Monday, August 18, 2014

Saving Water Beyond the Home

When we talk about saving water, a lot of our focus is on how much water we use directly in our homes, showering, doing laundry, or keeping our lawns green. But if we look at actual water consumption as a society, our personal water use is just a drop in the bucket -- less than 10% of national water consumption is for domestic and public use. Agriculture is the big culprit, going through about 80 billion gallons a day (total U.S. consumption is just under 110 billion gallons). But energy is gaining ground. While the agricultural sector as a whole is predicted to use less water in 2030, the energy sector looks to double its consumption. 

Image adapted from High Country News

So unless you run a power plant, it might seem like you can't do much to help with water scarcity. But in fact you can. Remember that previous blog post about virtual water? When you turn off the lights or opt for the energy efficient refrigerator, you are not only saving energy, you are saving the water it would have taken to create that energy. Similarly with the food products you bring home the less you throw away, the less virtual water your tossing out as well.

You can also take your understanding of virtual water a step further. Wind energy doesn't require water at all, while hydro-fracking for natural gas... well the clue's in the name. If you have options for your energy sources, choose ones that require less water for the same amount of energy. Here's a handy table to help. Get to know where your food comes from, and what water-saving practices the farmers use. Just like with many other environmental aspects, becoming a conscious consumer is a huge first step to truly creating a sustainable society.

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