All our lives revolve around water – we cannot survive more than a few days without it. We all know, or at least we all hopefully know, that Earth is facing a water crisis. Although 70% of the planet may be covered in water, only 2.5% of it is freshwater, and 790 million of us don’t have access to it. Water is a scarce resource. Water scarcity is a global issue but we need to address it locally.
What is causing Earth to run out of fresh water? Climate change is the driving force behind water scarcity and why millions of people are running out of water. Humans are altering the natural water cycle on Earth. We have disturbed approximately three-quarters of the Earth’s ice-free land surface through agriculture, deforestation and wetland destruction. When one thinks of water scarcity common trends that occur are places like California, Cape Town, Tokyo, or Beijing. It tends to be easy to put issues in the back of our heads that do not affect us. However, these regional crises of water quality, quantity and timing are global because they affect all human populations and ecosystems on earth.
Natural disasters contribute to water loss as well. Chennai, India, a city with one of the largest water scarcity issues, is suffering from droughts that include great periods of time without rain. Chennai also suffers major hurricanes that bring in storm surges and massive amounts of water. This abundance of water may sound great, but before this water is able to be obtained and used as a resource it’s washed back into the ocean as runoff. As easy as it is to blame the planet for these natural disasters, humans contributed heavily towards them. Hurricanes that are devastating Chennai are caused by warmer atmospheric temperatures. Manmade greenhouse gases are causing the rise of global temperatures, causing more hurricanes, the melting of glaciers and ultimately freshwater loss.
This may not seem to be an issue for a lot of us because when we walk into the bathroom to brush our teeth in the morning, we turn on the sink and water just comes out. People who live in water-rich areas can and should be positively impacting the global water crisis. For instance, Dickinson College, located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a water-rich area has implemented a whole slew of ways to limit and reuse water consumption right on campus. The college has reduced water consumption by 15.8 million gallons per year – the actions they take are ones we can take at home. Water scarcity should not only be addressed by government officials or policies but something that is addressed in our own homes. The use of native plants that can also withstand dry conditions can help with the use of water consumption in landscapes. Lush, green lawns that are an American staple require massive amounts of water. Although beautiful green yards are pleasing to the eye, the use of native plants – that do not require such great amounts of water can help limit unnecessary water usage. In addition to water preservation through landscapes, water preservation can take place with the installation of products such as, low-flow toilets and shower heads. Using a front loading washing machine instead of top loading decreases water consumption because the whole barrel does not need to be entirely filled to wash clothes. Every single washing machine at Dickinson College is front-loading instead of top-loading.
Living in places where climate change is not as apparent can make it very easy to overlook detrimental issues. Although we do not directly experience these issues of water crisis in the northeast, if you care about the global community you should implement water preserving techniques and products in your own homes and lives.