Water conservation is an issue wherever there is a shortage of water and this point is made very transparent when one has the evidence of satellite imagery before him. I once received a world map from the National Geographic Society with the common geopolitical divisions displayed on one side and an equivalent projection using satellite imagery on the other, clearly displaying the rivers and water systems. The upper half of the northern hemisphere, and most notably Canada, appears to be rich in river and lake systems, especially when compared with the United States, which shows a considered lack of usable water systems. Turning the map around for a new perspective so that the observer is looking into Hudson Bay and up the Nelson River, or following the network of lakes and rivers that comprise the Great Bear; Great Slave; Athabaska; Reindeer; Winnipeg and the Great Lakes water systems or even taking a glance at the province of Ontario which is awash with lakes one can plainly see that most of Canada is just one huge marsh. This is made all the more remarkable considering that over the whole, almost 69 percent of the Earth's fresh water exists in glaciers and ice caps found mostly in Greenland and Antarctica and almost all of the rest is under our feet, with only 0.3 percent in rivers and lakes. If we include all of the rest of the planet's water - oceans, seas, and atmospheric - we find that over 99 percent of all of Earth's water is unusable.
It is apparent from looking at the satellite map that the United States has a serious water shortage problem. The only evident land-locked large body of water, not counting the Great Lakes, is Great Salt Lake. Thankfully, there are several major water arteries including the Missouri, the Mississippi, and Ohio river systems. However, the primary source for potable water for about 50 percent of America's 300 million people is ground water. It has recently come to light that all of those people and especially those in the rural areas will one day be drinking potentially contaminated water if they are not doing so already. Pesticides have been very slowly but deliberately percolating into ground water. Studies have shown that the idea that soils act to filter contaminants out before they reach the ground water can no longer be considered a valid notion.
Water conservation is becoming a more serious issue by the day in the United States. Water is even being imported from Canada, even though Canadian laws have been passed concerning the exportation of bulk water with legal exports limited to bottled water. Water is becoming big business.
Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Proper conservation methods and water reclamation projects could keep all of the world's population supplied with their fresh water needs. Water conservation goes hand in hand with energy conservation. In California, for example, over 15 percent of total electricity consumption goes toward water management. Immediate measures which the consumer can undertake in areas where water costs are high - scarcity influences cost - include replacing shower heads with low-flow types and replacing conventional toilets with low-flush toilets or even composting toilets. Kitchen faucets can be supplied with faucet aerators. Waste water can be recycled after purification instead of discarded. In Phoenix, Arizona, many people have replaced grass lawns with gravel lawns, eliminating the need for watering. Improving the efficiency of irrigation systems on well-managed farms can conserve huge amounts of water. Capturing precipitation run-off can claim large volumes of water in a short time.
Sometimes laws must be enacted to ensure compliance with a comprehensive water conservation strategy. A case in point is the code for toilets in Boston as a result of input from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA). When all the MWRA's measures are factored in, which includes pipeline rehabilitation and leak detection leading to other upgrades in water management infrastructure the Boston-area water users' demand is at its lowest since 1911. Water consumption there has decreased by one-third since the 1980's, according to an article in the January/February 2008 issue of Water Efficiency Magazine titled The Secrets of Their Success.
The United States is a technologically and culturally advanced nation. It is quite capable of addressing the issues of water conservation. Other countries are not so lucky. There are 26 countries classified as water-stressed, meaning that they cannot sustain agriculture and economic development using their existing water supplies. According to EarthCARE, by 2025 the number of people living in water-stressed countries will increase six and a half times. A child dies every 8 seconds from drinking contaminated water.
We have proved that it is possible to make a difference. What is required is a conscientious application of efforts to extend our capabilities to those who cannot act on their own to solve their problems.