How much water is ACTUALLY available for our use?

Water may seem in plentiful here on the east coast of the US, but in reality, we’re lucky.

It’s nearing summer and a lot of us are thinking about making our gardens beautiful, bbq-ing, and heading to the beach or pool! What do these all have to do with nature? They all consume an extraordinary amount of water – something that is a valuable resource!

Yes, water naturally recycles itself through the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation, etc…), however the number of people all needing that same resource is exponentially increasing. As I write this,  Earth’s population is 7,632,819,325!

While in many areas of America, it may seem as if we have an abundance of water, it’s not that way for much of the developing world and parts of America. In fact, less than 1% of all of the planet’s water is usable as freshwater. Here is a breakdown of the planet’s water:

  • Ocean water: 97.2%
  • Glaciers and other ice: 2.15%
  • Groundwater,: 0.61%
  • Fresh water lakes: 0.009%
  • Inland seas: 0.008%
  • Soil Moisture: 0.005%
  • Atmosphere: 0.001%
  • Rivers: 0.0001%
Oceans make up most of the water on the planet - but unfortunately, as salt water, we can't efficiently use it.
Oceans make up most of the water on the planet – but we can’t yet efficiently use saltwater.

As humans, we need water to survive – after all, we’re 60% water! Not only do we need to stay hydrated to make sure that our body functions properly, but we also use water to produce food, clothes, technology, and more!

To give you an idea of how much hidden water we use, or “virtual water”, 1 lb. of beef requires around 1,800 gallons of water to raise and care for the animal and make sure that the meat is clean.

It’s estimated that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will suffer from scarce water supplies and two thirds of the planet will suffer from water-stress as a direct result from overuse and climate change.

So what can be done? I’m not suggesting that we all starve ourselves of water, but to be aware of what we’re using and to analyze our water usage to prevent overuse of this valuable resource.

Here are some of my favorite ways to conserve water. Comment if you have others and I’ll add them to the list!

  • Reuse leftover water from cooking. I wait until it’s cooled and then I water my garden with the nutrient rich water.
  • Leave lawn clippings/leaves on the ground. This not only recycles the nutrients back into the ground, but it will help the ground retain moisture. Compost in garden beds does the same thing!
  • Collect rain in a rain barrel to use for gardening.
  • Use a reusable water bottle. Plastic requires a LOT of water to make it. Any undrunk water can be used to water houseplants.
  • Encourage your, or your child’s, school to increase watershed/water conservation education in the curriculum.
  • Only wash full loads of laundry or dishes in the dishwasher.
  • Purchase energy/water efficient appliances.
  • Shorten your shower by a mere minute or two and save roughly 150 gallons per month!
  • Water plants only when necessary (know your plants requirements!). More plants die from over-watering than under-watering.
  • Don’t use running water to thaw food. Plan ahead of time and move food to the fridge or counter to thaw.
  • Plant natives! They already are accustomed to the region’s rain (or lack thereof) and require less maintenance.
  • Turn off water during teeth brushing to save 4 gallons/minute!
  • Aerate your lawn to allow water to reach the roots as opposed to sitting on top of the soil and risking evaporation.
  • Eat more veggies, grains, and beans as opposed to meat.
  • Eat less processed food. The packaging and process to make the food requires more water than if you prepared food from scratch. (ie.- a baked potato requires less water than bagged, deep fried potato chips.)

Want to know how well you’re doing on conserving water- Use this water calculator! I discovered that I use less water than the average American household, but still overuse water through “virtual water”.

No matter where you are in the world - appreciate and respect the water. It sustains life.
No matter where you are in the world – appreciate and respect the water. It sustains life.

There are always steps to take to ensure a better future and be better stewards of this amazing planet!

Want to bring the calm, refreshing, beauty of water inside without overusing it?

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3 Comments on “How much water is ACTUALLY available for our use?”

  1. Pingback: My Top 10 Reasons to Conserve Wildlife – The Art of Ecology

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