Simply by going about your daily routines—using cleaning products, walking the dog—you might be unknowingly contributing to the pollution of our already struggling waterways. Luckily, there are a few incredibly easy ways to reduce your impact.
1. Take a hard look at your outdoor surfaces.
Stormwater flows across hard materials, like concrete or asphalt, and into storm drains—bringing all the dirty stuff it picked up along the way. Stop these pollution streams on your own property by using gravel, paver stones, wood, or other porous materials whenever possible. If a hard surface is unavoidable (say, in the case of a driveway), dig a shallow trench along the border and add plants or gravel to catch the runoff before it travels too far.
2. Remember, your toilet is not a trash can.
Never flush nondegradable products, like baby wipes or plastic tampon applicators. They can throw a huge wrench into the sewage treatment process and wind up littering beaches and water. (Who wants to walk along a beach and step in their own garbage?) And never dump old pills in the toilet, either. Instead, bring them to a local pharmacy that has a take-back program.
3. And neither is your sink.
Don’t let paint, used oil, chemical cleaners, or other questionable household products go down the drain. These items contain toxic ingredients (think sodium hypochlorite, ammonia, formaldehyde) we don’t want in our water supply. To find out about hazardous-waste collection days and facilities, search by product on Earth911 or contact your local sanitation, public works, or environmental health department.
4. Pick up after Fido.
You’re not just being a good neighbor. Scooping up pet waste keeps that bacteria-laden crap (literally) from running into storm drains and water supplies. The most practical of the planet-friendly disposal methods is to tie it in a recycled-plastic pet-waste bag and throw it in the trash, but check your local ordinances.
5. Be a more careful car owner.
Good maintenance can reduce the leaking of oil, coolant, antifreeze, and other nasty liquids that are carried by rainwater down driveways or through parking lots and then seep into groundwater supplies. Go a step further by always choosing a car wash over hosing down your ride yourself. The pros are required to drain their wastewater into sewer systems, where the water is treated for all the bad stuff before being discharged. Many even recycle that water.
6. Dish the dirt(y water).
Without tattletales, polluters will just keep on keeping on. If you see suspect behavior in your community, get hooked up with a local environmental group that can help by contacting the ilwaterresources.org. When small organizations work with bigger ones (e.g., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NRDC) to force industries to follow the rules, real change can happen. (And it feels pretty darn good.)
This is the second post in Food Tank’s series on World Water Day, part of the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation, which will profile top strategies for reducing water waste and water consumption. As part of supporting citizens’ livelihoods and wellbeing, governments and policymakers have a huge role to play in sustainable water use, especially when it comes to supporting water-saving solutions for farmers.
Farmers have been struggling to compete for access to water. In 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that 36 percent of the freshwater used in the United States went to irrigation, but 41.5 percent was used in power plants. Cities and industries now pay more for water than farmers, and they also get higher returns on their water use. But governments and policymakers can find ways to support farmers who are trying to make the most of our water resources. Here are four attention-worthy strategies for policies that address water use in agriculture:
4: Reform government subsidies for water and electricity
Energy and water subsidies have a huge influence on the way farmers use water. Energy subsidy reform in the Indian state of Gujarat gave homes and non-farm businesses 24-hour access to water, but restricted farmers’ access to an 8-hour period. The ability to control the use of groundwater now allows the government to adjust water usage based on need, and has helped support new non-farm businesses, cut power subsidies for agriculture in half, and reduced groundwater overdraft.
3: Support small-scale, family farms
In the United States, agriculture subsidies disproportionately support large-scale agribusinesses over small-scale producers. However, 80 percent of agribusinesses produce corn for animal feed and ethanol, not food for people. This means that the family farmers producing food for consumers are also the ones most likely to lack support for managing drought or fluctuations in commodity prices. By changing government systems to better support family farmers, policymakers could improve farmers’ quality of life and encourage more sustainable water use.
2: Collect rainwater for municipal use and growing crops-—even in cities
Rainwater harvesting is an old idea with ever-increasing value. Modern-day systems increase water availability and crop yields, recharge groundwater supplies, and provide vital resources for growing cities. The Rainwater Catchment Project in China’s Gansu Province, on which the U.N. Environment Program reported, provides drinking water for 1.3 million people, as well as irrigation for courtyard gardens and supplemental cash crops.
1: Indigenous- and smallholder-inspired research and development
Most systems aren’t “one size fits all,” but agricultural research and development programs usually take this approach to their work, ignoring the expertise of local smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples. These groups have valuable knowledge about local conditions and communities’ immediate needs. The success of organizations like World Neighbors, which works to adapt farming practices to different environments and cultures, shows how much collaboration with these people can improve results from new innovations and practices.
