#EarthDay2020: Water & Us

Exploring where, and why our water is being used and who is using it. Explaining the need for water conservation, with family friendly ways you can help.

#EarthDay2020 ACE Recycling Blog Series

This blog is part of a series of blogs from ACE Recycling In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.  This series focuses on changes you can make to decrease your carbon footprint, lessen your water impact and help the environment.  These changes are intended to be user-friendly.  Being environmentally responsible has the added benefit of being healthier and more cost-effective.  The goal is to create fun and engaging activities for the whole family.  Simple changes to our everyday lives have big impacts on our health and the health of our planet.   #EarthDay2020 #EarthRise2020 #ActsofGreen #ACERecyclingBlog #SmallChangesBigImpacts

Before we begin our conversation about water conservation, be aware of our current water crisis by exploring our previous article, Water Scarcity, and the need for Water Conservation.

In our previous article, we discussed the need for water conservation as a means to tackle social and economic issues. However, we must address the critical conversation about who, where, and why our water is being used.

Asking the Right Questions

The U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.C) compiles data every five years and categorizes water use. In the most recent study (2015), the two most significant areas of water use were for thermoelectric power and irrigation (remember irrigation is not all-encompassing of agriculture). Now that we are 2020, a new U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.C) should be underway. Hopefully, we have made some improvements in water conservation.

Figure 1.0 (Source: U.S. Geological Survey, 2015) This chart summarizes the total withdrawals of water and their use by states. The green (irrigation), and yellow (thermoelectric energy) make up the largest portion of bars throughout the table.
Figure 1.0 (Source: U.S. Geological Survey, 2015) This chart summarizes the total withdrawals of water and their use by states. The green (irrigation), and yellow (thermoelectric energy) make up the largest portion of bars throughout the table.

In principle, it seems that allocating our water use for thermoelectric energy (a renewable type of energy) and irrigation may not appear as a “waste.” Still, the weighing issue is not mainly “why,” but rather “who” is using the water and “where” the water is going.

Let’s take a closer look at Figure 1.0, and focus on Arizona as an example (since this is where we are). If we look at the divisions of color, we see that green dominates a majority of Arizona’s water withdrawals. As shown, a majority of Arizona’s water source is withdrawn for irrigation since green represents irrigation (be sure to see the Figure’s key). But why exactly is this such an issue?

Irrigating the Desert

To see the issue and flaw of Arizona’s water allocation, first, we need to recognize what Arizona is, a desert. As a desert, Arizona naturally faces water scarcity, and periods of intense heat, which inevitably cause water loss due to evaporation. Arizona is the second-largest producer of lettuce and spinach, which in warmer seasons, requires more water. Arizona is also growing in cattle farming for milk production. At face value, it seems illogical to allow Arizona to be such an intensive agricultural state. Still, it is one because of the economic opportunities it provides for many in rural areas. Be that as it may, Arizona can remain an intensive agricultural state for desert-adapted crops. Discussions regarding the plants being grown in Arizona are now apparent as the crisis of the Colorado River water shortages become more evident. A crop that Arizona is suggesting in transitioning is agave. This native desert plant is the main ingredient in the production of tequila. It can potentially be useful in producing fiber and or bio-fuel, which opens an entire market of economic opportunities for rural areas growing lettuce, spinach, and raising cattle.

Water and Us

Another issue with water use is human behavior. The domestic water use in the United States is disproportionate to water availability. To explain, let’s take a look at Figure 2.0 below. 

Figure 2.0 (Source: Taken from the EPA website). This map summarizes the domestic use of water (gallons of water per day per person). Bear in mind the percentages of population growth, this will be important for our discussion later.
Figure 2.0 (Source: Taken from the EPA website). This map summarizes the domestic use of water (gallons of water per day per person). Bear in mind the percentages of population growth, this will be important for our discussion later.

In Figure 2.0, let’s focus on Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. Compared to the rest of the states, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona are among the highest in percent population growth, coincidentally they have some of the highest domestic water use (indicated by their blue pigmentation, please refer to the key in Figure 2.0). To add on, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona all share the Colorado River and have similar “desert-like” environments, which make them naturally dry. The disproportionate relationship between domestic water use and water availability emphasizes the need for behavioral changes. However, this is not always an easy task to handle, but we must highlight the benefits of conserving water.

Conservation for the Future

Water conservation is essential. As discussed in our previous article, there are many social and economic issues linked to water. But more importantly, we need to prepare for future drought. By conserving water, we are ensuring that water is available for future generations to come.

Source: The Balance Small Business 
Why It's Important to Conserve Water
Source: The Balance Small Business
What you can do

Here are some things you can do to conserve water (be sure to share and tell others!). In addition to those below, The Salt River Project’s Water Use it Wisely website is a great place to start. The site has tips and resources, including watering guides and xeriscape plant guides. Also, there are 101 listed ways to conserve water that are simple to accomplish. Most are easy changes to your everyday life. This website is kid-friendly and has a “Kids and Teachers” tab at the top with fun learning activities and games.

Source: R.F.Ohl 
Conserving Water at Home
Source: R.F.Ohl

This article was written by Carla Salas who has been working with ACE Recycling in conjunction with her schooling. Carla is a current college student attending her last year at Grand Canyon University. She is majoring in Environmental Science with a focus in Chemistry, along with a minor in Pre-Law. Her future goals include getting a Master’s/P.h.D in Environmental Science along with going to law school to eventually become an environmental lawyer to fight and advocate for environmental justice for vulnerable communities. As a member of the Latinx and Hispanic culture and as a bilingual Chicana/Mexican-American community member, she is passionate about providing equal access to environmental education and justice through her bilingual skills.  The proverb below summarizes her passion for environmental justice and her belief for all communities to be able to access the resources needed for a healthy life.  “La aqua y la comida es sagrada y nunca se desprecia”  “Both water and food are sacred and should never be despised (disdained)” 

 FOLLOW CARLA: Instagram: environmental.lawtina Tik Tok: @carla.salas37 or Enviro.lawtina
FOLLOW CARLA: Instagram: environmental.lawtina Tik Tok: @carla.salas37 or Enviro.lawtina

Previous Article: https://aceewaste.com/2020/03/22/water-101/

Author: Shelby Maguire

Shelby earned a bachelor's degree at Lake Erie College in biology and a master's degree in education at Ursuline College, both in her home state of Ohio. She currently lives in Phoenix, AZ where she was a high school science teacher for 10 years. She left the classroom to run ACE Recycling with her husband, but is an advocate for education and a life-long learner. She is passionate about science and works to educate the general public about science, specifically environmental issues. She is a self-proclaimed science nerd who loves research. She and her husband John, have three small children.

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