Sustainability

A Story About Water

“Sustainability is the art of living well within ecological limits.”

More and more people are becoming aware of their daily footprint on this planet. But how often do we think about our water footprint? We’re pretty lucky here, especially in Canada, to have access to a relative abundance of fresh water. However, as more and more gets contaminated by pollutants and pumped out of the ground for agriculture, it’s becoming a question of: is it available to use? Is it safe to consume?

For example, picture a bucket full of clean, fresh water. Then you accidentally knock the bucket over and it spills all over the ground. The amount of water is roughly the same, but it’s gone from usable and drinkable to becoming very hard to use and is now potentially contaminated.

The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the world’s largest aquifers, located in the Great Plains in the United States. Millions of people depend on this water reservoir. The aquifer is naturally replenished at a rate of approximately 1 to 6 inches every year by rainfall and water sinking naturally back into the ground (called infiltration). However the average rate of water removal by humans has been upwards of 5 feet per year!

You can clearly see the issue here. Remember, “renewable does not equal sustainable.” Just because it’s a renewable resource doesn’t mean we can use it irresponsibly.

There are countless ways to conserve water, and governments and cities are increasing their promotion and awareness of water conservation to ease the stress on water treatment plants and utilities.

Most of us know the obvious ones: minimize lawn watering, install low-flush toilets, and so on. But there are other ways! If your family switches from a meat-based diet to a vegetarian diet, you could reduce your daily water footprint up to 1,300 liters per day. That’s an enormous amount of water when you put it over a year, nearly half a million liters in savings.

If veggie is not for you, consider at least swapping beef for chicken. Eating chicken or turkey instead of beef for a family of four would save 900 liters of water per day, because these animals are much more efficient at converting food and water to calories in the form of meat.

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Food waste is another example, 38 to 40 percent of food in North America is wasted, and there is a huge amount of water embedded in that food. The “best before” dates are actually problematic in that regard, because that date doesn’t necessarily mean the food is bad, it just means the company isn’t guaranteeing the best flavor. So food is getting thrown away prematurely when it’s perfectly fine.

Water is the whole reason any life on earth exists, so we need to treat it with the utmost respect it deserves. Do you know any other ways we can conserve water?

Picture source here.

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