Water is the most important source of life. Survival of any living organism without water is impossible. Though a large part of the earth is constituted of water, the supply of fresh water is limited to only 3% of the total amount of water found on the earth's surface. With the demand for fresh and clean water rising across the world, it is time for us to think seriously about the importance of water conservation. There are several engineering and behavioral practices which, if adopted by us at home, industries and other spheres of work and life, can reduce the overall amount of water consumption to a considerable degree. Small modifications in our daily habit of using water can bring about a significant result. It is about time that we incorporate small changes in our behavioral pattern towards water usage so that the depletion of fresh water resources cannot go worse further.
Water is the necessary source for survival. No living organism can survive without water. As per the report of UNICEF, about 2,000 children die every day due to diarrheas and other diseases developed from drinking contaminated water, lack of hygiene and sanitation. Water contamination is a growing problem in the world. With the number of sources for fresh water depleting due to pollution, climate and overuse, it is a matter of great concern to conserve the supply of fresh and clean water. Since 1993, 22nd March is celebrated as World Water Day by United Nations in order to create public awareness about the importance of conserving and protecting fresh water supplies. The motto of United Nations behind this celebration is to encourage people to carefully use the water resources (Ryan’s Well Foundation). Not only our survival, but the basic infrastructure of the world economy, agriculture, irrigation, industrial production, fishing, recreation and maintenance of basic hygiene depend on the resource of clean water. The dearth of safe clean water leads to rampant spread of fatal diseases, poverty, famine and warfare. Though the issue related to clean water is particularly critical in developing countries, the overall climate change and the growing demands for clean water have contributed to a significance shortage of water across the globe.
Safe water which can be consumed by humans with no or low risk of long term or immediate harm or effect is clean water. There are two sources for getting drinking water: ground or surface water. Ground water refers to the underground water originating from rainfall or snowfall and seeping into the ground, filling open pores or spaces between rocks, gravel formation, soil and sand (DEQ Lousiana). Groundwater has two main layers - the surficial aquifer and the deep Aquifer. The geological formation which contains sufficient amount of water to yield into a well is called an Aquifer. The surficial aquifer provides less than 1% of drinking water consumed by humans. It is the deep aquifer requiring little treatment that provides premium quality water (Seminole County Government). Water from both the aquifers is pumped to the surface by the water company which then treats the water to make it drinkable. The treated and purified water then is discharged into the distribution pipes to all the households.
Surface water also originating from rainfall and snowfall assimilates into the surface water of rivers, lakes and other water bodies. The water then is pumped and treated by the water company in a similar manner before being distributed among the households.
Importance of Water Conservation
It might surprise many that though the earth is mostly covered in water, only 1% of that water is usable for drinking, agriculture or manufacturing purpose. Most of the water found in earth is salty water. In order to make this salty water drinkable and clean, a process called desalination is used. Though salt and various minerals are removed through desalination from the salty water, this process is an expensive one (Intelligent Green Products). Only 3% of the water found in earth's surface is fresh but 2% of the same remains in unusable state because of being frozen in glaciers. So, only 1% of the water comes to our use. This 1% water comes from ground, rivers, lakes and rainfall. With the soaring demands for clean water all across the globe, it is very important to conserve water by being careful not to use it wastefully.
The reasons for the conservation of water are aplenty. First of all, water conservation preserves our health and environment. Humans can die within days without fresh and clean water. The salty water found in oceans and seas is completely undrinkable and consumption of that salty water can lead to a good many health hazards including dehydration and damage of our kidneys. Therefore, the limited supply of fresh water resources should be protected and saved.
Water conservation is also economical. As explained before that desalination process is expensive and therefore, making salty water usable for human needs is not a sustainable process. Conservation of fresh and clean water is needed. Furthermore, since using less amount of water involves using less energy; it also saves money in individual pockets. With little efforts made by everyone, thousands of gallons of water can be saved every year (Speer 2012).
Water pollution is a rising problem in the world. The streams, lakes and oceans are getting contaminated constantly by industrial waste (Speer 2012). The groundwater too is not safe as precipitation carries dirt and filths into the fresh water bodies and underground. The old waste treatment technique of landfill is not ecofriendly. Any site being used as landfill site for a long time releases heavy metals and chemicals into the soil, contaminating water. Therefore, keeping in mind the depletion of fresh water bodies it is important to understand the importance of water conservation.
