Saving Our Water

In 48 hours, 110 people, mostly women and children, have died in Somalia due to starvation caused by a drought. Over six million people, more than half the country’s population, are vulnerable to dying of starvation and diseases caused by drinking contaminated water, whatever water they can find.

People dying of hunger is hard to comprehend in 2017, when in America, I can’t drive two miles without passing a fleet of fast food joints, pizza places, Chinese restaurants, hot dog stands, and convenient stores with their quick and cheap meal deals.

No one in the year 2017 should die of hunger or thirst. In every grocery store, aisles are dedicated to bottled water, a multi-billion dollar industry. We seem to have food and water in abundance every where we go, yet the state of California just got over a major drought of their own. Even though I don’t live in the state, I was worried about the consequences of a dry California.

I worry because I know the way we are living and eating as a country is not sustainable. We waste too much. We eat too much meat, which takes up too much land and uses too much water, and our water is being contaminated with farm animals’ waste that spills into our rivers and lakes and streams.

It worries me how much agriculture is ruining our planet. When the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, was asked during his state’s drought what people should do he told them to eat a veggie burger because he knew the absurd amount of water it takes to produce beef. Approximately 660 gallons of water is needed to produce a 1/3 hamburger and 1,799 gallons of water per pound of beef. (National Geographic)

You can shorten all the showers you want, wash dishes as fast as you can, and make sure you’re filling the washing machine with as many clothes as possible, but if you end the day by knocking back a couple burgers, your water conservation attempts don’t really add up to much.

The drought that is killing the Somalian people was “induced by two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall…inadequate rainfall and lack of water has wiped out crops and killed livestock, while communities are being forced to sell their assets, and borrow food and money to survive.” (CNN)

If the Californian drought should have taught us anything it’s that water can not be taken for granted. We need to try to live more sustainable lives. I fear one day our lives may depend on it. What is really stopping what’s happening in Somalia from happening here?

What if an entire region of the U.S. suffers a California-like drought? What effect would that have on the rest of the country?

I’m not saying these worries keep me up at night, but I do think about it enough to change the way I eat, being mindful of my carbon footprint. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or a fancy vegan to make a positive change for the environment. You can be a reducetarian. (Yes, that’s a real thing.)

If you would like to help the Somalian people, you can donate to the American Red Cross, as well as other organizations working to deliver clean water to the region.

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

Our Wells are Running Dry

It was in my fourth grade science class that I remember learning about water conservation for the first time. In the text book, there was a picture  of a boy standing in front of a bathroom sink, brushing his teeth. Beside the picture, was a lesson about the need to conserve the earth’s most important chemical compound, water – because all living things will die without it.

The reason for the insert of the boy brushing his teeth was to teach kids to turn the faucet off while they brush. Maybe that message didn’t stick with the other kids in my class, but it stuck with me. And today, at 39 years old, I still shut the water off while I brush my teeth.

It’s become second-nature to me now. If I’m in the bathroom while someone is brushing their teeth and the water’s running, I’ll rush to turn the faucet off.

“Doesn’t that noise drive you crazy?” I ask.

“What noise?” Is the response I usually get, with a weird look.

Oh, right. People who are used to brushing their teeth while the faucet is on probably don’t even hear the water running anymore, while to someone like me, who is used to silence while she brushes her teeth, a running faucet sounds like Niagara Falls.

At a young age, I learned to turn the water off when I wasn’t using it. And now, it seems, it may be time you learn to do the same because our water is running out.

The Chicago Sun-Times featured an article about the global crisis of vanishing groundwater. The three-page feature scared me more than any Stephen King novel ever had because this story was much too real.

The article centered on a four-generation farm family in the plains of Southwestern Kansas, who’d been farming in that region since 1902. But now, the family farm may not survive another generation because “the groundwater they depend on is disappearing.”

The High Plains Aquifer, which lies underneath eight states, is the lifeline of “one of the world’s most productive farming economies.” An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock…from which groundwater can be extracted using a water well. (wikipedia)

These wells are going dry.

“Much more water is pumped from the ground that can be naturally replenished. Groundwater levels are plummeting.”

A study was conducted on 32,000 wells in a span of two decades and it “found water levels falling in nearly two-thirds of those wells.”

Across the nation, water levels have declined 64 percent.

Thirteen counties in five states have water levels averaging declines of more than 40 feet since 1995. In one of the country’s largest depletion zones, “the average water levels in more than 4,000 wells are 13.2 feet lower today than they were in 1995.”

Two-thirds of the nation’s fresh groundwater is used for agriculture. According to Huffpost, to produce just one pound of beef requires about 1,847 gallons of water, where a pound of chickpeas uses about 500 gallons. It’s no wonder why the governor of the drought-stricken state of California responded to the lack of water in his state, by saying, “If you ask me, I think you should be eating veggie burgers.”

High meat consumption is using up a lot of our drinking water.

Just like climate change, “groundwater depletion has become another human-made crisis that could bring devastating consequences.”

In just five years, the amount of water pumped from the four-generation farm family’s wells fell 30 percent – in just five years.

During World War I, American soldiers and their allies were facing starvation because farms were destroyed and turned into battlefields. Food was scarce. Selected by President Woodrow Wilson, future President Herbert Hoover formed a program that asked Americans for their patriotic support in reducing their consumption of wheat, meat, sugar, and fats. There were slogans like, “Food will win the war,” that encouraged people not to waste food, and to eat less meat so more could be sent to hungry soldiers protecting our freedom.

According to History.com, as a result of the conservation efforts, “food shipments to Europe were doubled within a year, while consumption in America was reduced 15 percent.”

This country came together once before to save food for our soldiers, we can come together again, but this time, to save water for each other and for our planet.

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Below are a couple of links with easy tips on how you can conserve water every day.

http://www.bewaterwise.com/tips01.html

http://eartheasy.com/live_water_saving.htm

http://www.home-water-works.org/water-conservation-tips

*I don’t own the picture above. I believe it is public domain, but if it is subject to copyright, I will take it down.

*Also, all the quotes that weren’t cited directly were taken from the Chicago Sun-Times article noted in my blog.