Access to clean water and sanitation services are human rights. And, yet, according to Water for People, 1.8 billion people around the world still don’t have access to safe water. 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation, and more than 840,000 people die each year from water-related diseases.
Each of us lives in a watershed. The US Geological Survey defines a watershed as the area of land where all of the water that falls in it and drains off of it goes to a common outlet. Watersheds can be as small as a footprint or large enough to encompass all the land that drains water into rivers that drain into a bay, where it enters an ocean.
Often it seems we waste water by design.
We flush our toilets with drinking water.
54% of urban water use in the US is for landscape irrigation1.
Water lost due to aging infrastructure in the US is 1.7 trillion gallons annually2.
The estimated cost of upgrading infrastructure: $2 trillion over 25 years2.
As much as 70% – 90% of the world’s fresh water is contained in the ice that cover the Antarctic continent.
As much as 43 gallons of water is used to produce a pound of paper3.
A leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year. That’s the amount of water needed to take more than 180 showers4.
Fixing easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners about 10% on water bills4 .
The Food Service Technology Center has tools and calculators to help estimate the cost of leaks in restaurants and food service operations.
Stormwater pollution is the #1 source of water pollution in the United States; and the # 1 pollutant in stormwater by volume is sediment. One gallon of motor oil can contaminate one MILLION gallons of water.
Thirsty business: CDP 2016 Annual Report of Corporate Water Disclosure. The report and underlying data analysis aim to shine a light on the linkages between water, energy and private sector efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The report, written on behalf of 643 investors with $67 trillion in assets, revealed water-related impacts cost business $14 billion, a five-fold increase from last year. Additionally, 24% of greenhouse gas reduction activities depend on a stable supply of good quality water with 53% of companies reporting that better water management is delivering GHG reductions.
Liquidity crisis – As water becomes ever more scant the world needs to conserve it, use it more efficiently and establish clear rights over who owns the stuff . “NOTHING is more useful than water,” observed Adam Smith, but “scarcely anything can be had in exchange for it.” The father of free-market economics noted this paradox in 18th-century Scotland, as rain-sodden and damp then as it is today. Where water is in ample supply his words still hold true. But around the world billions of people already struggle during dry seasons.
Drought and deluge are a costly threat in many countries. If water is not managed better, today’s crisis will become a catastrophe. By the middle of the century more than half of the planet will live in areas of “water stress”, where supplies cannot sustainably meet demand. Lush pastures will turn to barren desert and millions will be forced to flee in search of fresh water. But putting food on their tables requires floods of the stuff. Growing 1kg of wheat takes 1,250 liters of water; fattening a cow to produce the same weight of beef involves 12 times more. Overall, agriculture accounts for more than 70% of global freshwater withdrawals. And as the global population rises from 7.4bn to close to 10bn by the middle of the century, it is estimated that agricultural production will have to rise by 60% to fill the world’s bellies.
This will put water supplies under huge strain. Overall about 41% of America’s withdrawals go towards cooling power stations. Climate change will only make the situation more fraught. Hydrologists expect that a warming climate will see the cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation speed up. Wet regions will grow wetter and dry ones drier as rainfall patterns change and the rate increases at which soil and some plants lose moisture. Deluges and droughts will intensify, adding to the pressure on water resources. Late or light rainy seasons will alter the speed at which reservoirs and aquifers refill. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture (the water content of air rises by about 7% for every 1ºC of warming) increasing the likelihood of sudden heavy downpours that can cause flash flooding across parched ground. This will also add to sediment in rivers and reservoirs, affecting storage capacity and water quality.
US Drought Monitor. Established in 1999, the US Drought Monitor is a weekly map of drought conditions produced jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The map, which comes out every Thursday based on data through the preceding Tuesday, is based on measurements of climatic, hydrologic and soil conditions as well as reported impacts and observations from more than 350 contributors around the country. Eleven climatologists from the partner organizations take turns serving as the lead author each week. The authors examine all the data and use their best judgment to reconcile any differences in what different sources are saying.
Watering Restrictions Currently in Effect in Atlanta Area – Drought conditions across Atlanta and most of Georgia have worsened. 52 counties have moved from Level 1 to Level 2 Response, requiring outdoor water use restrictions. In the City of Atlanta, outdoor landscape watering is only allowed two days a week, determined by odd- and even-numbered addresses. Even-numbered addresses and properties without numbered addresses may water on Wednesday and Saturday before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Odd-numbered addresses may water Thursday and Sunday before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Even on allowable days, it’s encouraged that watering be limited to when plants are showing stress.
Drought and forest loss cause vicious circle in the Amazon – If dry seasons intensify with man-made climate change, the risk for self-amplified forest loss increases even more and could put the Amazon rainforest further at risk, an international team of scientists found. Researchers at the German Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) found the Amazon rainforest could be exposed to higher risks of dieback if dry seasons intensify and rainfall decreases. This could lead to a vicious dieback circle, they said in a study published in Nature Communications.
“The Amazon rainforest is one of the tipping elements in the Earth system,” said lead-author Delphine Clara Zemp, who conducted the study at PIK. “We already know that on the one hand, reduced rainfall increases the risk of forest dieback, and on the other hand, forest loss can intensify regional droughts,” she said. “So more droughts can lead to less forest leading to more droughts and so on.” The researchers found the close relationship between deforestation and drought could put the Amazon further at risk. When it rains, trees absorb water through their roots and then release it back to the atmosphere. Tropical forests produce most of the water they need themselves: they pump moisture which then rains back to them.
ISCIENCES: Global Water Monitor & Forecast monitors fresh water resources worldwide and forecasts changes with their Water Security Indicator Model. Each month they document current anomalies and provide forecasts with lead times from 1-9 months.
The Coca-Cola Company is the first Fortune 500 Company to replenish all of the water it uses globally. Being a steward means holding something in trust and taking care of it. And that’s really what everyone does with water. Water is a finite resource, but it’s infinitely renewable. And that’s where stewardship becomes very important. At the end of 2015 Coke met its 2020 goal to replenish 100% of the water used across its entire system by replenishing 337.78 billion liters of water to nature and communities. Working with a whole host of different charities and conservation organizations, Coke supported 248 community water partnership projects in 71 countries and over 2,000 communities, which focused on safe water access, watershed protection and water for productive use. In many cases, these projects also provide access to sanitation and education, help improve local livelihoods, assist communities with adapting to climate change, improve water quality, enhance biodiversity, engage on policy and build awareness on water issues.
Beer giant AB InBev’s former water guru offers some advice – By Hugh Share – There’s no single definition of “water stewardship.” My view is that it is something to be continually strived for, not something that can be simply achieved, and I’d challenge any company that claims to have achieved it. When the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) talks about stewardship, it uses the words progression, improvement, direct operations, value chain and commitment. The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) states that its members are aiming to continually improve and to act, engage and influence on matters related to water stewardship. Much like our health, we can’t simply lose weight or apply an intervention and declare we’ve achieved “health.” We must continue to eat well, exercise and maintain ourselves if we’re to stay healthy. We need more pragmatic thinking that generates real-world results. I’ve seen the same case studies for years, examples that are force-fitted into different guidance documents, over and over again. The bottom line is we all need to talk less, act more and work together — quicker, more efficiently and to scale. See the great tips on water stewardship Hugh has for NGOs, businesses and governments.
- Hydro Point Data Systems
- US Council on Competitiveness: Leverage: Water and Manufacturing.
- Environment Canada
- US EPA