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Water Conservation: The Crux of Our Future
Water quality and quantity issues are appearing in the news more and more frequently. We hear about water becoming unsuitable for drinking from algal blooms, droughts becoming more widespread and longer in duration, and all of the conflicts that arise with water scarcity which already afflict many parts of the world. The news generally covers how water shortages compromise a community’s ability to prosper by highlighting the common themes we see in water scarce areas: protests, failed crops, dying livestock, debilitating pollution, poverty, and forced migrations.

But the news seems to give little attention to water consumption patterns and inefficiencies that perpetuate water scarcity and more importantly, what we can do about it. A good first step is realizing how much water we use and waste in our daily lives.

As America’s population doubled over the past 50 years, water usage tripled. The average American uses somewhere between 80-100 gallons per day and the average American family of four uses 363 gallons of water each day. These numbers are more meaningful knowing that the average African family of four uses about five gallons per day. As a nation we use about 319 trillion gallons annually.

Water consumption and energy are inextricably linked. It takes a lot of time and energy to treat wastewater and to transport water to and from the treatment plant. The energy consumed throughout the treatment process accounts for 35% of typical U.S. municipal energy budgets, emitting 45 million tons of greenhouses gases annually. If the U.S. could achieve a 10%reduction in energy usage for treating water, the nation would save $400 million and 5 billion kWh’s annually.

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