Everyone has an important role to play in reducing water waste, but the influence of governments and policymakers shouldn’t be ignored. The United Nations declared 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation, and Food Tank will feature more water use innovations every day to celebrate World Water Day on March 22nd. Working together ensures that everyone has access to enough water!
Long showers feel great, but with every minute you spend pampering yourself, your wallet and the environment struggle. Along with saving money on your monthly bills, water conservation is critical for your community. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s likely that at least 40 states will experience water shortages by 2024
Don’t keep the faucet running the entire time you’re brushing your teeth or washing your hands. You may have heard this one before, but it’s easy to lazily run the faucet instead of turning it off while scrubbing and then turning the tap back on when you’re ready to rinse. Similarly, avoid luxuriously long showers. Try to limit shower time to 10 to 15 minutes maximum to prevent wasting excess gallons of water.
2. Fix leaks as soon as possible.
Look out for leaky faucets, dripping water from shower heads, rusting pipes and signs of water damage. Locate the source of the leak, and fix it immediately to avoid wasting more water.
3. Don’t let the toilet run.
If you notice that your toilet is constantly running, try replacing the flapper. Simply shut off the water to the toilet, and flush to drain the tank. Unhook the old flapper from the base of the tank and chain, and then replace it with the new one. Turn the water back on, and you’re all set. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to buy a new toilet. Look for an energy-efficient model, and follow these steps to remove the old unit and install the new one.
4. Wash full loads only.
Make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are full before you run them. If you have a unit with energy-saving settings for light washes and smaller loads, take advantage of them. When it’s time to invest in a new machine, look for water-saving models with the settings that allow you to adjust to load size.
5. Use a compost bin.
An in-sink garbage disposal needs a lot of water to work efficiently, so opt for a compost bin instead. It’s healthier for the environment while reducing water waste and increasing the energy efficiency of your home.
6. Insulate pipes.
Be sure to insulate exposed pipes around the house, especially in the attic and basement. When they’re not insulated, it takes longer for water to heat up, meaning it’s running for longer periods of time. You can also cover the water heater with insulating blanket to further speed up the process.
7. Run the sprinklers in the morning.
The optimal time to water your lawn is early morning. This strategy prevents rapid evaporation from midday heat, which means less water is required to sufficiently cover the grass. Avoid rogue sprinklers wasting water by spraying the sidewalk or side of the house, instead positioning them to face the grass and landscaping appropriately.
8. Perform routine appliance maintenance.
Proper appliance care and upkeep can prevent potential leaks and wasted energy. This preventative maintenance includes regular cleaning and seeking professional advice when necessary. Plus, if it’s time for an upgrade, buy energy-saving products and appliances. According to the EPA, the average household can use about 20 percent less water with water-efficient fixtures and appliances.
Complement your water conservation at home with these ways to increase energy efficiency. With mindful changes, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money each month.
If you notice spikes in your water bill, serious leaks or other maintenance issues during your water conservation efforts, don’t hesitate to call a professional.
Water is one of those resources that we just have on hand, for the most part. If you are blessed enough to live in an area without regular drought conditions or poor water supply systems, then it is easy to forget how precious water is. Following that, it’s just as easy to take for granted how much water you waste doing very simple, everyday tasks.
But as populations increase and climates change, water and water supply levels are becoming increasingly tight, which means that we all need to do our part to conserve water wherever we can.
Here, we’ll talk about why it is important to conserve water, how saving water benefits you, and some simple things you can change to start saving water right now.
Water is Finite, and We Need Water to Live
Perhaps the most basic and easy-to-understand reason to save water is that our water supply isn’t unlimited.
Here’s something to think about: the world’s supply of water isn’t as large as we think. Roughly 98% of the water on the Earth is undrinkable salt water, and 2% of fresh drinking water is locked in polar ice caps. The rest of that 2% of global water is fresh groundwater that we can drink, and that is the water we use for everything.
According to Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, your typical American uses between 80-100 gallons of water per day. Because many of us get caught up in water as something we drink, we forget how much water we use for simple tasks like washing our hands, taking showers, using the lavatory, washing laundry, and other household tasks.
Think about it: using between 80-100 gallons per day means roughly 29,000 gallons per year. That isn’t 29,000 gallons of the total water supply in the world, but 29,000 gallons out of roughly 2% of global water available to us.
Makes you think differently about running the shower a few extra minutes, doesn’t it?
The truth is that as the human population grows, water is going to become a more valuable commodity. Ask someone who lives in a drought-stricken area, or in a place where potable water isn’t readily available.
Water Service Costs Money and Costs Add Up
Running your water isn’t just wasting precious resources: it is wasting money.
