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A problem of thirst: America's freshwater is in jeopardy Conservation and planning are vital By: The Beacon Editorial Board Posted: 11/4/07 Picture this: a neighbor sneaks out of her own house in the middle of the night to water her garden so that the tomato plants don't die. A second neighbor hears the spray of the hose and looks out his window to witness the crime. He immediately calls the police, who arrive quickly and arrest the culprit. The charge? Unlawful and excessive use of water.

The scenario may sound far-fetched, but places like Atlanta,GA may soon face something similar as water restrictions are tightened, and businesses like car washes are threatened, should they not recycle water on the premises.

The nation's freshwater sources are depleting as droughts threaten water reserves, the population booms, sea levels rise, and the Sierra Nevada snow-pack melts. Despite all of this, the latest U.S. Geological Survey released in 2000 reported that Americans still used about 500,000 gallons of fresh water per person. This adds up to more than 148 trillion gallons of water used by the U.S. alone.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists, estimated that fresh water will become a scarce resource for up to 2 billion people worldwide by the year 2050, which is why people need to start conserving water now.

A recent article posted by the Associated Press even stated that over the next five years, the government estimates that 36 states will face water shortages. Such shortages are already a reality in California, Georgia, and Florida.

The problem is two-fold: Americans, and indeed people all over the world, use too much water, and widespread climate change is manifesting as drought in many regions.

Drought conditions that fed the flames of the 16 wind-blown fires in California are becoming more common according to an article in The San Francisco Chronicle. Additionally, an entire reservoir was used to put out the fires in California. Due to the unusually hot conditions, the Sierra Nevada snow-pack is melting prematurely, which is jeopardizing the future supply of freshwater. California uses 23 trillion gallons of water annually, most of which comes from the Sierra Nevada snow-pack.

On October 20, Georgia's governor, Sonny Perdue, declared a state emergency in 85 counties and ordered utilities and water systems to reduce their water consumption by 10%. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that Lake Lanier, a reservoir in Bloomberg, GA, will run out of clean water in about 110 days. So far this year the area has received only 25 inches of rain, which is approximately half of what usually falls.

Unlike California and Georgia, Florida's supply of fresh water is not threatened by drought, but by the rising sea levels that are caused by melting ice glaciers, which push saltwater into underground sources of freshwater. Florida reuses about 240 billion gallons of water annually, but Michael Sole, Florida's environmental chief, said in an Associated Press article, that "it is not nearly enough" to quench the thirst of Florida's booming population. By 2025, the population will increase 34 percent and the annual use of freshwater will jump from 2.4 trillion gallons a year to 3.3 trillion gallons a year.

Students at Wilkes University can help reduce the demand for freshwater by simply conserving water. By conserving water, less pressure is placed on sewage treatment facilities, because there is a greater number of people using the same amount of water instead of more. It also saves energy and saves students money. According to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, there are many ways people can save water in the bathroom and the kitchen.

One of the best places to cut back on water usage is in the bathroom. About 300 gallons of water could be saved every month by placing a plastic bottle filled with pebbles in the toilet tank, which causes less water to be used with every flush. If you turn off the water while shaving and brushing your teeth you can save six gallons of water a day. By shortening your showers one or two minutes you can save up to 700 gallons of water per month, and if you install a water-saving shower head or flow restrictor, you can save an additional 500-800 gallons per month.

By washing your dishes by hand you can save anywhere between 200-500 gallons of water in the kitchen by just filling one side of the sink up with water that you will use for rinsing dishes. You can reduce the amount of water used to rinse off detergent by using a smaller amount, which will save 50-150 gallons of water. If you do use the dishwasher or even the washing machine, only wash full loads, because you can save 300-800 gallons of water per month.

When preparing a meal you can save 150-250 gallons of water per month by filling up a bowl and dipping your vegetables in it instead of letting the faucet run over them. You can also keep bottles of drinking water in the refrigerator instead of getting it from the tap, because it saves 200 to 300 gallons of water a month.

By following the tips provided by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Wilkes University students can do their part in saving what is left of our freshwater resources. © Copyright 2008 The Beacon
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