From Rachel at the Daily Infographic:
Not to “rain” on this post’s parade because I do think this is an important issue and we ought to seriously contemplate our water usage and handle it responsibly, but isn’t this whole data set skewed in the fact that we (Americans) use more of it because we have more of it? I mean, I take the point – we have more and should be considerate of those who have less – but the statistics are really slanted because, of course, those who have less won’t be taking as many showers, drinking as much, etc. It just isn’t available to increase their percentage of usage…
Outside of that slight problem, I enjoyed this post…and I really do want to say that I think it promotes a worthy cause – that of water conservation and redistribution.
I agree with Jon G. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel after seeing this infographic.
The graphic tells us that 0.7% of water reserves are readily available for drinking, which should make me feel like there’s so little usable water out there. But 0.7% of all the water on earth is 2.282 quintillion gallons, which is, like, a lot.
Also, I don’t understand how the average American uses 151.9 gallons of water per day. I assume the number was reached by dividing the total water usage in the United States by the country’s population. That would mean accounting for the amount of water used by industry as well as personal consumption. Africa doesn’t have quite the manufacturing power or nuclear power plants that the US does. So there’s that.
Further, clean water resources are not like fossil fuels. There may be a finite amount of clean water on the earth at any given time, but water is not a zero sum game in the way that, say, oil is. Often, when we use oil reserves, we’re either (1) burning it (for energy) or (2) transforming it (as in plastics). We haven’t exactly lost the oil, then, but we’ve transformed it into something we can’t use again in the same manner. With fossil fuels, then, consumption of x amount of oil effectively means a decrease in oil reserves by x amount.
With water, however, consumption doesn’t work the same way. Water consumption is cyclical. However water is consumed, it will eventually be transformed back into usable water. Burn it, freeze it, drink it, shower in it, use it to cool plutonium rods … water remains water. Consumption does not equal loss.
Food for thought.
It looks to me as if the graphic is designed to make Americans feel bad for all the water they are using, as if they are wasting it when others could be using it. But where there is an abundance of water, as in the Midwest, water USAGE does not mean water WASTE. When we pump water out of the abundant aquifer beneath us, and use it for showers, washing, watering plants, etc., it gets processed and returned right back into the aquifer, ready for use again. This is not wasteful at all. We are borrowing it and returning it to be used again and again.
Another example is the water in our abundant river systems. If we don’t use the water that rains down on the land and flows to the streams and rivers, it drains into the ocean. If we do use it, it gets returned back to the land, aquifer, and rivers. It doesn’t get used up.
What does 3x fewer mean?
It’s important to know that in the US we are currently over pumping our aquifers. We’re pulling more water out than the cycle has time to replenish. This has resulted in dropping water tables and the need for larger pumps to push water out of deeper reserves.
It’s also important to know that water treatment costs energy. While it’s nice to say that we have an abundance of water in the ocean, that water is essentially not consumable and it takes a tremendous amount of energy to perform desalination.
And finally, the changing weather patterns are causing a need for more irrigation which is further depleting our fresh water supplies.
In the next 10 years, water will be a bigger issue than oil ever was.