That’s because water doesn’t just show up on our doorstep. A complicated system of pumps, filters, piping, and drains carry water into our homes every day, and take away wastewater in a sanitary manner. Building, repairing, and maintaining those systems cost a pretty penny, and much of that cost is offloaded into monthly water utility bills and taxes from your municipal provider (if you don’t have a private water company).
So as you run your sink, shower, or garden hose, that provider is monitoring your usage by the gallon. Water meters at the source of your incoming water supply measure precisely how much you use, regardless of what you use it for.
So it doesn’t matter if you take a short shower and make sure to keep the faucet off if the sprinkler runs 6 hours a day–it’s all the same water and all the same waste, and you are going to be charged all the same.
So wastewater isn’t just bad for the environment… it is bad for your pocketbook.
Saving Water Also Means Saving Energy
Let’s talk more about savings.
Water utility costs sometimes come with additional, hidden costs that you may not notice. For example, taking longer showers (or more repeated showers) can cause your hot water heater to run more. When your water heater runs more, it uses more gas or electricity, which means a more expensive utility bill. The same logic follows for any water pumps or filters that you use.
Think about the bigger picture too: water needs to get to your house, and how it gets there can affect how much energy it uses. If you use well water, for example, then an electrical pump must move all the groundwater up to your house, potentially increasing your power bill. Larger-scale municipal water supplies use water towers and gravity to maintain water pressure, but electrical pumps are needed to get the water into the tower. And, if everyone is using water supply, then there will be more demand to pump water to maintain pressure, which means more power usage.
Water Saved Can Be Used for Other Purposes
While it might seem obvious, limitations on the water supply can have a severe impact on water usage outside of your home.
One significant example is that huge amounts of water are needed just to grow our food. In areas without many issues related to water, it is easy to forget this. However, drier areas or areas suffering from drought have to wrestle with the needs of their local agriculture and the needs of the residents.
For example, California has, for the past few years, been experiencing drought conditions that have facilitated extensive forest fires and that have necessitated severe cutbacks to water. One of the local industries impacted is the local almond industry. As NPR reports, the drought has impacted the industry by reducing the number of almonds that can be grown. Almonds already take large amounts of water to grow–estimates are about 10% of the California water supply–and many blame large-scale almond consumption on further limiting water availability in the state.
Municipal water is also used for industrial and governmental needs like cleaning, heavy manufacturing, and travel. When water is limited, the large-scale waste of water can severely limit these activities.
How Can You Save Water?
Saving water requires a two-pronged approach: a change in your habits and some upgrades to your hardware.
The first approach is easy, free, and will save you money. Some behaviors you can change include:
Shortening the time you have water running for common household tasks. Take shorter showers, wash less clothing, and water your grass or garden less.
Ensure that your fixtures don’t have any leaks that would cause water to run. Leaking faucets and shower heads are common culprits for lost water, but a running toilet is one of the worst offenders for wasted water over the course of the day.
Make sure that you always turn off running water from the sink, like when washing dishes. A typical faucet can release 2.5 gallons of water per minute, which can add up quickly.
Buy local foods that don’t require heavy water usage.
Outside of your current everyday habits, you can get some equipment to help you lessen the amount of water you are using:
Modern washing machines are built to use less water overall, so invest in a modern, Energy Saver dishwasher or clothes washer.
Buy Water Sense fixtures. These fixtures, which include shower heads and faucets, are rated for lower water usage per minute. Toilets in this category also use less water, and typically have multiple flush settings for liquid and solid waste.
Use rain barrels if you live in a high-rain area. These barrels collect rainwater and store it in a safe space, and can provide an additional source of freshwater for cooking, cleaning, or drinking.
While this list isn’t comprehensive, it is a great way to start thinking about water conservation.
Here are a few important facts about water on this planet from the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation:
Ninety-seven percent of all water on the earth is salt water, which is not suitable for drinking.
Only 3% of the water on Earth is fresh water, and only 0.5% is available for drinking.
The other 2.5% of fresh water is locked in ice caps, glaciers, the atmosphere, soil, or under the earth’s surface, or is too polluted for consumption.
With growing population rates and such a small percentage of all the water on Earth fit for consumption, it only makes sense that we must preserve and conserve this precious resource.
Water conservation means using our limited water supply wisely and caring for it properly. Since each of us depends on water to sustain life, it is our responsibility to learn more about water conservation and how we can help keep our sources pure and safe for generations to come.
Our available water supply is finite. That means we do not have an endless amount of water.
In other words, water conservation is not a job that is reserved for scientists, hydrologists, foresters, wildlife managers, city planners, farmers, or mine owners. Instead, it is up to each and every one of us to conserve water.
