When you see a photograph of the earth, the most that you can see is water (that makes its color blue). It is very vital in the survival of all living things on this planet. This inorganic fluid covers about 71% of the earth and 60% of the adult human body. Life depends on it. It is used for almost all activities of human beings from domestic use, hygiene, farming, to manufacturing. In highly industrialized countries like the United States of America, the most human activities that use water are agriculture and power supply.
70% of global freshwater withdrawals globally are allocated to agriculture. Most farmers use modern irrigation systems such as reservoirs and wells to supply water to their crops. The quality and quantity of their yield depends on the consistency of water supply. Several methods are used to ensure a more reliable and consistent supply such as flooding, furrow irrigation (watering between rows of plants), use of sprinklers, canals, or drip irrigation (use of pipes allowing water to drop through its holes into the plant).
Just like agriculture, the production of electricity has become one of the largest uses of water in the U.S. The demand for power supply has increased as the world geared towards a more industrialized society, let alone the growing population. To produce electricity, it needs a huge volume of water to convert its energy to electricity. Big water reservoirs are set up across the U.S. to ensure that the power supply is enough for the entire county. Some of the largest water reservoirs include Oroville Dam, Hoover Dam, and Dworshak Dam.
What is the main source of water in the U.S.?
A highly industrialized country like the United States of America consumes approximately 322 billion gallons of water per day for domestic use, agriculture, or industrial use. But where does this water come from? Although the majority of the Earth is water, only a small percentage can be consumed by humans and all other living things on this planet (about 0.3%). The main source of water that Americans can consume is surface water (rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, and reservoirs). Water treatment systems are used to make this water potable for humans.
There are four common water treatment methods used which are:
- Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration
- Ultraviolet Water Sterilization and Filtration
What are the things that consume the most water at home?
Water is used in homes for drinking, cleaning, hygiene, flushing toilets, watering plants, and many more. Water is indispensable in human activities of daily living. Here’s a breakdown of the main water usage at home:
- Outdoor watering-30 %
- Toilet flushing- 19%
- Laundry- 15 %
- Water leaks- 14 %
- Showers- 12 %
- Faucets- 11 %
Water supply is limited, that includes the water that we use at home. Overusing and wasting household water seems to be one of the problems that most people overlook. Although it seems unusual, water leaks have approximately 14% of the daily household consumption, and around 10% of houses have leaks that waste more water than we know. Common leaks happen in worn toilet flappers, loose faucets, and torn pipes. Since our supply is limited, it is important to conserve water, so leaks must be fixed immediately.
What consumes more water (bath or shower)?
There has been a debate whether it is more eco-friendly to use a bath vs. shower. Most people think that a bath saves more water because water doesn’t run the entire bathing time. However, a standard rectangular bathtub requires around 80 gallons of water to fill, while a ten-minute shower only needs 25 gallons of water. Therefore, the use of a shower saves more water than a bath.
Although the use of a shower is more cost-effective than a bath, there are still opportunities to save water. It doesn’t mean to say that you have to skip your shower, but there are simple and easy ways to do it:
- Shorten your shower time
- Use a timer (cellphones can be used as a timer)
- Turn off the shower and never leave while it is running
- Check for leaks before leaving the bathroom
- Install water aerators
How can human actions seriously affect water resources?
Human activities influence water resources. In most cases, humans are the main threat to the availability of potable water on Earth. As we move forward to a more industrialized society, more by-products and contaminants are produced polluting our water resources. The lack of knowledge and awareness of humans about the impact of their actions to the ecosystem contributes a lot to the dynamics of our water resources.
Here are some of the human actions that seriously affect water resources:
- In agriculture, fertilizers are used to increase the yields. However, fertilizer produces toxic end-products (nitrate) that can contaminate groundwater.
- Untreated sewage, especially in highly urbanized areas, can flow directly to water resources such as streams and river tributaries.
- Unregulated mining uses a large volume of water to process a certain product (e.g., ore, gold, coal, etc.). Mine waste and acidic water often flow in nearby water resources or into the groundwater.
- Deforestation/Illegal logging increases runoff, which causes soil erosion and sediment pollution. It also increases water turbidity, which devalues the quality of water on our resources.
- Improper waste disposal, in several cases, garbage is thrown to water resources which directly pollutes the water.
Potable water is reducing along with the increasing population. People must start to be more intentional in protecting our resources and be more responsible in our daily usage.