Why is Water Conservation Important?

Water is so… convenient! Think about it, water not only serves an undeniably important nutritional role, but it also lends itself to household and industrial use all while undertaking the mammoth task of balancing global ecosystems. In the words of Albert Szent-Gyorgi (the discoverer of Vitamin C):

Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother, and medium… there is no life without water.”

Naturally, with such a valuable resource comes the responsibility to conserve it. Water conservation loosely defines all the strategies, policies, and activities we can undertake to sustainably manage freshwater to meet its rising demand.

Many are fortunate enough to be a ‘twist of a tap’ away from receiving clean, thermoregulated, and drinkable water. Many more, unfortunately, are those who have to travel miles to get what can only be termed ‘relatively’ drinkable water.

In fact, studies have suggested that it is easier in today’s world to get free Wi-Fi than it is to get clean water. Disgruntling, isn’t it? You are statistically more likely to die of thirst than to miss out on the next season of Desperate Housewives because of an internet connection… on a planet that is over 70% water!

The thirst factor is not the only reason, however, that people discuss why water conservation is important for us. All across the globe, the effects of poor conservational habits reveal themselves in extensive desertification, shifting weather patterns, and drought.

The balance of ecosystems all across the globe lies in peril of extensive damage that can be mitigated by the more mindful use of that one convenient resource – water.

This article will delve into the specifics of water conservation: Why we should practice it, how we can practice it, and why water conservation is important for us. To begin, we need to know the facts surrounding water on our little blue globe.

How Much Water Does The World Have?

As hinted on earlier, over 70% of Planet Earth is covered by water. The exact figure is 71% according to NASA. Thinking of our water supply in terms of this figure, though, could be greatly misleading.

It is all but too obvious that we are not privy to the earth’s entire reserve of water. For one, about 97% of the earth’s water is in oceans. The rest exists as water vapor, while some of it exists in the form of ice caps, glaciers, rivers, lakes, or in the ground as soil moisture.

Water conservation is important just because freshwater is a limited resource.

Most importantly, having an abundance of water does not necessarily entail that all of it is clean and useable, which are the parameters around which the discussion of the earth’s water supply revolves.

The question of the world’s water supply is also not one of whether the current supply is dwindling but rather of how the demand is increasing in proportion to the amount of freshwater available in the world.

The global population is projected to approach 12 billion by the year 2050 but as it stands, the world’s water supply is not evenly distributed. More than half of the world’s supply is contained in the United States, Brazil, Russia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, China, Canada, Colombia, and Indonesia.

Urban areas tend to have a greater demand for water than rural areas. The world’s supply of water is seen to be divided along political lines as well as economic ones. The former more closely relates to countries’ proximities to freshwater sources, while the latter is heavily associated with the costs of cleaning and transporting water.

Overall, the brutal truth about the world’s water supply is that it is not efficiently distributed. The World Health Organization reports a staggering 17% of the world’s population is lacking an adequate supply of water. That’s over a billion people! This calls on collaborative efforts to conserve water.

Why Water Conservation Is Important For All

Water conservation is a direct method of balancing the growing demand for clean, usable water with the available water reserve. As we have already seen, clean, usable water is quite limited. Using water sparingly does not only create room for lower-income households to get access to clean water, but it also contributes towards maintaining balanced ecosystems. Here’s how:

Water conservation does not only entail not wasting water, but it also involves keeping the available water unpolluted. Unpolluted water hosts millions upon millions of micro-ecosystems that would otherwise diminish in the presence of human-induced pollution.

On a broader scale, wetlands, marshes, and swamps play host to even more ecosystems, some of which we can easily observe. Disturbing such ecosystems could have unpredictable ripple effects on the climate and weather patterns of an area.

In Zimbabwe, for example, recent droughts have been attributed, in part, to mass construction on wetlands. To curb this trend, the Environmental Management Agency has sought to protect the country’s wetlands and ban or cancel ongoing construction projects on them.

With this knowledge, it is no exaggeration that water conservation equals the conservation of life. First, and most importantly, we conserve our own lives by ensuring the human population has a supply of clean, usable water.

By extension, we also facilitate the conservation of complex ecosystems and the maintenance of favorable climates. Water conservation also has personal benefits that deserve a brief discussion.

How Water Conservation Benefits Us

Water conservation can benefit us on two fronts:

  • Water security. This directly affects all of us. As highlighted earlier, the growing human population carries the potential to heavily skew the balance between demand and supply of freshwater. Without proper conservational practices, water could become similar to Bitcoin: highly valuable but requiring extensive mining. Proper conservational habits now could be a good investment towards not having to hustle for something as basic and necessary as water in the future. Decreasing the amount of pollution in freshwater could also indirectly spell an increase in general life expectancies, due to the presence of fewer pollutants or less potentially toxic purification chemicals in drinking water.
  • Economic efficiency. Think of how much the developing world is deprived of numbers in their labor force simply because many of them have to spend hours a day finding clean water. Losing valuable members of society to the struggles of acquiring the bare necessities stunts the growth of many otherwise promising economies. Taking this reasoning further, how battered would the agricultural sectors of many counties be if there was no water to support irrigation schemes? The motivating factor behind conservational efforts is saving a resource. In the long term, saving water will amount to vast savings in the energy needed to transport it as well as that which is expended in using water industrially. This means lower rates charged to users, including you and me.

