You may have read about the long running drought in California and how residents and businesses of that state are coming to terms with the situation and trying to practice water conservation techniques. You may think, huh it sucks to be California, and go about your day because you may live in a state that is not going through a drought. How could it impact me? Why should I care? Actually most of the food produced in this country comes from California and therefore agriculture uses most of the state’s water to feed the nation. See this excellent graphic from The New York Times to get a sense of just how much water is used in agriculture: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/05/21/us/your-contribution-to-the-california-drought.html . This does not mean you need to stop eating lettuce or drinking wine (gasp) but you will most likely see rising costs and unavailability. A new normal is born with depleting water resources for the U.S. and the world.
I thought most of the earth is covered in water, what is the problem? Actually most of it is saltwater (about 96%) and desalinization is not cheap. The remaining 4% is freshwater but most of that is found in glaciers and ice caps (for now). Most accessible water is ground water, water stored underground. Surface water, the water in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, etc…, constitutes are very small portion of what is left. Drinking water and irrigation water generally come from surface water but in times of drought water is increasingly taken from aquifers which are large amounts of water stored at depths within layers of rock. Generally ground water is recharged (or replenished) by precipitation or snow melt but if there is little to none of either rain or snow, aquifers will shrink. That appears to be the trend for aquifers found around the world.
So that is the current challenge, finite water for an infinite number of uses. We still need to drink, we still need to eat so how do we use water a sustainable manner so that we may conserve for the future? Good question, I will be writing more about the research, decisions, and practices surrounding water in the future. For now enjoy the pretty picture that I made and relax, it is not the end of the world as we know it. However I would stop running the water when brushing teeth.
About the Illustration: This is a paper collage using various craft papers with a little bit of acrylic paint for details and highlights. My choices for the inhabitants of the paper boat were based on how much water is needed to produce avocados, almonds, and beef. Alas they are also things I like to eat. Oh guacamole, I will miss you when you go… This image is available via Redbubble.
For More Information:
See USGS Water Science School for all things water: http://water.usgs.gov/edu/