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.
Our previous article discussed the need for water conservation 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 thermoelectric power and irrigation (remember, irrigation is not all-encompassing of agriculture). In 2020, a new U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.C) took place, though this report has not been published. Hopefully, we have made some improvements in water conservation.
In principle, allocating our water use for thermoelectric energy (renewable 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 look at Figure 1.0 (above) and focus on Arizona as an example (since this is where we are). Looking at the divisions of color, we see that green dominates most of Arizona’s water withdrawals. As shown, most of Arizona’s water source is withdrawn for irrigation since green represents irrigation (be sure to see the Figure’s key).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. Allowing Arizona to be such an intensive agricultural state at face value seems illogical. 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 Colorado River water shortage crisis becomes 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 help produce fiber and/or biofuel, opening an entire economic opportunity market for rural areas growing lettuce, spinach, and raising cattle.
Water and Us
Another issue with water use is human behavior. Domestic water use in the United States is disproportionate to water availability. To explain, let’s take a look at Figure 2.0 below.
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). Additionally, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona all share the Colorado River and have similar “desert-like” environments, making 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, but we must highlight the benefits of conserving water.
Conservation for the Future
Water conservation is essential. As discussed in our previous article, many social and economic issues are linked to water. But more importantly, we need to prepare for future droughts. By conserving water, we ensure that water is available for future generations.
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 desert watering and xeriscape plant guides. Also, the 101 listed ways to conserve water 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.
Carla Salas wrote this article in 2020. She was working with ACE Recycling in conjunction with her schooling at Grand Canyon University. She is majoring in Environmental Science with a focus on Chemistry and 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 that all communities can access the resources needed for a healthy life. “La agua y la comida es sagrada y nunca se desprecia” “Water and food is sacred and is never despised”
Find Carla on Instagram at environmental.lawtina or on Tik Tok @carla.salas37 or Enviro.lawtina