Monday, December 22, 2014

Thoughts on water and how humans waste it

In years of walking (for fitness and exploration of the surroundings) in Conyngham borough, Pa., passing by a water-wasting activity was a given each summer. While house-hunting in southwestern Idaho last summer, I again saw such waste.
A first thought then andc now was always: I wonder how Californians would think if they could see this?
That “this” was the watering of concrete sidewalks and the adjacent asphalt street; almost as if watering such an impervious surface would, ultimately, cause it to grow. (The little pellets of lawn fertilizer scattered across the asphalt/concrete would also help matters – and roots – along.)
Another water-wasting activity: Watering an already-green turf farm (aka the lawn) at the height of a summer day, prime-time for evaporation.
Here are some water facts published by the Lake Champlain Committee of Burlington, Vt.:
-        While 75 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, less than one percent is available for human use;
-        More than one trillion – yes “trillion” – gallons of water are wasted each year in the U.S. alone due to east-to-fix leaks in homes;
-        Letting a faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as keeping a 60-watt light bulb on for 14 hours (something I see daily in my Idaho neighborhood);
-        Fifty percent of the water used for watering gardens and lawns (aka turf farms) is wasted due to over-watering;
-        The average American uses 100 gallons of water each day, enough to fill 1,600 glasses with drinking water.
A phone chat yesterday with a longtime friend and fellow naturalist who lives near Nescopeck borough included this observation: The Colorado River, from which Las Vegas, southern California and a whole lot of the urban Southwest get their water, is drying up. The bathtub rings of the (fake) Lake Mead, the reservoir created by Hoover Dam, continue dropping further and further downhill as the water level continues receding.
No other substance, it’s easy to argue, has greater importance to Wild Nature than does water. The Wood Ducks I spotted with binoculars in my first visits in the 1990s to what became Nescopeck State Park were present on the floodplain of Nescopeck Creek because of water and quality habitat.
And birding on Christmas Bird Count teams near Bloomsburgh and Tunkhanock and Wyalusing were always more fruitful, fun and exciting when the quiet water of ponds and the flowing water of the Susquehanna kept both Bald Eagles and wintering waterfowl present in good numbers.
The sad ethos of the green all-American lawn calls for massive infusions of water and chemicals. The city in Idaho where I now live even warns homeowners to watch our for and remove the first weeds that might show themselves in Spring.
One more thought: Wasting water also wastes energy. The biggest use of electricity in many municipalities is supplying water and cleaning it up after its been used (aka “consumed”).
A lot of energy is used to collect, transport, treat and deliver water and wastewater. Water must be pumped from its source to its end use in homes, apartments, businesses and institutions like schools then collected again for post-use treatment.
Reducing water use and fixing leaks saves money and lessens demands on the energy-intensive systems that deliver, treat and heat water
There would be no Wood Ducks – or a lot of other wildlife and flora – were it not for clean water.

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