Water, Water Everywhere... Nor Any Drop to Drink

June 25, 2008

It’s summertime in Chicago and it couldn’t be better—the weather is warm, the beaches are bustling and the Cubs are leading all of major league baseball. Although us Midwesterners are enjoying the season and all of its accessories, I am reminded every time I read through a newspaper that there are regions of this country that are facing serious water woes: they are running out of it.

Having recently visited Atlanta for the ACE.08 convention, I saw fountains that were turned off and swimming pools that were empty, much resembling a ghost town from summers past. Severe drought has stricken the southeastern U.S. and residents have to conserve, recycle and reuse water as carefully and as often as possible.

On the other side of the country in the Colorado River basin, which supplies water to most of the Southwest, residents are facing the same drought dilemma as the Colorado River dries up at a rapid pace.

What exactly is the impetus to these recent water issues? Climate changes and global warming, for one, are having noticeable effects on our water supplies. Lake Mead in Nevada, for example, the reservoir for Colorado River water that supplies Las Vegas and Phoenix, is already at less than two-thirds of its capacity, and recent studies show that it has a 50% chance of running dry as early as 2021. Sustained drought coupled with growing population demands can make for a dangerous mix.

As water treatment professionals, what can we do to prevent the loss of our most valuable natural resource? There are both long- and short-term solutions that we need to be looking at—short-term solutions may be simple, immediate actions that will have lasting effects in the long term, such as recycling, reusing and conserving water.

There are hundreds of ways to conserve water, many of which most people may not have thought about before. For instance, taking a shower rather than a bath will save roughly 10 gal of water—and a low-flow showerhead will save 1 gal per minute. Encourage customers to fix all leaky faucets and replace toilets made before 1993 with a more recent model; toilets post-1993 are required by law to use no more than 1.6 gal of water per flush, amounting to an estimated 1.9-gal savings per flush. When it comes to laundry, recommend customers run only full loads in the washer, choose the correct water level per load and skip the extra rinse cycle. Also let customers know that they should only water their lawns early in the morning or late at night to minimize evaporation.

These simple short-term techniques will help conserve water supplies, so make sure you let all of your customers know because it is unclear what will happen in the long term.

Regardless if you are located in an area where water is plentiful, in drought-stricken areas where water is scarce or anywhere between, encourage your customers to be responsible users of water this summer.

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About the Author

Stephanie Harris