Did you know we are living in a water crisis? Have you ever thought about the water streaming from your tap and the impact it carries?
Most of the Western world is unaware of the implications of our water use; living oblivious to the knowledge that water is a limited resource. Only 1% of the water on our planet is readily usable as most water is either saltwater or trapped in ice at the poles. Of the usable 1%, we rely most on the reserves underground, making it expensive and difficult to access. This fact only adds on to the crumbling reality that we are in a water crisis.
Water crisis: a situation where the available potable, unpolluted water within a region is less than that region’s demand.
You may not believe that we are in a water crisis, but water scarcity affects every continent and around 2.8 billion people worldwide, with 1.2 billion people still lacking access to clean water. Water scarcity involves water stress, shortage, or deficits. Water scarcity may be a result of climate change, altered weather patterns including droughts or floods, increased pollution, and increased human demand and overuse of water.
The problems the water crisis pose demand global attention from governments and policy-makers among others, but there are still things you can do in your everyday life to make an impact.
Here are 5 ways that you can be conscious of water usage in your own life:
Try to be more aware of the products you choose to consume. Vegan and vegetarian diets have become more popular in recent years for a number of reasons, but also help to reduce your water consumption.
Meat has one of the highest amounts of embedded water out of any food product. This likely means that the process to put that steak on your plate requires more water than you realize. Alfalfa is commonly used in cattle feed and to grow just a kilogram uses 510 liters of water. With an average cow eating 12 kilograms of feed every day, this would mean just one quarter-pound hamburger requires 1,650 liters of water to produce.
But if meat is something you can’t cut out of your diet, consider reducing your consumption with a “Meatless Monday” or reach for a meat alternative on your next trip to the grocery store.
Consider shopping second hand for your clothing. Thrifting is not only financially sustainable but it is also environmentally responsible; just one cotton shirt requires 2,500 litres to make. Buying clothing second-hand is good for a unique style, your wallet, and the environment.
3. Drinking Water
Everyone knows that water is a human need and often we don’t drink enough of it. One more reason to think about drinking more water is how much additional water alternative beverages require. For example, it takes 74 litres to make one glass of beer and 140 litres for a cup of coffee. So next time you reach for a cup of joe, think about trading it in for a refreshing glass of water.
4. Personal Hygiene
Be honest, how long are your showers? And what’s wrong with unwinding with a nice hot bath once in a while? Have you ever wondered what these hygiene habits cost the environment? A 10-minute shower uses 95 litres of water or more and those relaxing tub soaks can use up to 265 litres when filling the water to the brim. Challenge yourself by keeping those showers to the length of two songs and try to limit your bath time to every couple weeks. And think twice about each time you run the faucet while brushing your teeth or washing your hands; this wastes about 12 litres per minute. And remember that saying, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Every time you skip a flush, you save between 5-20 litres.
5. Spread Awareness
Canada is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of water per capita. Because of this, many people are not aware of how valuable water is or the true cost of it. Many people think water is abundant and that everyone has access to it because it appears at the turn of a tap, but that simply isn’t the case. It is estimated that by 2040 most of the world won’t have enough water to meet demand. The trick is recognizing that water is the most valuable resource there is. We need to understand water has no substitute and remember our fates are tied to this essential element.
So spread the word and let others know the implication that their water usage has on our livelihood. Take a quiz to see how your water habits compare to the average household: https://www.watercalculator.org/.
Jessica Groat and Emily Young
Sustain SU Ambassadors
https://cen.acs.org/articles/94/i26/Cleaning-clothing-industry.html (Adapted from Levi Strauss & Co)