By George P. Nassos
Last month, the UN Water Conference 2023 took place in New York City, the first such world water conference in about 46 years. It consisted of about 2,000 attendees in person and another 8,000 virtually. These people were government officials, scientists, academics, Indigenous people, and students. The overall theme of the meeting was that every person on this earth has the right to drinking quality water. The meeting took place because of the continuous decline in quality and quantity of fresh water on this planet.
Today, there are over two billion people living in water stressed countries resulting in about 1.7 million deaths per year. Over four billion people experience water scarcity one month per year. And worst of all, by 2030 the demand for freshwater will exceed the supply by 40%. One of the reasons for the continued shortage of freshwater is population growth coupled with agriculture being the largest consumer of freshwater.
The two largest sources of freshwater are Lake Baikal in Russia and Lake Tanganyika in Africa. Another very large source is the combination of the five Great Lakes which contain about 21% of the world’s freshwater yet serve only 0.5% of the global population. Having such an abundance of freshwater for your use does not mean that it should be consumed without any regard to the world shortage. We must all take the necessary steps to conserve as much water as possible so everyone can have access to this valuable resource.
Switching to renewable energy will reduce the consumption of water as coal fired or gas fired power plants consume huge amounts of water. Nuclear plants also require plenty of water to operate the generators. Solar and wind energy do not consume any water while generating electricity.
Here in the Great Lakes area, even though we have an abundance, what are some ways that we can reduce the consumption of water? Although agriculture is not a major consumer of water in this area, we can still reduce its consumption by additional urban farms. This refers to the use of buildings for growing vegetables and fruits indoors twelve months per year. By employing aeroponics and aquaponics the consumption of water can be reduced by 90%. In addition, the crops are grown much closer to the consumer which reduces carbon emissions because of less transportation.
We should also try to consume less bottled water in favor of tap water. Tap water is regulated by the EPA while bottled water is regulated by the FDA, and EPA standards are much more restrictive than FDA regulations. Unless you are in an area with large concentrations of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances) you should drink tap water. PFAS, also known as forever chemicals, have been used by companies to produce water repellent products but can be harmful to humans if ingested. Just to produce the plastic bottle requires about twice its volume in water, so when you are drinking a 12-ounce bottle of water, you are actually consuming about 36 ounces of water. And only about 10% of those bottles are recycled. In addition, depending on whether you are purchasing the bottled water from a grocery store or a sport venue, you are paying about 300 to 3,000 times more than tap water.
Other ways to reduce the consumption of water is being more efficient or practical. For instance, take shorter showers and don’t let the water run continuously from your faucet while brushing your teeth or shaving. Don’t overwater you house plants or your garden. I don’t believe that watering lawns is necessary. Except for some very hot summers, my lawn is as green as any neighbor’s and when the fall season arrives, my lawn color catches up. You may wish to read this explanation why we shouldn’t water our lawns. God and St Francis discuss lawns – ABC (none) – Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Let’s be more conscious of the use of water and try to conserve it as much as possible. We don’t want to see anyone in this world to be short of water in the near future.