation Challenge” by doing the following:
1. Take the pledge to turn off the water when you’re not actively using it. Get others to take the pledge.
2. Pick at least one more of the Water Conservation Initiatives and implement them into your everyday life. Periodically, go back to remeasure your Ecological and/or Carbon Footprint to see if you’ve lowered your score. Keep adding more Water Conservation Initiatives to your daily life to keep reducing your footprint!
3. Share this webpage to at least one person so that the sustainability message will spread and enrich and benefit us all.