The Futility of Personal Water Conservation!

In critical times conservation can help everyone to get an equal share of water, and slow depletion for a short time. It is not however, a long-term solution. Conservation will never overcome our purposeful overpopulation and aggressive urban development of areas with fixed and finite supplies of drinking water.

Conservation is a temporary bandage and not a solution.  Our goal should always be plentiful water for everyone. We should feel carefree and guiltless about splashing about. We are smart enough to make this happen, but sadly, for reasons unbeknownst to me, we do not.

Much of the world has no need for conservation. Residents of the Great Lakes area find the idea of water conservation silly. Water in the Midwest is abundant. Conversely, if one lives in an area of infrequent rainfall and depleted water resources, conservation is all too often viewed as a lifesaver.

Things like low volume toilets, flow restricted fixtures and collection barrels on home downspouts help, but in all honesty in most communities the added water consumption that comes with population growth and increased real estate development offsets even the best conservation efforts. I have yet to see a single community where conservation efforts have stopped or slowed the sinking levels of local lakes, reservoirs, and wells.

  • The average family of 4 uses 350 gallons of water per day, roughly 90 gallons/person.
  • With efficient toilets and faucets now standard, additional household conservation of 20% of water, or 70 gallons would be extremely difficult to achieve, but for an exercise let us say we can do it. Remember now, that not all households have 4 members. Smaller households will save even less water.
  • Every new resident is going to use 90 gallons of water, essentially eliminating what the “typical” family of four saved.
  • Likewise, visitors and guests of a community are going to add to water consumption that is not accounted for by the family-of-four conservation prediction. So, we lose more water.
  • The USDA verifies that 80% of our water consumption is agricultural use, and as high as 90% in some Western states. Industrial use is perhaps 10%, leaving 10% of water used in America to be used by residents. Now think hard and long on this, if every citizen were able to reduce their consumption by 20%, it would only result in an overall water savings of (20% individual water savings) x (10% of total water consumption) = 2% overall water savings. The truth is that other than in places where water shortages are critical, individual water conservation has little effect on overall water supply volume.
  • While you and I are being made to ration water and feel guilty for using it the nation’s utilities are wasting and losing trillions of gallons of drinking water through leaks in our aging and crumbling water infrastructure.

Research estimates that the US wastes 2.1 trillion gallons per year because of leaking, aging, neglected pipes. Do you still believe conserving household water is the real solution to water scarcity? The reality is that we are being asked to conserve water because our national leaders have murdered our water infrastructure and have done little to protect our water supplies. Now, there are places in the nation, like Las Vegas and El Paso who have remained ahead of the curve and do a great job of managing their water supplies. However, on the national front our water efforts have been largely impotent.

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