"Water will be the 21st century's oil - a much sought-after but dwindling natural resource. The biggest difference: a world without oil is possible; a world without water is not." -Scott Wolf, The Miller Hull Partnership
Last fall, I attended the American Institute of Architects - Georgia state convention; the theme was Waves of Change. The educational sessions exposed us to the global water crisis and taught us some strategies to help reduce our water consumption. The facts are sobering...consider...
Nearly one billion people lack access to safe water. Only 63% of the world's population have access to improved sanitation. Half of the world's hospitalizations are due to water-related disease and 3.6 million people die each year from water-related disease. In just one day, more than 200 million hours of women's time is consumed by collecting water for domestic use. 70% of the world's freshwater supply is devoted to agriculture.
Closer to home the water situation is not encouraging. A 2009 study by Columbia University determined that the water shortages from the 2007-2008 drought in the Southeast was due to the explosive population growth in the region and will happen again. As population grows, the availability of clean water becomes scarcer and scarcer. In the rain rich southeast we may not understand the implications on how this effects us and the importance of conserving water.
The Atlantic in a November 10, 2010 article named the top ten biggest United State's cities that face the risk of running out of water in the next decades. Our neighbors, Atlanta and Orlando, were numbers 9 and 10, respectively. Orlando's main source of water is the Floridan Aquifer, which is the same aquifer that well water in Beaufort County is drawn from. Atlanta's main water supply is from Lake Lanier. Georgia, Alabama, and Florida have been engaged in a bitter 20-year battle over this fresh water reservoir. If the federal judge's ruling that Atlanta's withdrawals are illegal is upheld, the city will lose almost 40% of its water supply. In 2008, Georgia engaged Tennessee in a legal battle over their mutual boundary line and the control of the Tennessee River. One can only imagine that Atlanta will covet the Savannah River if they do indeed lose 40% of their water supply.
There are many ways to conserve water. The changes in behavior to save water include; turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth, take a shower instead of a bath, take shorter showers, turn off the water while you are soaping up, run full loads in both your dishwasher and washing machine, mulch your landscaping to retain water, wash your car less often, choose a car wash that recycles water or if you are washing your car at home, turn off the water while washing the car.
If you are remodeling consider the following: In the bathroom replace all faucets with E.P.A. Watersense labeled products. http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/ Install low flush Watersense labeled toilets; Replace your washing machine with a front loading EnergyStar model; likewise replace your dishwasher with an EnergyStar model. Collecting graywater (water from lavatories, showers, and bathtubs) for reuse in flushing the toilet is an excellent way to conserve water, unfortunately it is not allowed by all municipalities.
Harvesting rainwater for domestic use is the most significant act you can do to conserve water. The simplest method is collecting rain in a rain barrel for irrigation purposes. A rainwater harvesting system with our 50-inches of rain per year, can capture enough rainwater to supply 100 % of non-potable water needs. The addition of water saving fixtures will provide almost 100% of all water needs. A rain harvesting system collects water from your roof through standard gutters and downspouts. The water is then filtered to remove debris and stored in either below or above ground cisterns. An internal pump then delivers the water where you want it.
Even though 70% of the earth is covered with water, only 3% of that water is fresh water and less than 1% is available for consumption. There is no new water, so let's work together to protect our fragile supply.