Reasons to Conserve Water
Below are some of the main reasons it is important to conserve water.
It minimizes the effects of drought and water shortages. Even though our need for freshwater sources is always increasing because of population and industry growth, the supply we have stays constant. Even though water eventually returns to Earth through the water cycle, it’s not always returned to the same spot, or in the same quantity and quality. By reducing the amount of water we use, we can better protect against future drought years.
It guards against rising costs and political conflict. Failing to conserve water can eventually lead to a lack of an adequate water supply, which can have drastic consequences. These include rising costs, reduced food supplies, health hazards, and political conflict.
It helps to preserve our environment. Reducing our water usage reduces the energy required to process and deliver it to homes, businesses, farms, and communities, which, in turn, helps to reduce pollution and conserve fuel resources.
It makes water available for recreational purposes. It’s not just swimming pools, spas, and golf courses that we have to think about. Much of our freshwater resources are also used for beautifying our surroundings—watering lawns, trees, flowers, and vegetable gardens, as well as washing cars and filling public fountains at parks. Failing to conserve water now can mean losing out on such uses later on.
It builds safe and beautiful communities: Firefighters, hospitals, gas stations, street cleaners, health clubs, gyms, and restaurants all require large amounts of water to provide services to the community. Reducing our usage of water now means that these services can continue to be provided.
Water conservation requires forethought and effort, but every little bit helps. Don’t think that what you do does not matter. We can all make changes in our lifestyles to reduce our water usage. The trick is making water conservation a way of life—not just something we think about once in a while.
Conserving water saves energy. Energy is needed to filter, heat, and pump water to your home, so reducing your water use also reduces your carbon footprint.
Using less water keeps more in our ecosystems and helps to keep wetland habitats topped up for animals like otters, water voles, herons, and fish. This is especially important during drought periods and in areas like South East England where there is a big demand for water supplies.
Conserving water can save you money. If you have a water meter then the less water you use, the less you may be charged by your water company.
Waiting for the tap to run cold can waste 10 litres of tap water a day!
Save water in the kitchen:
Put a large bottle of tap water in the fridge to save waiting for the tap to run cold. Waiting for the tap to run cold can waste 10 liters of water a day!
Only fill the kettle with the amount of water needed.
Put lids on saucepans to reduce the amount of water lost during heating.
Put your dishwasher and washing machine on with full loads and on an eco-setting wherever possible.
Use a washing-up bowl in your sink to reduce the volume of water you use to fill the area.
Save water in the bathroom:
Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth. A running tap can waste more than 6 liters of water a minute!
Purchase a water-efficient toilet (one with a dual flush) or go by the old saying ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down!’
Get a cistern displacement device to save up to 5,000 liters of water every year. They are free from most water companies.
Shower instead of bathe. An average bath uses around 80 liters of water, but a shower typically uses between 6 and 45 liters.
Install water-efficient taps and showers to minimize heating water – this will save you money on your water and energy bills, as well as decrease your carbon footprint.
Fix a dripping tap. A dripping tap can waste 15 liters of water a day!
Save water in the garden:
Sprinklers can use as much as 1,000 liters of water an hour! In truth, it’s okay for the lawn to go brown, it will recover the next time it rains.
Use a water butt to catch large amounts of rainwater and use this to water your plants, clean your car and wash your windows.
Use mulch and bark in your garden, it will help to reduce evaporation by up to 75%.
Plant drought-resistant plants that don’t require as much watering.
Next to air, water is the most important element for the preservation of life. Water is a finite commodity which, if not managed properly, will result in shortages in the near future. Water conservation can go a long way to help alleviate these impending shortages.
1. Check your toilet for leaks.
Put a few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank. If, without flushing, the coloring begins to appear in the bowl., you have a leak that may be wasting more than 100 gallons of water a day.
2. Stop using your toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket
Every cigarette butt or tissue you flush away also flushes away five to seven gallons of water.
3. Put a plastic bottle in your toilet tank
Put an inch or two of sand or pebbles in the bottom of a one liter bottle to weigh it down. Fill the rest of the bottle with water and put it in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanism. In an average home, the bottle may save five gallons or more of water every day without harming the efficiency of the toilet. If your tank is big enough, you may even be able to put in two bottles.
4. Take shorter showers
A typical shower uses five to ten gallons of water a minute. Limit your showers to the time it takes to soap up, wash down and rise off.
5. Install water-saving shower heads or flow restrictors
Your hardware or plumbing supply store stocks inexpensive shower heads or flow restrictors that will cut your shower flow to about three gallons a minute instead of five to ten. They are easy to install, and your showers will still be cleansing and refreshing.
