As a person who’s had the privilege to live her entire life in areas that have access to potable municipal water, I view water as an environmental commodity that only involves the twist of a faucet knob to obtain it (as I think most people who have enjoyed the same privilege do). Even when the water supply was cut off for some unknown reason, getting usable water was as simple as going to the closest convenience store and purchasing a five gallon jug or waiting for the daily Costa Rican downpour in the rainy season to collect some rainwater in large bins.
I have read, studied, and heard of the diminishing freshwater reserves on our planet and it is always on the back of my mind whenever I turn on a faucet to wash dishes, take a shower, brush my teeth, etc. I am frugal with my water consumption, but that is not enough. The fact that it is so easily accessible leads to the classic conundrum of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ We do not see how our occasional indulgence on a long bath/shower or having a non-native garden that requires constant watering impacts the reserves of our aquifers.
Aside from our own petty leniencies with water waste, “drought, bad management of pumping, leaky pipes in big-city municipal water systems, aging infrastructure, inadequate technology, population growth, and the demand for more food production all put increasing demand on pumping more groundwater.”
Our diet, too, has a significant impact on water consumption (as we’ve written on this blog on multiple occasions). Laura Parker reports for National Geographic:
“More than two-thirds of the groundwater consumed around the world irrigates agriculture, while the rest supplies drinking water to cities. These aquifers long have served as a backup to carry regions and countries through droughts and warm winters lacking enough snowmelt to replenish rivers and streams.”
Water wars have happened and are happening in the Middle East. Those victims are the people who have had to face the harsh reality of this crisis and paid it with their lives. Many of us, myself included, have not faced that reality and forget about it constantly, every time we excuse ourselves to keep the water running while waiting for the shower to heat up (instead letting it flow into containers and then using it for dish washing or watering plants or flushing the toilet) or hosing down the driveway to not have to sweep it. So I just want to remind you, and myself, of the importance water because it is the source of all life on our precious Earth.
Please read more about the impact of depleting aquifers here.