Plenty of Water, but Little to Drink

Taking on Water profiled in Plenty of Water, but Little to Drink, New York Times Science Times.

BOOKS

Plenty of Water, but Little to Drink

Four Books Explore Humans’ Relationship With Water

By 

Published: October 7, 2013

Earth, “the blue planet,” has a lot of water. Most of the planet’s surface is covered with it. But less than 5 percent of that water is fresh, and much of that is locked up in ice sheets or inconveniently far underground. And it is not always most abundant where it is most needed.

As a result, we are drawing on underground aquifers faster than they can recharge. And the water we have is often polluted by sewage, industrial waste, parasites and other contaminants that can make “natural” water unsafe to drink. Read more…

Water Love

Hailey’s Wendy Pabich Taking Water on Personally

Check out my video interview on The Ketchum Keystone:

Nevada’s Great Basin. Enough Said.

Nevada's Great Basin. Enough said.

Taking on Water Challenge Winner

I’m pleased to announce that we’ve chosen a winner at random for the Taking on Water Challenge! Rebecca Rubin will receive an autographed copy of Taking on Water: How One Water Expert Challenged Her Inner Hypocrite, Reduced Her Water Footprint (Without Sacrificing a Toasty Shower), and Found Nirvana, and a home water conservation kit that includes:

Save A Drop Water Meter

Soil Moisture Meter

Eco-Luxury Low Flow Showerhead

Dual Setting Swivel Faucet Aerator

Low Flow Faucet Aerator

Toilet Tank Bank

Fittingly, Rebecca is the Founder, President and CEO of Marstel-Day, LLC. (www.Marstel-Day.com) a 95-person environmental consulting enterprise with offices in Alexandria and Fredericksburg, VA and Oakland, CA. She established Marstel-Day in 2002 as an expression of her commitment to the conservation of natural resources, especially habitat and open space, energy, water, and the resolution of issues at their intersections. As a result, Marstel-Day is a conservation-minded company that provides expertise to clients facing environmental, energy, land use and natural resource conservation issues.

Rebecca is clearly a fellow Waterkeeper. She has both dedicated her career to working on water and related issues, and is taking action in her personal life to reduce her footprint. When asked about the role of individual actions as they relate to our larger impact on water resources, Rebecca said:

“Water is the foremost issue of our day and age; questions about the viability of water quantity and quality are enormous…we need to make every drop count. To this end, each of us must be vigilant in our stance towards taking individual actions to reduce our water consumption and our negative impacts on water quality.”

Congratulations, Rebecca and thank you for all your hard work! Thanks again to all those who participated in the Taking on Water Challenge and to Sasquatch Books for their sponsorship.

Today is World Water Day!

Today, March 22, is United Nations’ World Water Day, and 2013 is the International Year of Water Cooperation. First initiated in 1993, World Water Day focuses attention on the importance of freshwater and advocates for sustainable water management.

Water is essential to our life on Earth. Comprising up to 85% of our body’s mass and vital to metabolic processes, water quenches our thirst, sustains us, cleanses us. Yet, access to clean freshwater is a growing global challenge. This past year brought extreme drought, low snow packs, and record low stream flows in a number of river systems. In this country, we see Las Vegas waging water war with the open ranch lands to the north, Atlanta in protracted battles with downstream states over its primary water supply at Lake Lanier, and water tables beneath the San Joaquin Valley—the source of 40 percent of the nation’s fruits and vegetables—dropping. A recent study by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) suggests that by mid-century, half the counties in the U.S. will be facing water scarcity. And, these problems are not going away anytime soon.

Global population has grown to over 7 billion people and demand for water has escalated. Today, we use water not only to satisfy basic needs for food, drinking water and sanitation, but also to produce power and manufacture untold consumer goods. Growing global demand for food and consumer goods is putting tremendous pressure on water resources, lessening the volume, quality, and consistency of available water, and causing a loss of biodiversity and resiliency in ecosystems of all types. Water overuse, river fragmentation, draining of wetlands, and pollution are all diminishing the ability of these systems to provide a range of ecosystem services—flood control, clean drinking water and clean air, habitat, decomposition of wastes, food production, pharmaceuticals, and recreational and spiritual benefits.

It’s easy to marginalize our individual roles in these problems and, instead, find fault with government policies, corporate behavior, and farming practices. Yet, taken together, our aggregate behavior is the source of these problems. An individual home can waste 10,000 gallons of water a year to leaking fixtures; as a nation, we lose one trillion gallons of water to leaks. We buy 450 million pair of blue jeans every year, each of which requires about 2,200 gallons of water to produce, mostly to grow cotton for denim. That’s a total of 990 billion gallons of water, or enough to provide copious domestic water supplies to almost 10 billion people. We consume 25 billion pounds of beef annually, requiring 46 trillion gallons of water to produce. And the list goes on.