6. Take baths
A partially filled tub uses less water than all but the shortest showers.
7. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth
Before brushing, wet your brush and fill a glass for rinsing your mouth.
8. Turn off the water while shaving
Fill the bottom of the sink with a few inches of warm water in which to rinse your razor.
9. Check faucets and pipes for leaks
Even a small drip can waste 50 or more gallons of water a day.
10. Use your automatic dishwasher for full loads only
Every time you run your dishwasher, you use about 25 gallons of water.
11. Use your automatic washing machine only for full loads only
Your automatic washer uses 30 to 35 gallons per cycle.
12. Don’t let the faucet run while you clean vegetables
Rinse your vegetables instead in a bowl or sink full of clean water.
13. Keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator
This puts a stop to the wasteful practice of running tap water to cool it for drinking.
14. If you wash dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running for rinsing
If you have two sinks, fill one with rinse water. If you have only one sink, first gather all your washed dishes in a dish rack, then rinse them quickly with a spray device or a pan of water.
15. Check faucets and pipes for leaks
Leaks waste water 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An inexpensive washer is usually enough to stop them.
16. Water your lawn only when it needs it
Watering on a regular schedule doesn’t allow for cool spells or rainfall which reduce the need for watering. Step on some grass. If it springs back up when you move your foot, it doesn’t need water.
17. Deep-soak your lawn
When you do water your lawn, water it long enough for water to seep down to the roots where it is needed. A light sprinkling that sits on the surface will simply evaporate and be wasted.
18. Water during the cool parts of the day
Early morning is better than dusk since it helps prevent the growth of fungus.
19. Don’t water the gutter
Position your sprinklers so that water lands on your lawn or garden, not in areas where it does no good. Also, avoid watering on windy days when much of your water may be carried off to the streets and sidewalks.
20. Plant drought-resistant trees and plants
Many beautiful trees and plants thrive without irrigation.
21. Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants.
Mulch slows the evaporation of moisture.
22. Use a broom to clean driveways, sidewalks and steps
Using a hose wastes hundreds and hundreds of gallons of water.
23. Don’t run the hose while washing your car
Soap down your car from a pail of soapy water. Use a hose only to rinse it off.
24. Tell your children not to play with the hose and sprinklers
Children love to play under a hose or sprinkler on a hot day. Unfortunately, this practice is extremely wasteful of precious water and should be discouraged.
25. Check for leaks in pipes, hoses faucets and couplings
Leaks outside the house are easier to ignore since they since they don’t mess up the floor or keep you awake at night. However, they can be even more wasteful than inside water leaks especially when they occur on your main water line.
Water scarcity is being driven by two converging phenomena: growing freshwater use and depletion of usable freshwater resources. Water use has been growing globally at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, and an increasing number of regions are reaching the limit at which water services can be sustainably delivered, especially in arid regions. Water scarcity will be exacerbated as rapidly growing urban areas place heavy pressure on neighboring water resources.
At the global level, 31 countries are already short of water and by 2025 there will be 48 countries facing serious water shortages. The UN has estimated that by the year 2050, 4 billion people will be seriously affected by water shortages. This will lead to multiple conflicts between countries over the sharing of water. Around 20 major cities in India face chronic or interrupted water shortages. There are 100 countries that share the waters of 13 large rivers and lakes. International accords that will look at a fair distribution of water in such areas will become critical to world peace. India and Bangladesh already have a negotiated agreement on the water use of the Ganges.
Water management, therefore, is the need of time. It is the management of water resources for the coming generations. It involves the activity of planning, developing, distributing and managing the optimum use of water resources. There are different methods through which water management preservation can be done, some of them are explained below.
Rainwater harvesting (RWH) is the collection and storage of rain, rather than allowing it to run off. Rainwater is collected from a roof-like surface and redirected to a tank, cistern, deep pit (well, shaft, or borehole), aquifer, or a reservoir with percolation. Dew and fog can also be collected with nets or other tools. Rainwater harvesting differs from stormwater harvesting as the runoff is collected from roofs, rather than creeks, drains, roads, or any other land surfaces. Its uses include watering gardens, livestock, irrigation, domestic use with proper treatment, and domestic heating. The harvested water can also be committed to longer-term storage or groundwater recharge.
Tamil Nadu was the first state to make rainwater harvesting compulsory for every building to avoid groundwater depletion. The scheme was launched in 2001 and has been implemented in all rural areas of Tamil Nadu. Posters all over Tamil Nadu including rural areas create awareness about harvesting rainwater. TN Govt site. It gave excellent results within five years, and slowly every state took it as a role model. Since its implementation, Chennai had a 50% rise in water level in five years and the water quality significantly improved. In Rajasthan, rainwater harvesting has traditionally been practiced by the people of the Thar Desert. Many ancient water harvesting systems in Rajasthan have now been revived. At present, in Pune, rainwater harvesting is compulsory for any new housing society to be registered.
