While the examples presented here are from North America, other countries, especially water scarce South Africa should be even more aware of conserving this resource and installing water tanks. Rainwater harvesting tanks and greywater recycling systems can go a long way to reducing water use and helping the environment (while saving money too).
1. ENERGY FOOTPRINT
Water takes energy. A considerable amount of energy is consumed in the process of bringing water to your tap. Creating safe drinking water requires many energy intensive steps including: initial treatment, pumping water from wells to households, pumping wastewater from homes to treatment facilities, and then cleaning it for release back into the lakes and rivers.
Then you have to heat water, to cook and clean, which takes more energy. Research by the Energy Solution Centre shows that water heating accounts for approximately 40% of total household electrical energy consumption.
Water also comes to us at a real cost to the environment. For instance, the City of Whitehorse estimates that their water and sewage treatment created 293 tones of emissions in 2001.
Reducing your residential water use will help reduce your energy footprint, which will benefit your pocket book and the environment!
2. MAINTAINING WATER QUALITY FOR HUMAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
When we reduce our water consumption, we protect the environment from contamination and support ecosystem health. Whitehorse’s Livingston Wastewater Treatment Facility treats sewage for substances like fecal coliform, suspended solids, floating solids and scum. But it doesn’t treat or test for other potential contaminants like pesticides and herbicides, pharmaceutical products, and cleaning products.
Until the summer of 2010, the City has been able to discharge all of its treated wastewater into Pothole Lake, which helps to filter these kinds of contaminants out of treated wastewater through the ground before it reaches the river. This is referred to as a tertiary treatment.
But Pothole Lake can no longer filter our wastewater as fast as Whitehorse produces it, so in October 2009 the City had to release approximately 7,000,000 m3 of treated waste water directly into the Yukon River.
3. HUMAN HEALTH
Clean, uncontaminated water is essential for human health. In order to protect our drinking water supply, it is necessary to ensure not only that we don’t deplete our water supply, but also that we don’t degrade or contaminate it. In order to do that, we need to treat our wastewater to the best degree possible before it re-enters the environment.
In Whitehorse Pothole Lake has been providing tertiary treatment to our wastewater.
However, our collective wastewater production has outstripped the Pothole Lake’s capacity, and as a result the City has been forced to discharge treated wastewater directly into the Yukon River without the benefit of the tertiary treatment.
4. GLOBAL IMPACT
There is no doubt that the brunt of the global water crisis is currently being borne by citizens of underdeveloped and developing nations: over 2.1 billion people have no access to clean drinking water, and one child dies every 8 seconds from drinking dirty water. Despite the wide geographic divide, Yukoners’ consumer choices do have impacts on people in other countries.
In many countries, water that could be used by local people and farmers for survival is instead used to create export goods such as computers, clothing and gasoline for wealthy consumers in developed countries like Canada. Industrial and agricultural production is often extremely water intensive: it takes 400,000 liters of water to produce a single car, and another 500 liters per fill-up to produce the gas.
Not only is it critical that we reduce water consumption here at home, to protect our own water resources and the Yukon environment, but we must also consider the impacts of our consumer choices on the imminent global water crisis. Whenever possible, we need to remember the 3 “R”’s: “Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle. And that brings us to the new “R” of today: Rethink! We need to Rethink what water consumption really is, and what it really means to our health, to the health of our environment, and for the future of the Earth.
Source: Yukon Conservation Society (edited)
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