While this may all seem distressing, it also implies a potent truth. As citizens and consumers, we have the power to change our own behavior. We can become more conscious about how much water we use directly in our homes and we can make choices about what and how much we purchase, influencing the types of products and services sold in the market. All of this can lead to increased water use efficiency and decreased water demand. And, like most things in life, cooperation between and amongst people, communities, and nations must start with owning and taking responsibility for our individual actions. As Americans, let’s honor the International Year of Water Cooperation by stepping up and leading a global effort to cooperatively steward and share our freshwater resources.

Taking on Water Challenge: Wrap Up

This week we are concluding the Taking on Water Challenge! During the month of February, contest participants undertook a new action each week to reduce their water footprints, saving up to 6,054 gallons of water. This week we are asking that you please let us know how this challenge changed the way you think about and use water, and how much water you’ve saved. We’d also love to hear what other water saving actions you might be planning for the future. Thank you for joining in!

On or about March 15, 2013, we will be drawing a contest winner, who will receive a copy of Taking on Water and a water reduction kit for his or her home (Approximate Retail Value $130). Stay tuned.

See introductory information on the Taking on Water Challenge: Reduce your Water Footprint here, the Week 1 Challenge: Eat Less Meat here, the Week 2 Challenge: Waste Less Food here, the Week 3 Challenge: Conserve Energy here, and the Week 4 Challenge: Fix Leaks here. To enter to win the Taking on Water Challenge, pledge to decrease your water footprint by leaving a comment.

*****

To Enter

Full official contest rules and guidelines are here. Contest begins January 29, 2013. Entries must be received no later than March 11, 2013, 11:59:59 PM Pacific Time.

• Enter for the chance to win a copy of Taking on Water and a water reduction kit for your home (Approximate Retail Value $130).

• No purchase necessary.

• Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia, ages 18 or older.

• Contest begins January 29, 2013. Entries must be received no later than March 11, 2013, 11:59:59 PM Pacific Time.

• The winner will be selected on or about March 15, 2013.

• Void where prohibited by law.

Entries must be made in the comments section on Wendy Pabich’s blog, www.waterdeva.com. Entries must include the following (Incomplete entries will not be considered):

▪ Name (first and last)

▪ Email Address

▪ A brief comment pledging to decrease your water footprint

Optional: A link to a blog post or photograph can be included, but is not necessary for entry.

Taking on Water Challenge: Week 4 – Fix Leaks

The average home in the U.S. uses more than 144,000 gallons of water each year, 70 percent of which is used inside. Faucets account for approximately 16 percent of indoor water use, or more than 15,000 gallons of water. Even a small, undetected leak in a faucet can add up to big water losses. A leaky faucet dripping at a rate of one drop per second can waste up to 2,700 gallons of water per year. All told, leaks—in toilets, showerheads, faucets, and pipes—in an individual home can waste more than 10,000 gallons in a year. Nationwide, our houses leak more than 1 trillion gallons of water each year, or enough drinking water for 5 million people.

This week’s Taking on Water Challenge is to find and fix any leaking faucets, toilets, or showerheads you might have. Do so and you will save an average of nearly 200 gallons of water in a week. Often, the fix is simple—merely replacing a rubber washer, adding some teflon tape, or replacing a toilet flapper. Check out EPA’s WaterSense program for guidance on fixing leaks at home.

See introductory information on the Taking on Water Challenge: Reduce your Water Footprint here, the Week 1 Challenge: Eat Less Meat here, the Week 2 Challenge: Waste Less Food here, and the Week 3 Challenge: Conserve Energy here. To enter to win the Taking on Water Challenge, pledge to decrease your water footprint by leaving a comment.

*****

To Enter

Full official contest rules and guidelines are here. Contest begins January 29, 2013. Entries must be received no later than March 11, 2013, 11:59:59 PM Pacific Time.

• Enter for the chance to win a copy of Taking on Water and a water reduction kit for your home (Approximate Retail Value $130).

• No purchase necessary.

• Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia, ages 18 or older.

• Contest begins January 29, 2013. Entries must be received no later than March 11, 2013, 11:59:59 PM Pacific Time.

• The winner will be selected on or about March 15, 2013.

• Void where prohibited by law.

Entries must be made in the comments section on Wendy Pabich’s blog, www.waterdeva.com. Entries must include the following (Incomplete entries will not be considered):

▪ Name (first and last)

▪ Email Address

▪ A brief comment pledging to decrease your water footprint

Optional: A link to a blog post or photograph can be included, but is not necessary for entry.

Taking on Water Challenge: Week 3 – Conserve Energy

With a carbon footprint comes a water footprint. Every time you turn on the light switch, not only are you consuming energy and adding to your carbon footprint, you are also increasing your water footprint. Electricity production requires tremendous volumes of water to power steam-generated turbines and to cool equipment. In fact, more than half the total water withdrawals in the U.S. each year feed our electrical grid. In some regions of the country, these withdrawals for electricity production are contributing to water stress.

