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!