Why should we conserve water?

Why Should We Conserve Water? Reasons to Save

Rachel Lark - February 28, 2023

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Water is — by definition — a renewable resource. There is a lot of it available and it will not run out unless dire circumstances occur. So why should we conserve water?

Wasting precious drinkable water is never something humans should do because many people don’t have access to such a commodity. Also, clean water is becoming less and less available because of all the harm people are doing to the environment. This is not only dangerous to humans, but additionally to the countless animals they share the planet with.

There may be plenty of water, but that does not mean it’s wasteable. Humans must protect it and do what they can to save this life-saving liquid from destruction. Why should we conserve water? Here is the answer to this question, along with tips about how to go about doing so.

How Much Drinkable Water Is There on Earth?

Anyone who has seen a picture of the Earth can tell there’s a lot of water on it. In fact, about 70% of the planet is covered in the stuff, making up 326 million trillion gallons of liquid — that number has 18 zeros following the 326. Around 98% percent of Earth’s water is in the oceans. There’s about 0.36% in underground wells and aquifers and only 0.036% in rivers and lakes. Those are tiny percentages, but they still make up plenty of water.

However, there is a significant problem with 98% of the water being in the ocean — it’s undrinkable because it is far too salty. While humans obviously can process salt, drinking seawater does not provide refreshment. The amount of salt in it is much higher than the body can process, so it dehydrates more than it rehydrates.

Drinking too much seawater can also end up being fatal. Because the kidneys can only produce urine that is less salty than seawater, it means the person drinking it has to urinate more to get rid of the excess salt. As they continue drinking, their body continues to flush out any of the liquid they’re taking in even as they get thirstier and thirstier. Following this pattern will eventually lead to dehydration without treatment, causing death.

Less than 3% of freshwater is available for human and animal consumption. Unfortunately, just over half of this number is currently frozen in the world’s glaciers and ice caps. Out of all the water on earth, humans can only healthily drink around 1.4% of it — and climate change is making this number even lower. 

How Climate Change Is Tainting Fresh Water

While plenty of water is renewable, drinking water specifically is not. Humanity has to hope for now that science can find a way to clean up polluted water for human consumption. However, at the moment, it is an expensive and lengthy process many worry will come too little too late.

The planet is causing more and more water to evaporate as temperatures increase and droughts become all too common. While what goes up must come down, this game of cat and mouse becomes dire when it comes to a resource people need to live. The Earth’s freshwater supply is shrinking because of the ever-growing number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere heating things up.

Millions of people walk up to 12 kilometers — or almost 7.5 miles — per day to get clean drinking water. Nearly 400,000 people in California are drinking water that could contain chemical contaminants. As most U.S. citizens have seen, these higher temperatures and lessened rainfalls have caused enormously destructive wildfires that cause people to lose their homes and increase anxiety surrounding where to get fresh water.

As much as 30% of the United States relies on snow melt to get its water supply. But — as many can anticipate — the hotter winters are preventing many states and countries from obtaining resources from this much-needed source. Such water insecurity is also currently driving a famine in Kenya, which contributes less than 0.1% of environmental emissions.

Women there walk around four hours to reach a reliable source of clean water. Some report carrying as much as 20 liters back to their homes because the walk is so far. Local pregnant women report these excessive lengths have caused many to experience adverse physical effects or miscarry their pregnancies.

Ways to Conserve Water

If the global temperature rises just 2° Celsius, 800 million to 3 billion people could face water scarcity. What are some ways people can do their part at home to help improve the amount of fresh water available?

1. Take Shorter Showers

An eight-minute shower could use up about 20 gallons of water — or 2.5 gallons a minute. Be mindful of how much time you’re spending washing up and try to lower the number to around four minutes. If you need to spend time shampooing, conditioning, scrubbing or shaving, turn the water off as you complete these steps. People could even find some natural soaps and low-waste shower materials to lessen their environmental impact.

2. Use a Dishwasher Instead of Handwashing

While this tip may appear counterintuitive, leaving the faucet running while washing several dishes can use up a lot more water than a dishwasher. An energy-efficient machine can use around four or six gallons of water, while handwashing could use up to 22 gallons. Those without the means to utilize a dishwasher can use a basin with soapy water to avoid running the faucet for so long.

3. Find and Repair Any Leaks

Leaky pipes and appliances can cause a household to waste almost 10,000 gallons of water each year. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates American homes waste one trillion gallons because of leaks annually. These extreme numbers are why checking for any leaks in homes and apartments is vital. Consider hiring a professional plumber to investigate the pipes each year and monitor water bills to catch any excessive water use that could be coming from a leak.

4. Install Low-Flow Fixtures

Sinks, showers and faucets can waste a lot of water without anyone noticing. If families and landlords can afford to do so, they should switch to low-flow fixtures to save both water and money. By installing these instead of standard appliances, households could save 700 gallons from faucets, 1,460 gallons from showers and as much as 13,000 gallons from toilets. They could also consider switching to an energy-efficient dishwasher to save even more.

5. Sweep Walkways and Patios Instead of Hosing Them Off

The average garden hose can use up about 720 to 780 gallons of water per hour. Instead of relying on automated sprinklers and hoses to clean off patios, driveways and paths, use a good broom. There is not much need to use water when someone could use a practical garden tool. Just keep up with maintenance and each surface can stay looking clean without wasting a precious resource.

Why Should We Conserve Water? Because Access Is a Basic Human Right

While water may seem infinite, the amount humans can drink is minimal — and the supply is shrinking as the world warms up. As scientists work to fight climate change, people should work to conserve water and adopt a less-wasteful mindset. It could help billions of others in the long run.

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About the author

Rachel Lark

Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.