What Water Crisis? The Impending Problem

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Do you really need to flush that?Bernie Focker, aka Dustin Hoffman of Meet The Fockers, once said, “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”

Bernie Focker, though an imaginary character, spoke of real life issues: water conservation. Even though the water crisis has taken a backseat to other issues such as carbon emissions, the problem is real: By 2025, the world will experience major freshwater shortages. Though 97% of water comes from oceans, only about 3% of it is freshwater. From that, 2.4% is permanently frozen in glaciers and ice caps, 0.5% of Earth’s water is ground water, and the rest can be found in rivers and lakes (also known as surface water).

Since our water comes from ground and surface water, that’s a small percentage overall. And because of our ever-growing population and water needs, rising temperatures and droughts, the US government estimates that about 36 states will face water shortages by 2013.

Not only does consuming more water lead to less in the future, but it also threatens our environment. Our beautiful lakes, rivers and wetlands are being threatened because of increased groundwater withdrawals. Might as well rename Lake Tahoe to Lake No Mo’.

We all know that every drop of water counts, and there are also hundreds of inexpensive ways you can help too. Simple things such as replacing all leaks in your home, taking shorter, efficient showers, using the dish washer only when its at its full capacity, and much more*.

Conserving water is not only helping our future generations, but it can even save you a buck or two. According to the EPA, you could be saving $170 a year – $170 that could be going to a nice dinner in the city, your child’s college books or to your favorite charity.

There are also many clean technologies being developed to save and use less water, such as solutions to use less water to wash clothes. My personal favorite is washing laundry with less than 2% of the water a regular laundry machine needs, by using plastic chips to help clean clothes. The process begins by adding clothes into the machine, then plastic chips are added, after which a cup of water and detergent is added. The heated water dissolves dirt from the clothing, which is absorbed by the plastic chips. Since this process uses significantly less water, the clothes come out almost dry. Thus, not only does this process uses less water, but also uses less energy to dry them as well.

Besides water conserving machines, there are other possible solutions of the water crisis. Desalination is the process of removing salts and other minerals from water. To me, it seems logical to treat ocean water through desalination, but the expensive costs keep it from becoming more commonly used. However, recently, improving technologies have managed to decrease costs and as the water crisis looms on, desalination will be more accepted.

Some other solutions include reusing water to irrigate lawns, all the while keeping harmful materials from reaching the environment. Advanced irrigation technologies include remote sensing and hydrodynamic gates, solutions that developing countries may adopt to conserve their water supplies.  Are there other clean technology solutions to this water crisis? Yes there are, but then, why do you think the water shortage problem has not been garnering as much attention as the energy crisis?

So the next time you throw tissue into the toilet or squash a bug in the bathroom and want to flush it down, you might want to consider throwing it away in the trash. And hey, if you got the guts (or live alone), be like Bernie Focker – I know I’m saving my flushes. Are you?

* Refer to the EPA WaterSense page for more water saving ideas!

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  • http://www.Rabbit-Hole.net Kringle

    I think systemic water filtration and management systems are in the works (Gnome-Works) as a part of a growing CleanTech market.

  • http://www.greatlakesgreenpages.com Robert Stockham

    People often forget that when we say conservation, it means conserving all resources, not just water. Access to good clean drinking water is a luxury, not a right. Here in Cleveland, there is a big push to disconnect the downspouts and get rain barrels to do the irrigation. It is meeting with relative success. I praise the local sustainability groups and leaders like Andrew Watterson who are trying to conserve water and alleviate the aging infrastructure that is having trouble dealing with the waste of water of our population.

  • http://www.cleantechies.com Tina

    @Kringle – Those are great ideas that I hope will relieve the water crisis! I think major companies such as Siemens are also investing in such ideas as well.

    @Robert Stockham – It’s true that drinking water is a luxury – over 1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe water. It’s fantastic to know that there is a push in Cleveland for water conservation.

    Why do you think people have not pushed harder for water conservation, not just in Cleveland, but in all parts of the world?

    Thanks for all your comments and feedback, keep them coming, it’s very much appreciated!

  • http://www.ecotransitions.com Andrea

    Toilets account for approx. 30% of water used indoors. By installing a Dual Flush toilet you can save between 40% and 70% of drinking water being flushed down the toilet, depending how old the toilet is you are going to replace.

    If you are serious about saving water, want a toilet that really works and is affordable, I would highly recommend a Caroma Dual Flush toilet. Caroma toilets offer a patented dual flush technology consisting of a 0.8 Gal flush for liquid waste and a 1.6 Gal flush for solids. On an average of 5 uses a day (4 liquid/ 1 solid) a Caroma Dual Flush toilet uses an average of 0.96 gallons per flush. The new Sydney Smart uses only 1.28 and 0.8 gpf, that is an average of 0.89 gallons per flush. This is the lowest water consumption of any toilet available in the US. Caroma, an Australian company set the standard by giving the world its first successful two button dual flush system in the nineteen eighties and has since perfected the technology. Also, with a full 3.5″ trapway, these toilets virtually never clog. All of Caroma’s toilets are on the list of WaterSense labeled HET’s http://www.epa.gov/watersense/pp/find_het.htm and also qualify for several toilet rebate programs available in the US. Please visit my blog http://pottygirl.wordpress.com/2008/08/01/what-you-should-know-about-toilets/ to learn more or go to http://www.caromausa.com to learn where you can find Caroma toilets locally. Visit http://www.ecotransitions.com/howto.asp to see how we flush potatoes with 0.8 gallons of water, meant for liquids only. Best regards, Andrea Paulinelli

  • http://www.elrst.com Edouard Stenger, France

    Water is very badly distributed around the world. Some face important droughts (Australia…) while others have too much of it (Bengladesh).

    I started in January a series of articles giving tips to get a more sustainable lifestyle. On water I mentioned three important steps:

    1. Assess your system and fix the eventual leaks ;

    2. Turn off the faucets ;

    3. Install a rainwater harvesting system.

    (for more: http://is.gd/Joy0 )

    I particularly liked your article Tina. Starting with a quote from Bernie Focker was an excellent idea ! Keep up the good work !

  • http://artiinvest.blogspot.com Art

    Great article Tina. You should look into how many gallon of water it takes to produce a pair of jeans! I saw some crazy number on Bloomberg magazine a month ago. Another great article is

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a_b86mnWn9.w

    Also check out http://energy.wesrch.com/ there’s plenty of good materials on Green Tech.

    Great work!

  • gs

    Wonder why water as a limited natural resource seems to be treated like a poor cousin to energy in every aspects of the green movement.

    In LEED, you get extra points- EA2 and EA6 if you use green energy and on-site renewable energy. However if you install an on-site atmospheric water generator, you get no points at all even though it reduces directly the demand on municipal water resources.

    Clearly some incentive is needed on that front to boost the exploration of alternative water sources. Don’t you’ll think so?

    gs

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  • http://www.manna-store.com/ Mannatech Products

    Thanks Tina, I agree with you! :)