As we can see, water conservation presents itself as an investment. Habitually minimizing water wastage and keeping the water reserve clean ripples up effects that, in the end, are best enjoyed by the individual householder. These benefits relate to your health and financial savings in the long run.

How To Cut Back On Water Usage

Minimizing the wastage of water is a function of aligning our habits with our goals. The biggest problem in many societies is that individuals underestimate their contribution to the problem or its solution.

To many, “it’s just one house” or worse, “it’s just one person.” As you may imagine, nothing can be further from the truth! Cutting back our usage of water needs to happen consistently and continuously.

This is not to say that communities cannot make collective efforts to conserve water, it is simply to state that the bulk of the work will come from individual households/householders. Collectively, some communities implement the following measures to save water:

  • Prohibiting or minimizing the watering of lawns or gardens.
  • Prohibiting the use of a hose/sprinkler when watering lawns or gardens.
  • Timesharing the local water supply, i.e, closing off the supply for one part of a community while another gets serviced and then switching to allow the first part of the community to get serviced.
  • Using man-made reservoirs or wells.
  • Educating people, especially the younger generation, on conservational strategies.

Individually, people may consider practicing the following to conserve water:

  • Taking shorter showers and using water-saving showerheads.
  • Not leaving the water running as you wash dishes or brush your teeth.
  • Using dishwashers and washing machines only when they are full.
  • Using only those carwashes that recycle water.

Again, conservational efforts are a matter of developing habits. They are not a hit and miss affair!

Water Conservation For The Environment

Earlier, we discussed how water conservation refers to keeping water unpolluted as much as it refers to not wasting it. The science behind unpolluted water took us on a journey on which we met wetlands, swamps, and marshes as mere examples.

When these are left undisturbed and well conserved, ecosystems are extensively preserved. It’s important to have these ecosystems as they are critical components of both the nitrogen and carbon cycles. Beyond these functions, many water retaining lands act as sinks for the excess runoff obtained after receiving rainfall.

The benefits of water conservation are numerous and include economic improvements, and health benefits.

In the case of Zimbabwe, cited earlier, the building of malls or schools on top of wetlands was also tied to an increased likelihood of flooding during the rainy season. Polluted water is also responsible for acid rain which can spell doom for crops and the environment alike.

The main takeaway from all this is that water is a part of a delicate balance.

This balance encompasses living organisms, chemical compounds, and the natural water cycle. Our usage of water can directly interfere with any of these stages, interrupting the balance as a whole. It, therefore, rests on us to use water sparingly as well as to properly manage waste disposal systems.

We cannot close the topic of the environment and ecosystems without citing the common argument:

How would you feel if your children and the children of your children could only learn of some species of animals from pictures in a textbook?

Sadly, some animals have become endangered because of poor water conservation. An example that comes to mind is the whooping crane, a bird native to Texas.

Because of oil spills and abuse of wetlands, their already small numbers continue to face challenges. One could also easily read about the grizzly bear’s dilemma with finding prey or the plight of the San Joaquin kit fox. As we learned earlier, poor water conservation habits carry a ripple effect.

In many cases, this ripple is felt by wildlife. It is for the good of the environment, therefore, that one would keep in mind why water conservation is important for us.

The Bottom Line…
Water conservation, which includes all the strategies, policies, and activities we can undertake to sustainably manage freshwater to meet its rising demand, is a matter of cultivating consistent habits. Through this article, we have learned that:

  • Freshwater is a limited resource despite some 70% of the earth being covered by water.
  • Water conservation equals the conservation of life… our own and that of wildlife and vast ecosystems.
  • Water conservation carries promises of a more secure future in terms of health and economic development.
  • We can conserve water by implementing community strategies aimed at budgeting the current water reserve or practicing personal habits that reflect an understanding of each household’s potential to solve or exacerbate the problem.
  • Water conservation, which involves keeping water unpolluted, can spell hope for wildlife, climates, and underwater ecosystems. It can help to sustain the delicate balance maintained by water in the natural environment.

Conclusion of Water Conservation

In the end, we recognize that the earth does not have any less water… it is simply our demand that will increase with time. Learning the best methods of conserving water will ensure that the demand is always met. Most importantly, it will allow the world to begin to make headway towards providing the aforementioned 17% with their much-required ration of freshwater. Water is a basic need for all living organisms. It, therefore, rests on us to use it responsibly and with a view to the future. True are the words of the National Geographic team:

“All the water that ever will be is, right now.”

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