Water conservation also saves energy. It takes energy to operate the equipments that treat water and pump it into the distribution system for sending it into the households. For instance, many studies have revealed that about 6.5% of energy consumed in America is used for pumping water from one place to another (Speer 2012). Therefore, water conservation is a green way to save more energy.
Water Conservation Methods
Water users are categorized into two groups: system users and system operators. System users refer to farmers, residential users and industries whereas system operators refer to state and local government bodies, municipalities and privately owned suppliers (EPA 2012). Based on their needs, the water users may select any of these two water use efficiency practices. Water use efficiency practices can be mainly divided into two categories - Engineering practices and Behavioral Practices. Practices which are predicated on modifications in water supply operating procedures, plumbing and fixtures are called Engineering Practices and practices predicated on changing habits of water use are known as Behavioral Practices (EPA 2012).
Water Conservation: Engineering Practices
Plumbing is an engineering practice which through the installation of plumbing fixtures and appliances that involve using less water can help residential users save a lot of water from wastage. As per the estimation made by EPA, if all the households of USA install water saving plumbing fixtures then the country would be able to save in excess of 3 trillion gallons of water and over $18 billion dollars a year (Landman 2010). Water conservation through plumbing would also save energy. EPA estimates that if water saving fixtures are fitted into at least one out of every 100 households then around 100 million kWh of electricity can be saved per year.
Low Flush Toilets are also useful for residential users to reduce their water consumption. About 3.5 or 5 gallons of water are used by conventional toilets per flush. Low-flush toilets, on the other hand, use barely 1.6 gallons or less water per flush (EPA 2012). Since low flush toilets use less water, the wastewater produced is also less in volume. The use of low-flush toilets is also economical for residential users. A study made in California in San Pablo City showed the efficacy of low-flush toilets. When the conventional toilets of 30 years old building were replaced with low-flush toilets, the result brought about not only a reduction in water consumption from 225 gallons per day to 148 gallons per average household of 3 persons but also 34% per household savings (EPA 2012).
Showering contributes to about 20% usage of water in an average household. By replacing the conventional showerheads that use 4.5 gallons of water per minute with ultra-low flow showerheads which use about 2 gallons per minute, every household can reduce the percentage of water consumption significantly (Landman 2010). Luxury shower heads which use 20 gallons of water per minute should be avoided by all.
Installation of low-flow aerators on faucets is a useful to way reduce water consumption. The low-flow aerators are inexpensive and can be easily installed without reducing the pressure of the flow. If regularly used, low-flow aerators can save about 13,000 gallons of water and 40 therms of energy a year, accounting for the savings of $100 a year (Vectren 2010).
Reducing the water pressure can also contribute to a decrease in water consumption. Residential users by installing water pressure reducing devices can save water. Though water pressure reducing devices might not have effect on toilets or washing machines which use a controlled quantity of water, these may help prevent any water leakage from pipes, faucets or heaters.
Reuse of greywater is another useful way to reduce water consumption. Greywater refers to domestic wastewater coming from showers, sinks, dishwashers, bathtubs and washing machines. Greywater constitutes the consumption of about 40 gallons of water per day by per person in every household and therefore, if greywater is reused for other activities involving water like lawn maintenance, gardening, irrigation and other practices then water consumption can be reduced significantly.
Lawn maintenance and gardening often involve using large quantity of water especially in places where the amount of rainfall is less. Based on season and geographical location, the amount of water used outdoor by residential users varies. The amount of water used by residential users for outdoor purposes is greater in dry and barren lands of West and Southwest of USA than in the East or Midwest of US. Lawn maintenance contributes to about 32% usage of water nationally. By using simple methods like planting trees which require little water and lawn irrigation in early morning or evening hours when the chances of water evaporation due to sunlight remain less can be useful. Furthermore, cycle irrigation, low-precipitation-rate sprinklers can be effectively used for the purpose, reducing the overall water consumption (EPA 2012).
Water reuse can be beneficial way for industries to save water consumption. By following the local ordinances for the safe reuse of water, the municipal wastewater can be used for agricultural irrigation, landscape irrigation, various industrial uses and fire protection. However, before the municipal wastewater can be reused for industrial purposes, some measures to ensure that the quality of water is perfect for the program should be undertaken. The reuse of wastewater benefits the environment by reducing the demands for fresh surface and ground water. Water recycling is also another beneficial way of reducing water consumption. Water recycling refers to the reuse of water for the same purposes for which it was originally used (EPA 2012). Though the recycled water might need some treatment before reuse, it is an effective way to save water.