Groundwater recharge is the enhancement of natural groundwater supplies using man-made conveyances such as infiltration basins, trenches, dams, or injection wells. Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) is a specific type of groundwater recharge practiced with the purpose of both augmenting groundwater resources and recovering the water in the future for various uses.
Groundwater is recharged naturally by rain and snowmelt and to a smaller extent by surface water (rivers and lakes). Recharge may be impeded somewhat by human activities including paving, development, or logging. These activities can result in loss of topsoil resulting in reduced water infiltration, enhanced surface runoff and reduction in recharge. The use of groundwaters, especially for irrigation, may also lower the water tables. Groundwater recharge is an important process for sustainable groundwater management since the volume-rate abstracted from an aquifer in the long term should be less than or equal to the volume-rate that is recharged. Recharge can help move excess salts that accumulate in the root zone to deeper soil layers, or into the groundwater system. Tree roots increase water saturation into groundwater reducing water runoff. Flooding temporarily increases river bed permeability by moving clay soils downstream, and this increases aquifer recharge.
Artificial groundwater recharge
Groundwater levels are declining across the country as our withdrawals exceed the rate of aquifers to naturally replenish themselves, called recharge. One method of controlling declining water levels is by using artificial groundwater recharge. Artificial recharge is the practice of increasing the amount of water that enters an aquifer through human-controlled means. For example, groundwater can be artificially recharged by redirecting water across the land surface through canals, infiltration basins, or ponds; adding irrigation furrows or sprinkler systems; or simply injecting water directly into the subsurface through injection wells. Artificial groundwater recharge is becoming increasingly important in India, where the over-pumping of groundwater by farmers has led to underground resources becoming depleted. In 2007, on the recommendations of the International Water Management Institute, the Indian government allocated ₹1,800 crores to fund dug-well recharge projects (a dug-well is a wide, shallow well, often lined with concrete) in 100 districts within seven states where water stored in hard-rock aquifers had been over-exploited. Another environmental issue is the disposal of waste through water flux such as dairy farms, industrial, and urban runoff.
Drip irrigation is a type of micro-irrigation system that has the potential to save water and nutrients by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either from above the soil surface or buried below the surface. The goal is to place water directly into the root zone and minimize evaporation. Drip irrigation systems distribute water through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters. Depending on how well designed, installed, maintained, and operated it is, a drip irrigation system can be more efficient than other types of irrigation systems, such as surface irrigation or sprinkler irrigation.
In the drip irrigation process, water and nutrients are delivered across the field in pipes called ‘dripper lines’ featuring smaller units known as ‘drippers’. Each dripper emits drops containing water and fertilizers, resulting in the uniform application of water and nutrients directly to each plant’s root zone, across an entire field. Drip irrigation system delivers water to the crop using a network of mainlines, sub-mains and lateral lines with emission points spaced along their lengths. Each dripper/emitter orifice supplies a measured, precisely controlled uniform application of water, nutrients, and other required growth substances directly into the root zone of the plant.
Greywater is gently used water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines. It is not water that has come into contact with feces, either from the toilet or from washing diapers. Greywater may contain traces of dirt, food, grease, hair, and certain household cleaning products. While greywater may look “dirty,” it is a safe and even beneficial source of irrigation water in a yard.
Greywater is water from basins, baths, and showers that is piped to a surge tank. The greywater is held briefly in the tank before being discharged to an irrigation or treatment system. The greywater can be diverted either by gravity or by using a pump. The surge tank can be any type of container that is suitable for holding (but not storing) the initial surge of water. The surge tank must be emptied completely each time greywater is dispersed to the irrigation or treatment system – greywater must not sit for extended periods of time in the tank. A gravity system can only be used when there is sufficient fall from the laundry/bathroom drain to the surge tank.
Sewage water treatment
Sewage treatment is the process of removing contaminants from municipal wastewater, containing mainly household sewage plus some industrial wastewater. Physical, chemical, and biological processes are used to remove contaminants and produce treated wastewater (or treated effluent) that is safe enough for release into the environment. A by-product of sewage treatment is a semi-solid waste or slurry, called sewage sludge. The sludge has to undergo further treatment before being suitable for disposal or application to land.
