#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.

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/

#EarthDay2020: Water 101

Water is perhaps one of the most essential components for life. In the face of climate change and a growing population, water availability has become one of the biggest issues facing many communities around the world.

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

Water Scarcity and the need for Conservation

Water is perhaps one of the essential components of life. It provides humans, wildlife, and plants the ability to prosper. In essence, it provides a balance between resources and those who use said resources. It is vital for many reasons. First, plants use water to make food through the process of photosynthesis. Second, it holds the aquatic life we consume (fish and seaweed). Lastly, all life requires it to maintain the many chemical processes that sustain us. It is so essential that a human can only 2-3 days without fresh water. The earth’s ability to survive is heavily dependent on water availability, without it, there can be no plants, there can be no wildlife, and there can be no human life.

The Blue Planet

Water makes up a large portion of the earth’s surface (71%). However, a majority is not readily available for drinking or commercial purposes.

Of the 71% of Earth’s Water:

  • 96% is in oceans (not readily usable for agriculture or drinking)
  • 3% is freshwater
  • 2.5% of fresh water is unavailable (trapped in glaciers, ice caps)
  • ~ 0.5% of fresh water is available 
    • 0.62% of available freshwater is in groundwater
    • 0.009% of available freshwater is in lakes
    • 0.0001 % available freshwater is in rivers

When put into perspective, the available water appropriate for agriculture and drinking (called potable) is only a small fraction of the earth’s total water. In the face of climate change and a growing population, water availability has become one of the most significant issues facing many communities around the world. Such impacts of climate change include increased drought (decreases availability) and increased flooding (decreases clean water availability due to contamination).

Colorado River Compact

Here in the U.S., water availability has been an issue in Western states such as California, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, all of which share the Colorado River as one of their primary sources of water. As a result, some of these areas have experienced drought and increased costs. California, for instance, suffered a drought lasting from December 27, 2011- March 5, 2019, a total of eight years. In the eight years, “the most intense period of drought occurred the week of July 29, 2014, where D4 [the most severe type of drought] affected 58.41% of California land” (Drought in California, 2019).

The struggle with access to the Colorado River’s water has not only caused economic and social issues within these states but has significantly impacted a more vulnerable community: Native Americans. Although the original Colorado River Compact recognized the Native American’s water rights, nothing was “on the books” until a 1963 Supreme Court decision. This decision quantified federal reserved rights of the five Native American reservations along the lower Colorado River. The Native American Reservations included in the 1963 Supreme Court (Arizona v. California) were the Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Colorado River, Fort Mohave and Quechan (Fort Yuma). However, this Supreme Court decision did not completely remedy the many issues on water availability that are still apparent in Native American communities/reservations. The reason there was no remedy is because this is STILL going through the courts.

Water as a Right

Seeing the impact of climate change on water availability in real-time poses the need and urgency to tackle issues of conservation. Conservation is crucial to ensuring water availability for communities in need around the world (such as the many Native American communities/reservation in the U.S. mentioned above). In 2019, the United Nations (UN) launched “Leaving no one behind” as a part of their 2019 World Water Development Report. This initiative obliges countries to work towards universal access to everyone, without discrimination. It also prioritizes those most sensitive to lack of availability and vulnerable to resource scarcity. As previously mentioned by the UN in previous years, access and sanitation are considered human rights. The UN identifies different components of access and sanitation as a human right:

  • Availability of water and sanitation
  • Physical accessibility of water and sanitation
  • Affordability
  • Quality and safety
  • Acceptability (by societal norms or culture of different areas)
World Water Day March 22, 2020

Using the framework already outlined by the UN, these components become part of conversations about conservation. These conservations can help improve the well-being of vulnerable communities here in the U.S. This can be a step forward into tackling the global issue of water scarcity and availability.

As we come closer to Earth Day (04/22/2020), let us take a moment and celebrate a common resource needed and shared by all on March 22, 2020 which marks World Water Day.

Our next segment will go over conservation, specifically on what’s been done in the U.S., and what can be done.

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

Check out our series on Carbon!