Cooling heat generating equipment accounts for the maximum water consumption in industries. Recycling water for cooling is one of the best methods for water conservation and cost reduction. The main three techniques used to reuse water in cooling machines are evaporative cooling, ozonation and air heat exchange. Evaporative cooling technique is used in many thermal power stations. Water loses heat when it is evaporated. This principle is used to cool down the water and then use it again. Industrial cooling towers use this technique. This process can be improved by ozonation. In ozonation the cooling water is treated with ozone gas and this improves the process efficiency in a cooling tower (EPA 2012). In a cooling tower ozonation decreases the blow-down significantly, improving the water recycling efficiency. Air heat exchange is also another technique used in industries to cool down the water which is then recycled. A fan blows air past the tubes carrying water. In this process, the water loss from the system is almost zero but the cost of cooling is more than cooling towers and ozonation.
Water usage for rinsing is very common in industries. The water used for rinsing in industrial equipment is first deionized so that it does not corrode the equipment. Deionized water consumption can be reduced by a process called plenum flashes. Deionized water after its use can be used for other purposes as well. As deionized water is often purer than normal municipal water, there is an opportunity of reusing the industrial deionized water.
Irrigation involves the use of lot of water. Water saving in irrigation can help reduce water consumption. The main target is to use efficient techniques so that the total water usage is minimized by efficient distribution of water in the field and retention of moisture in the soil. Chiseling of the soil, furrow diking and leveling of the land to distribute water more evenly are some of the well-known techniques used by the farmers (TWDB). Soil testing helps in understanding the moisture content of the soil and take decisions accordingly to reduce water usage. Measurements like soil moisture content, total rainfall and irrigation schedule help improve the overall usage of water.
Behavioral practices are the individual habits of a person that help decrease water consumption. Behavioral practices are the cornerstone of water conservation success. For instance, the habit of running dishwasher only when it is full can save lot of water. When dishes are washed by hand then keeping a faucet running for doing the dishes may end up using a lot of water. Therefore, in order to keep water consumption minimum, the sink should be filled with soap water first and then dishes should be cleaned in the sink.
Water consumption can be reduced significantly by acquiring the habit of turning off the water tap when brushing or shaving. Taking short showers can save lot of water. As discussed above that using low flow showerheads can help reduce water consumption. Unnecessary flushing of the toilet should also be minimized. As one flush in low flush toilet uses almost 1 to 1.5 gallons of water, we should be using the toilet flush judiciously.
Similarly like dishwasher, washing machine should also be used only when it is full to optimize water consumption. Furthermore, when the load is not full then the setting selection should be made accordingly to ensure less water is used for washing the clothes.
Lawn watering should be done early in the morning or in the evening so that evaporation of water is minimized. If the grass heads are kept a little tall then it helps keep the moisture within the soil, thereby reducing the need for more water during the lawn maintenance. If certain area specific plants are harvested then that can help retain moisture up to 50% in the soil, thus reducing the lawn water usage efficiency.
Washing a car also requires lot of water. Many of us keep the hose running even when we are not using it for washing the car. Turning off the hose in between rinses can save lot of water. It is also advised that the car should be rinsed on the lawn so that the water goes down into the soil. This helps reduce water consumption during lawn watering. If a car is rinsed on the road then the water used for washing the car may runoff or get wasted on the concrete pathway.
Farmers are the primary users of water for agriculture. Irrigation scheduling should be done by all the farmers to effectively use water. Scheduling decision should be made on the basis of rainfall forecast, water storage capacity, pumping capacity and energy costs of pumping (TWDB). Local irrigation cooperatives and agricultural offices can help farmers come up with better irrigation schedules. Local weather stations and soil labs can help farmers with additional information to take better informed decisions about water usage.
Planning and Education
There are three main techniques used by the governments and municipalities to improve the water usage techniques. First and foremost, public education upon the value of water conservation is of paramount importance. Successful programs can improve behavioral practices significantly. Local and federal government should also start educating people about water efficient methods for different types of usage so that water consumption is reduced. Finally, water audit programs for industries and agricultural usage should be conducted on regular intervals to improve practices and suggest techniques which will benefit the organizations in terms of cost as well as water conservation (MDE 2003).