For most cities, the sewer system will also carry a proportion of industrial effluent to the sewage treatment plant which has usually received pretreatment at the factories themselves to reduce the pollutant load. If the sewer system is a combined sewer then it will also carry urban runoff (stormwater) to the sewage treatment plant. Sewage water can travel towards treatment plants via piping and in a flow aided by gravity and pumps. The first part of the filtration of sewage typically includes a bar screen to filter solids and large objects which are then collected in dumpsters and disposed of in landfills. Fat and grease are also removed before the primary treatment of sewage.
Conjunctive use is a catch-phrase for coordinated use of surface water and groundwater— literally going with the flow to maximize sufficient yield. Conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water in an irrigation setting is the process of using water from the two different sources for consumptive purposes. Conjunctive use can refer to the practice at the farm level of sourcing water from both a well and from an irrigation delivery canal, or can refer to a strategic approach at the irrigation command level where surface water and groundwater inputs are centrally managed as an input to irrigation systems.
The planned conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water has the potential to offer benefits in terms of economic and social outcomes through significantly increased water use efficiency. It supports greater food and fibre yield per unit of water use, an important consideration within the international policy arena given the critical concerns for food security that prevail in many parts of the world. At the resource level, groundwater pumping for irrigation used in conjunction with surface water provides benefits that increase the water supply or mitigate undesirable fluctuations in the supply (Tsur, 1990) and control shallow water table levels and consequent soil salinity.
Aquifer storage and recovery
Aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) is the direct injection of surface water supplies such as potable water, reclaimed water (i.e. rainwater), or river water into an aquifer for later recovery and use. The injection and extraction is often done by means of a well. In areas where the rainwater cannot percolate the soil or where it is not capable of percolating it fast enough (i.e. urban areas) and where the rainwater is thus diverted to rivers, rainwater ASR could help to keep the rainwater within an area. ASR is used for municipal, industrial and agricultural purposes.
The objective of AR is to replenish water in an aquifer. Injecting water into AR wells can prevent saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers and control land subsidence. In contrast, ASR wells are used to store water in the ground and recover the stored water for drinking water supplies, irrigation, industrial needs, or ecosystem restoration projects. The stored water may be recovered from the same well used for injection or from nearby injection or recovery wells.
Desalination is a process that takes away mineral components from saline water. More generally, desalination refers to the removal of salts and minerals from a target substance, as in soil desalination, which is an issue for agriculture. Saltwater is desalinated to produce water suitable for human consumption or irrigation. The by-product of the desalination process is brine. Desalination is used on many seagoing ships and submarines. Most of the modern interest in desalination is focused on the cost-effective provision of fresh water for human use. Along with recycled wastewater, it is one of the few rainfall-independent water sources.
The process may be used for municipal, industrial, or any commercial uses. Water desalination processes separate dissolved salts and other minerals from water. Feedwater sources may include brackish, seawater, wells, surface (rivers and streams), wastewater, and industrial feed and process waters. Membrane separation requires driving forces including pressure (applied and vapor), electric potential, and concentration to overcome natural osmotic pressures and effectively force water through membrane processes. As such, the technology is energy-intensive and research is continually evolving to improve efficiency and reduce energy consumption.
Water management methods should be adopted strategically, keeping in mind the need for the work to be implemented. Planning groups must address the needs of all water users, if feasible
Why identify and protect healthy watersheds? In many ways, healthy watersheds substantially affect the quality of life for people and the environment overall – often by performing ‘free work’ that communities do not have to do, or pay for, themselves. The beneficial roles of watersheds in healthy conditions can be surprisingly far-reaching and include ecosystem services, economic benefits, and physical and mental health benefits.
Healthy watersheds provide many ecosystem services including, but not limited to: nutrient cycling, carbon storage, erosion/sedimentation control, increased biodiversity, soil formation, wildlife movement corridors, water storage, water filtration, flood control, food, timber, and recreation, as well as reduced vulnerability to invasive species, the effects of climate change and other natural disasters. These goods and services are essential to our social, environmental and economic well-being.
The wide array of critical ecosystem services provided by healthy watersheds is frequently undervalued when making land-use decisions. Due to the complexity of natural systems and economic precedents, it is difficult to assign a dollar amount to a particular ecosystem service. However, there is a large body of research and evidence to support the fact that intact healthy ecosystems avoid costly restoration and ecosystem service replacement, and provide long-term economic opportunities and jobs. Some healthy watershed ecosystem services include:
Improved water quality. Natural landscapes and floodplains filter pollutants from point and nonpoint sources, promote nutrient cycling and help retain sediment.
Carbon storage opportunities. Watersheds with intact natural land cover and soil resources are capable of sequestering carbon, thereby offsetting greenhouse gas emissions (Hanson et al., 2010).
