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Why Save Water?

Date: 23 May 2008 :: By: Shadowgirlau

Of all the water in the world, only 3% is fresh. Less than one third of 1% of this fresh water is available for human use. The rest is frozen in glaciers or polar ice caps, or is deep within the earth, beyond our reach.

To put it another way, if 100 litres represents the world's water, about half a tablespoon of it is fresh water available for our use.

  • remember that our local water supplies are part of a bigger global water cycle
  • the water consumed in the production of our food and everyday products
  • do you know what happens as a result of our water consumption habits?
  • let's not play the blame game, each of us needs to take responsibility and take action at home, at work and at play!
  • current water levels, restrictions and water conservation programs around Australia

The global water situation
Fresh water is essential to our existence - it allows us to produce food, manufacture goods and sustain our health. It is also an essential part of the natural environment which supports all human, plant and animal life.

Global water consumption has risen almost tenfold since 1900, and many parts of the world, including many parts of Australia, are now reaching the limits of their supply. World population is expected to increase by 45% in the next thirty years, whilst freshwater runoff is expected to increase by 10%. UNESCO has predicted that by 2020 water shortage will be a serious worldwide problem.

One third of the world's population is already facing problems due to both water shortage and poor drinking water quality. Effects include massive outbreaks of disease, malnourishment and crop failure. In addition, excessive use of water has seen the degradation of the environment costing the world billions of dollars.

Some sobering examples of water consumption around the world include:

  • So much water is drawn from the Colorado River (which formed the Grand Canyon) that often it doesn’t flow to the sea.
  • The Aral Sea, the fourth largest inland sea, will cease to exist within the next decade, as its waters are rapidly being used up for farming.
  • Our own cultural icon, the Snowy River, was reduced to about 1% of its original flow before action was taken to restore environmental flows.

The Australian situation -
Australia is the driest populated continent on earth, (Antarctica is drier, but does not support the population of Australia), but we are the greatest consumers of water per person. The average annual rainfall in Australia is 469 mm/yr, well below the global average of 746mm/yr. 70% of our continent is classified as desert or semi-desert, with little or no precipitation. On average, each Australian consumes around 100,000 litres of fresh water per year. When you factor in the water used to produce the food we eat and the products that we use in everyday life, we are each responsible for using about 1 million litres of water per year, or a total of about 24,000 GigaLitres.

That's enough to fill Sydney Harbour 48 times over! About 70% is attributed to agricultural irrigation, 9% to other rural uses, 9% to industrial uses and 12% to domestic use.
The hidden uses of water - seeing beyond the kitchen tap

Everything we take for granted in life - food, buildings, vehicles, furniture, clothing - has an amount of embodied water associated with it. This is the amount of water used directly or indirectly during the production of that item.

What is Embodies Water?

When thinking about how much water you use you probably think about how much water you use from the taps or tanks around the house and garden, and perhaps even the amount you use at work. But have you ever thought about the amount of water used to produce some of those items you take for granted in your life - food, clothing, furniture, building materials, etc.?

There is often a high amount of 'embodied water' associated with many items we use or consume on an everyday basis. This is the amount of water used during the growing, processing and transportation of the goods we use or consume, or the services we use.

As an example, here are some statistics showing the amount of water used to produce some everyday items.
It takes...

  • 140L of fresh water to produce 1 cup of coffee
  • 1,000L of fresh water to produce 1L of milk
  • 1,350L of fresh water to produce 1kg of wheat
  • 3,000L of fresh water to produce 1kg of rice, and
  • 16,000L of fresh water to produce 1kg of beef


A water footprint:
You may have heard of an ecological footprint before - put simply it calculates the number of earths that would be needed to sustain our population if everyone in the world had the same lifestyle as us.

Now the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and the University of Twente, Netherlands, have developed a water footprint.

The water footprint of an individual, business or nation is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual, business or nation.

Excessive consumption and its effects

The impacts of excessive consumption

There are many hidden effects of excessive water consumption, including:

  • Building more dams. This has severe environmental effects such as destruction of wilderness, creation of greenhouse gases from rotting vegetation, altered streamflows and degraded ecological health. It’s also very costly!
  • Maintaining other infrastructure for water supply and use. This includes costly upgrades and maintenance of pipes, sewers and treatment facilities. One metre of stormwater drain costs about $2,000 to install.
  • Erosion, salinity and desertification. Water consumption for agriculture alters the natural water cycle in many areas of Australia. This degrades production areas and intensifies other environmental problems such as landclearing and desertification. Salinity is said to directly cost Australia over 1.5 Billion dollars a year, but true figures are probably a lot higher than this.
  • Degradation of water bodies. Many of our rivers, wetlands and bays are degraded. This is partly due to the high levels of water extracted, as well as polluted surface runoff and stormwater flushed into them.

It's time to be water efficient!

As populations increase across Australia and the rest of the world, demand for water will also increase. If we don’t reduce each individual’s demand for water (both directly and through embodied water) the water situation will become dire.

It is obvious that we cannot increase demands for water much more without detrimental effects to the environment, society and the economy.

It’s all too easy to blame someone else for the water situation – “if 70% of water is used for agriculture then that’s what we should target” – but it’s not that easy. We all depend on the food and resources that agriculture provides, and while there are definitely opportunities to increase water efficiency on the farm, the solution will take more than that.

We each share responsibility for the sustainable management of our water resources, which means using less water at home, in the workplace, at school, on holidays, on the farm, … everyone, everywhere, every time.

It's time to become water efficient! This involves reassessing our relationship with water, and learning to use it more sparingly. On the most basic level, it requires a behavioural change, and assigning a value to water that truly reflects its worth.

We can also unlock economic benefits of being water efficient. There are many real world examples given in the case studies on this site.

Everybody has a responsibility to save water, if future generations are to enjoy a similar standard of living to the one we enjoy now. In fact, many of the impacts associated with water use are likely to have an effect on our own lives! has been designed to help you respond to the challenge to become water efficient. It acts as a central repository for relevant information and further advice, so that you can actually achieve significant savings. It also showcases those companies with products that will assist you in your goal. This article was taken from an article written for save water and can be seen in full on their website.

I was disappointed that so far all the information that I have read was geared for suburban areas and the poor old country dweller seems to be forgotten as usual.


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