Is There A Water Shortage? What You Should Know

Most Americans take drinking water for granted, turning on the tap and getting a fresh, clean supply. That’s not the case in every region. Here is some food for thought for the next time you turn on the tap.

Water Shortages are expected for most of the country in the near future

Water is becoming increasingly scarce around the globe as more and more is needed to sustain human development. Part of that is because only 1 percent of the Earth’s freshwater is easily accessible to humans. It’s expected that as many as 36 states will have water shortages by 2013.

Several states, particularly those in the Southwest, such as California, New Mexico and Texas, are already struggling with shortages. Making a bad situation worse, the South is experiencing unprecedented drought at “exceptional” levels. The combination of little rain and scorching heat drains reservoirs and increases water consumption, and there’s simply not enough to go around.

Every community is having a dilemma- even big cities

Lack of access to water is often framed in terms of “remote, rural communities” that are cut off from municipal systems, but the shortage goes beyond questions of access. It’s also about water quality. Contaminated drinking water sickens an estimated 20 million Americans every year, especially in concrete-heavy urban locales.

When it rains in cities, the water hits rooftops and concrete instead of being absorbed back into the ground. It runs off of streets and sidewalks, picking up all sorts of bacteria, pollutants and chemicals along the way. That winds up in our water system, into streams, rivers and lakes that we use for swimming and drinking water.

Treatment plants clean that water, but because of outdated infrastructure, the process doesn’t always succeed. A city has way more concrete, pavement and other hard surfaces now than it did when its water system was built, and it can’t handle that amount of development. We’re left with storm water runoff that can’t all be cleaned.

Bottled water isn’t the solution

Bottled water costs 2,000 times more, although it’s less regulated than our tap water in many ways.  The National Resources Defense Council investigated and found that 22 percent of bottled water was contaminated with chemicals, including arsenic. Bottled water also has other environmental problems, like the plastic involved and all the water that goes into manufacturing water. It takes 1.8 gallons of water to produce a plastic bottle. So by drinking bottled water we’re wasting more water than we’re actually drinking.

Yes you can make a difference

The concept of water conservation has been drilled into us for decades, but it hasn’t exactly caught on. Americans are the world’s biggest consumers, using an average 150 gallons a day. By comparison, in the U.K. people use only 40 gallons a day. Actually doing all those little tips and tricks you’ve heard — taking shorter showers, turning off the water after wetting your toothbrush in the morning — can go a long way in protecting a limited resource.

If everyone changed just one small habit, we could have a significant impact. Direct action and advocacy does work. People can affect the decision making that goes on in their neighborhoods and communities.

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