Increased resilience in the face of climate change threats. Intact floodplains and riparian areas enable healthy watersheds to be better adapted to more extreme weather patterns and changes in precipitation associated with climate change.
Reduced risk for invasive species colonization. Naturally functioning ecosystems are more resilient and can favor indigenous species, helping them out-compete invasive species.
Protecting healthy watersheds can reduce capital costs for water treatment plants and reduce damages to property and infrastructure due to flooding, thereby avoiding future costs. Additionally, protecting healthy watersheds an generate revenue through property value premiums, recreation and tourism:
Reduced drinking water treatment and infrastructure costs. Natural landscapes filter pollutants and protect water quality. A review of treatment costs and watershed characteristics for 27 drinking water utilities found that for every 10% increase in forest cover of the source water area, chemical and treatment costs decrease by 20% (Ernst, 2004). In a separate case, New York City found it significantly more cost-effective to protect the watershed’s natural land cover and forests to provide natural filtration, rather than installing a multi-billion dollar water treatment facility (Barnes et al., 2009).
Reduced flood mitigation costs. Floodplains and natural landscapes minimize the area and impacts of floods, reduce the burden on public drainage infrastructure and increase groundwater recharge (Postel and Richter, 2003).
Increased revenues and job opportunities. Healthy watersheds provide ample opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, biking, wildlife viewing and ecotourism. Over 30 million people in the U.S. fish recreationally and these anglers generate approximately 1 million jobs and over $45 billion in retail sales annually (Southwick Associates, 2008). Overall, the outdoor recreation industry contributes $646 billion annually to the economy, supports 6.1 million jobs, and generates $79.6 billion in federal and state tax revenues (Outdoor Industry Association, 2003).
Increased property values. Housing near healthy watersheds has higher property values than those in or around degraded ecosystems and impaired waters (Maine DEP, 2005).
Lower rates of illness. Workplaces with views of green space have employees who report fewer incidences of illness (Kaplan, 1989). Hospital patients that can experience natural scenery experience shorter post-operative stays and fewer post-operative complications, and take less pain medication (Ulrich, 1984).
Decreased stress and Improved cognitive development. Students have been shown to have lower stress levels and reduced levels of attention deficit disorder when they are exposed to green spaces (Wells, 2000).
Higher likelihood to exercise. People are more likely to exercise if they have easy access to recreation areas like parks, trails, greenways, and forests. People who exercise regularly are generally healthier, have fewer insurance claims and spend less time in hospitals, thus their societal health care costs are lower (US NPS, 1995).
There are few resources, if any, more vital to life than water. Whether it be drinking water or water in our homes for bathing and cleaning dishes, not one day goes by that we don’t need and use water. The average American uses an estimated 80-100 gallons of water per day. For many of us, having access to clean drinking water and running water in our homes is a necessity that we often take for granted. According to the United Nations, 85 percent of the world’s population lives in the driest half of the planet, and 783 million people do not have access to clean water.
But, people aren’t the only ones who need water — animals need clean water too, and for many species, such as different species of frogs which have highly permeable skin, water pollution can mean extinction. The loss of access to clean water, and the pollution of water sources, are partially due to deforestation.
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Water availability has a direct impact on the health of forests and their inhabitants, which shows the importance of the relationship between forests and water. Trees are made up of more than 50 percent water and need a steady source of it in order to grow and stay healthy. A healthy 100-foot-tall tree can take 11,000 gallons of water from the soil and release it into the air again, as oxygen and water vapor, in a single growing season. They “drink” in the water using their small, hair-like roots. Water from the soil enters their roots and is carried up the tree’s trunk all the way to the leaves.
Trees serve as natural sponges, collecting and filtering rainfall and releasing it slowly into streams and rivers, and are the most effective land cover for maintenance of water quality. The ability of forests to aid in the filtration of water doesn’t only provide benefits to our health and the health of an ecosystem, but also to our pocketbooks. Forest cover has been directly linked to drinking water treatment costs, so the more forest in a source water watershed, the lower the cost to treat that water. Forests provide these benefits by filtering sediments and other pollutants from the water in the soil before it reaches a water source, such as a stream, lake or river.
Having a buffer of forestland by streams and riverbanks does even better than just filtering the water. They also help prevent erosion of sediment into the water, help to recharge the water table by allowing water to enter the ground and even the shade of trees play an important role in the lives of certain fish. Fish species, such as trout and salmon, are sensitive to changes in water temperature and will only lay their eggs in cool water, which is where the role of shady trees comes in.
To learn more about the relationship between forests and water, and to join in our Earth Month conversation, visit our Elements of Forests Earth Month homepage and use the hashtag #WeNeedForests on social media!