Most part of the world constitutes of water but majority of that water is non-potable. Water is the most important source of a living organism. Humans and animals cannot survive without water for more than few days. Though the demand for clean and fresh water is soaring all across the globe, the supply of fresh water bodies is limited. Purifying salty water of oceans to potable water involves an expensive process and hence it is of utmost importance for humans to start feeling responsible for water conservation. There are several ways to reduce water consumption. There are several residential and industrial engineering techniques available for improving the usage of water significantly. Recycling of water wherever is possible is also of utmost importance. Finally and most importantly, changing our behavioral patterns towards the use of water will help manifold in the reduction of water consumption at home. If we all become careful about the importance of water conservation and make small efforts to lessen water consumption then the resources for fresh clean water will last for a long time without us falling into a situation of water scarcity.
World Water Day - March 22, 2013. Ryan’s Well Foundation. Web. 28 October 2013 <http://www.ryanswell.ca/get-involved/events-listings/world-water-day.aspx>
Why is It Important to Conserve Water?. Seminole County Government. Web. 28 October 2013 <http://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/envsrvs/watercon/important.aspx>
Where Does Drinking Water Come From?. DEQ Lousiana. Web. 28 October 2013 <http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/PROGRAMS/DrinkingWaterProtectionProgram/Wheredoesdrinkingwatercomefrom.aspx>
The Importance of Water Conservation. Intelligent Green Products. Web. 28 October 2013 <http://showerintu.com/wordpress/the-importance-of-water-conservation/>
Speer, Matthew. 5 Reasons Why Water Conservation is Important for Your Family. iFame Media. 12 September 2012. Web. 28 October 2013 <http://www.isustainableearth.com/water-conservation/5-reasons-why-water-conservation-is-important-for-your-family>
The Importance of Water Conservation. Official Website of the City of Manchester, Iowa. Web. 28 October 2013 <http://www.manchester-ia.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7BC10AB9E3-F09C-43DB-8EC6-18E8783B0E81%7D>
Children dying daily because of unsafe water supplies and poor sanitation and hygiene, UNICEF says. UNICEF. 22 March 2013. Web. 28 October 2013 <http://www.unicef.org/eapro/media_20634.html>
How to Conserve Water and Use It Effectively. United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA). 6 March 2012. Web. 28 October 2013 <http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/chap3.cfm>
Landman, Miriam. Switch to High-Efficiency Plumbing Fixtures to Save Water, Energy, and Money. 25 August 2010. Web. 28 October 2013 <http://www.thegreenspotlight.com/2010/08/high-efficiency-water-saving-plumbing-fixtures/>
Install Low-flow Faucet Aerators and Save $100 A Year. Vectren Corporation. 2010. Web. 28 October 2013 <http://www.vectrenlivesmart.com/content/install-low-flow-faucet-aerators-and-save-100-a-year-060109.html>
Water Conservation Using Greywater. Wastewater Management Program (WMP). Washington State Department of Health Office of Environmental Health and Safety. May 2005. . Web. 28 October 2013 <http://www.clallam.net/waterconservation/Water_Conservation___Using_Greywater_Factsheet.pdf>
Water Conservation Practices. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. . Web. 28 October 2013 <http://dallas.tamu.edu/hot-topics/water/water-conservation-practices/>
Agricultural Water Conservation: Irrigation Water Use Management. Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). Web. 28 October 2013 <http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/publications/brochures/conservation/doc/AgBrochure2_irrigation.pdf>
Gleick, Peter H. Waste Not, Want Not: The Potential for Urban Water Conservation in California. November 2003. Web 28 October 2013 < http://www.pacinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/waste_not_want_not_full_report3.pdf>
Conserving Water in Buildings. Propel Air. November 2007. Web 28 October 2013 < http://www.propelair.com/propelair-img/references/Conserving_Water_in_Buildings.pdf>
The Facts on Water Conservation. Bureau of Water. DHEC. November 2006. Web 28 October 2013 <http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/water/docs/dwconserve.pdf>
Developing and Implementing a Water Conservation Plan. Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). 2003. Web 28 October 2013 <http://www.mde.state.md.us/assets/document/water_cons/WCP_Guidance2003.pdf>