WhyHunger suggests practical, everyday solutions for a water-secure future for activists, farmers, social movements, schools, organizations, and more.
Water is a renewable but finite resource that everyone on the planet shares, and sharing water means sharing the responsibility for water’s challenges. With such serious and complex issues facing the world’s water supply, it can be difficult to feel like we can effect real change. As daunting a challenge as the water crisis may be, we can find encouragement by adopting both personal and institutional changes to help create a brighter water future.
At the heart of this change is a shift in our thinking about water. This so-called modern life, for all its conveniences, creates systems that remove us from an awareness of the natural resources upon which we rely. Our lives appear driven by the manufactured and mechanized. Water comes into our lives seemingly not from lakes and streams but through pipes and in plastic bottles.
Simply by acknowledging the many ways we use water during a given day, we can begin to transform our relationship with water. How often do we consider the water we use to get our shower temperature just right? How often do we stop to think about where laundry detergent goes after running a load of wash? When eating a hamburger, do we usually reflect on the water used to flood the fields that grew the grain that fed the cow?
Through careful and habitual observance of water’s presence in our lives, we can begin to recognize ways to minimize the vulnerability of countless people to water scarcity and disease. In transforming the ways we use water and the choices we make as consumers, individuals can become vital actors in a global cooperative effort to create access for every human being to clean water.
Water Conservation at Home
By making water-friendly choices at home in the products we purchase and how we use and dispose of water, we can reduce the impact of household activities on the water supply. Here are some simple changes you can make to help conserve water and reduce household pollution:
- Install “low-flow” showerheads and aerators on sink faucets.
- Install a “low-flush” toilet or fill a plastic bottle with water and put it in the toilet cistern to reduce the amount of water used when flushing.
- Take shorter showers.
- Turn off the water while you brush your teeth or shave.
- When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run while rinsing. Fill the sink with wash water.
- Only run the dishwasher or washing machine when completely full.
- If replacing a washer, get a front-load machine rather than a top-load.
- Keep a pitcher of drinking water in the refrigerator rather than running water until it’s cold.
- Water plants in the morning, when temperatures are cooler, to minimize evaporation.
- When safe, drink from the tap and save our environment from plastic bottles. If you do buy bottled water, reuse the bottles and buy bigger bottles.
- Sweep sidewalks instead of hosing them off.
- Fix leaky faucets indoors and out.
- Landscape with native plants instead of grass to reduce your yard’s water needs.
- Dispose of oil and other toxic materials properly.
- Choose cleaning and other household products that are made with safer all-natural ingredients. By choosing these products, you’ll also support the market for nontoxic products.
- Or better yet, make your own products. For cleaning, borax, baking soda, soap and vinegar can be combined to produce water-friendly and economical homemade solutions.
There are many other steps we can take in our homes and elsewhere in our daily lives to conserve and protect water. To find out more, take the interactive tour at the H2OUSE Water Saver Home, which maps specific locations in your home where you can reduce water usage.
Water Conservation in Agriculture
Approximately 70 percent of available freshwater is used for agriculture. The fruits, vegetables and grains we eat require an enormous amount of water to grow. Massive amounts of water go to watering our livestock and the grains they consume. One pound of beef requires about 1,800 gallons of water to produce, while a pound of wheat requires only 132 gallons. Reducing our consumption of meats is a powerful way to reduce the vast amount of water being used to raise livestock.
To learn more about the amounts of water that go into the foods we eat, visit the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Water Education or National Geographic’s interactive site on water use in the food supply.
Another way to encourage responsible use of water in agriculture is to buy seasonal foods that are grown locally. Large-scale industrial farming practices waste water through flood irrigation and contaminate the environment by using harmful pesticides. By choosing to support farmers who respect the environment and use alternative irrigation techniques when we buy our food, we can send a clear message that sustainable agriculture is valued and that consumers care about the world’s water supply.
To support agriculture practices that conserve water and minimize water contamination, consider joining a local food cooperative or buying food at a local farmers market. You might also consider joining a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. For an annual membership fee, community members receive a weekly share of a local grower’s harvest. This symbiotic relationship guarantees financial support for small-scale organic farms while delivering to communities fresh foods that are seasonal, delicious and diverse. To find out more about CSA farms in your area, visit the Local Harvest CSA page to search thousands of local options.
Water Conservation Networks
Just as we all share in the world’s water, we can all share in the efforts to protect it. Activists, farmers, social movements, schools and religious organizations around the world are acting locally and globally to address the many issues facing our water supply. From wetland preservation and sustainable agriculture to humanitarian assistance, there are many ways we can lend a hand. Several national organizations provide individuals with tools and information for creating change, such as the Waterkeeper Alliance, which connects citizens who want to protect local rivers, lakes, bays and coasts to learn how to organize community action. The Sierra Club Water Sentinels website offers individuals ways to help keep our waters clean by communicating with government officials and organizing water restoration initiatives. Consider how you could organize actions in your own community.
By adopting thoughtful consideration of the role of water in our lives and the lives of others, we can encourage real change in how individuals and communities relate to water.