by Wendy Pabich, author of Taking on Water (Sasquatch Books, September 2012)
Water is getting scarce. This year has brought extreme drought, low snow packs, and record low stream flows in a number of river systems. We see Las Vegas waging water war with the open ranch lands to the north, Atlanta in protracted battles with downstream states over its primary water supply at Lake Lanier, and water tables beneath the San Joaquin Valley—the source of 40 percent of the nation’s fruits and vegetables—dropping. A recent study by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) suggests that by mid-century, half the counties in the U.S. will be facing water scarcity.
For any one of us, these problems can feel overwhelming. We may sense that our own role is negligible, our power to make change inconsequential. And, it’s easy to find fault with government policies, corporate behavior, and farming practices. Yet, taken together, our aggregate behavior is the source of these problems. An individual home can waste 10,000 gallons of water a year to leaking fixtures; as a nation, we lose one trillion gallons of water to leaks. We buy 450 million pair of blue jeans every year, each of which requires about 2,200 gallons of water to produce, mostly to grow cotton for denim. That’s a total of 990 billion gallons of water, or enough to provide copious domestic water supplies to almost 10 billion people. And the list goes on. Continue reading