The volume of water required depends upon the energy source. A recent study by The River Network, Burning Our Rivers: The Water Footprint of Electricity, estimates that it requires between zero and 231 gallons of water per megawatt-hour of electricity produced using wind and PV solar technology, and between 14,811 and 440,000 gallons per megawatt-hour for hydropower, coal and nuclear. On average, the water footprint of the electricity we use is about 42 gallons per kilowatt-hour (or 42,000 gallons per megawatt-hour), and the monthly energy use of the average household translates to nearly 40,000 gallons of water—five times the direct water use of that same household.

Conserving energy—turning off lights, insulating your hot water heater, and using Energy Star appliances—then, conserves water. This week’s Taking on Water Challenge is to switch out just one incandescent bulb for an energy-efficient LED or compact fluorescent one, saving about 42 gallons of water per week, or almost 2,200 gallons per year.

For more information see:

Burning Our Rivers: The Water Footprint of Electricity

See introductory information on the Taking on Water Challenge: Reduce your Water Footprint here, the Week 1 Challenge: Eat Less Meat here, and the Week 2 Challenge: Waste Less Food here. To enter to win the Taking on Water Challenge, pledge to decrease your water footprint by leaving a comment.

*****

To Enter

Full official contest rules and guidelines are here. Contest begins January 29, 2013. Entries must be received no later than March 11, 2013, 11:59:59 PM Pacific Time.

• Enter for the chance to win a copy of Taking on Water and a water reduction kit for your home (Approximate Retail Value $130).

• No purchase necessary.

• Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia, ages 18 or older.

• Contest begins January 29, 2013. Entries must be received no later than March 11, 2013, 11:59:59 PM Pacific Time.

• The winner will be selected on or about March 15, 2013.

• Void where prohibited by law.

Entries must be made in the comments section on Wendy Pabich’s blog, www.waterdeva.com. Entries must include the following (Incomplete entries will not be considered):

▪ Name (first and last)

▪ Email Address

▪ A brief comment pledging to decrease your water footprint

Optional: A link to a blog post or photograph can be included, but is not necessary for entry.

 

Taking on Water Challenge: Week 2 – Waste Less Food

It takes tremendous volumes of water to produce our food. In fact, in the U.S., agriculture accounts for some 80 percent of our country’s consumptive water use. This means that when we waste food, we waste water. A recent study in the U.K. calculated that embedded water in food waste within the country accounted for one and a half times the volume of water people actually used in their homes.

Estimates of U.S. food waste range from 14 to 50 percent of all food produced for domestic sale and consumption. Much of this food is tossed in the garbage because it is past its sell-by date (which is often mistakenly believed to represent the date food should be eaten by), not as fresh as it once was, or because consumers purchased more food than they could eat and allowed food to spoil.

The implications of our carelessness are rather stunning: these foods end up in landfills, where they produce untold amounts of potent methane, a gas twenty-three times more effective in trapping heat in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide. (Indeed, landfills account for 34 percent of our total methane emissions.) Wasted food also means wasted money, with the average family of four losing $590 each year to food waste. We are also unnecessarily depleting soils and using tons of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides for foods that are never eaten. It is estimated that fully one-quarter of U.S. water consumption is used to produce this wasted food.

Finally, as estimated in a study by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the energy required to produce this discarded food is on the order of three hundred million barrels of oil a year. As reported in New Scientist magazine, this is (now hold onto your hat!) more than is extracted annually from the oil and gas reserves off our shores.

You can change this by making a shopping list, buying only what you need, using up what’s in the fridge and the pantry (with lots of creative recipes available to use up wilting vegetables), and serving smaller amounts. For food that does go to waste, compost it to return nutrients and energy to the soil rather than sending it to the landfill, where it will decompose to methane and carbon dioxide, further contributing to global change.

By not wasting food this week, you can reduce your water footprint by about 667 gallons. By continuing this practice, you can save nearly 35,000 gallons of water in a year.

Follow these links for more discussion about:

The Implications of Food Waste

The Water Footprint of Food Waste in the U.K.

Ideas for Using Up Foods on the Edge:

9 Foods You Can Bring Back from the Dead

Recipes for Leftovers

See introductory information on the Taking on Water Challenge: Reduce your Water Footprint here and the Week 1 Challenge: Eat Less Meat here. To enter to win the Taking on Water Challenge, pledge to decrease your water footprint by leaving a comment.

*****

To Enter

Full official contest rules and guidelines are here. Contest begins January 29, 2013. Entries must be received no later than March 11, 2013, 11:59:59 PM Pacific Time.

• Enter for the chance to win a copy of Taking on Water and a water reduction kit for your home (Approximate Retail Value $130).

• No purchase necessary.

• Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia, ages 18 or older.

• Contest begins January 29, 2013. Entries must be received no later than March 11, 2013, 11:59:59 PM Pacific Time.

• The winner will be selected on or about March 15, 2013.

• Void where prohibited by law.

Entries must be made in the comments section on Wendy Pabich’s blog, www.waterdeva.com. Entries must include the following (Incomplete entries will not be considered):

▪ Name (first and last)

▪ Email Address

▪ A brief comment pledging to decrease your water footprint

Optional: A link to a blog post or photograph can be included, but is not necessary for entry.