Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Tribal Environmental Department

Educational Material


 

 


 

EYES ON WATER

by Micah Knox

 

Introduction

            Look around you, what do you see? Mountain ranges in every direction, clay soil beneath your feet. What lies beyond that? The beach cities to the west, San Bernardino National Forest to the north, the Baja Peninsula to the south and to the east we have the rest of the stunning continental United States. Our planet is a beautiful cornucopia of eye capturing landmarks both naturally occurring and man-made; however, the one fact remains, everything you see around you stems from one essential building block we as a society overlook and take for granted. Water. Water is by far our most important natural resource (Berkey). Being that it is the building block for all plant and animal life, you would expect the human population to be more careful with their use and misuse of this entity. However, this is absolutely not the case. We outlet waste via textiles factories overseas, we overuse in the production of cash crops and agricultural tasks, and we as individuals use water with the notion that our faucets will in fact never run dry. While us and our children may never feel the pressure associated with water scarcity, an approximated 900 million to 1.1 billion people worldwide lack clean drinking water with that number ever rising as time goes on. (Berkey) With this frightening thought looming overhead, what can we do to remedy this issue? The answer is the education, practice and implementation of water conservation efforts across the globe by large corporations and individuals alike. Educating yourself on water conservation and water related issues and learning how you can step up and help the planet one day at a time is one of the major keys to the longevity of our planet’s health as well as the health and safety of people that live on it.

 

What? Why? How to?

            Water conservation can be defined as the practice of using water efficiently to reduce unnecessary water usage. According to Fresh Water Watch, water conservation is important because fresh clean water is a limited resource, as well as a costly one. (constellation) With the world population on a constant rise, we have seen a direct correlation between this said increase and water scarcity. Humans use a superfluous amount of water with horrific disregard as to where it comes from, its dwindling supplies, and the consequences of waste. Water shortages may also be caused by climate change, such as altered weather patterns including droughts and floods as well as increased pollution, especially SO2 and NOx in the troposphere. Little things we do on a daily basis may not seem like they effect our current water crisis, however when you consider that the current human population on our planet sits around 7.9 Billion, these things do add up. Take for example your time allotted to take a shower. Most people spend about 8-15 minutes every day or every other day showering off from a days dirt. With a normal flow shower head releasing 2.5 gallons per minute you’re looking at a spectrum of 20-37.5 gallons, not to mention that the average household contains 2-3 people in it. With that you’re estimated to waste on the high end between 75 and 112.5 gallons daily! Now comparing that to the use of a low flow shower head and limiting your showers to at maximum 6 minutes, the same calculations will render a daily spectrum between 19.2-28.8 gallons daily for your entire family. That is under a third without affecting your quality of life substantially whatsoever. (homewaterworks)

Water saving tips

So other than the implementation of low flow shower heads, how else can we save water in our daily lives? There are many different tips, tricks and guidelines we can adhere to on a day to day basis. For example, placing a brick in your toilet tank will displace a significant amount of water, essentially lowering the amount of water used per flush. With the average human using around 20 gallons a day just in flushing, the addition of this “hack” will be saving you tons of water without sacrificing anything. Another good tip is to adjust the settings on your washing machine to mirror whatever you’re washing. A lot of times people in a rush tend to turn their washing machine on, and immediately press start with total disregard as to the load size. Next time you start a load of laundry, consider that laundry represents 15-40% of all water expenditure in the home and adjust the settings on the machine to match the load size. You may be surprised how your water bill reflects your choices. (thewaterproject.org)

A few other quick tips to follow:

  • When buying a washing machine, pick side load washers as opposed to top load washers. Side load washers typically use less water
  • Water your garden or lawn in the early mornings or late evenings as to stop the evaporation of water.
  • Check for and repair leaks. An average 10,000 gallons of water is wasted per household per year due to unnecessary leaks.
  • Use a dishwasher. They are more efficient than handwashing, especially if you’re running full loads.

While you alone may not be able to make a significant impact on the current state of our water crisis, strength in numbers may bring this planet forward to a new echelon of water conservation and help impede further worldwide drought conditions. (homewaterworks)

 

Drought conditions associated with excess water usage

            Drought conditions, characterized as prolonged bouts of dryness due to water supply problems in the atmosphere, ground and surface waters, can have a major impact on our planet inhabitant’s quality of life. A drought can last for months if not years and are a normal part of our ecosystem, but have become more unpredictable and extreme due to climate change. Roughly 2.5 billion people – 30 percent of the world’s population – live in dry areas and areas susceptible to drought, which cover more than 40 percent of the world’s land surface.  Drought can bring upon major issues that have the potential to plague human life. These issues can be broken down into Three core categories: Water, Air Quality, and Disease, sanitation and Hygiene. (CDC.gov)

To begin with Water, Drought conditions can reduce stream and river flows, thus concentrating pollutants in water and causing stagnation of water. High water temperatures from weather conditions can reduce oxygen levels in large bodies of water causing a decrease in plant and animal life, things we as a society rely on to survive. Runoff from potential wildfire as associated with dry seasons can carry extra sediment, ash, charcoal, and debris to surface waters, in turn killing fish and other aquatic life.

In regards to Air Quality, the drought conditions and wildfires that come in tandem can harm human health. Fire and dry soil can increase the number of particulates that are suspended in the air such as pollen, smoke, and fluorocarbons. These suspended particulates can have lasting effects on the bronchial passages and lungs, causing chronic respiratory illnesses, infections and bacterial pneumonia. Another drought related factor is the release of airborne toxins from cyanobacteria previously found in large bodies of water. When evaporation occurs at an enormous rate seen in drought periods, cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) will release its toxins into the air causing lung irritation and adverse health problems in certain populations. (CDC.gov)

Lastly, and probably most notably, is the category of disease, sanitation and hygiene. With the need to conserve water being of the utmost importance, sometimes in drought conditions hygiene goes by the wayside, which has a whole host of issues in regards to the control of many diseases. Increases in infectious disease can be a direct consequence of drought conditions. Viruses, protozoa and bacteria can pollute groundwater and surface water when there is a decrease in rainfall. Salmonella and E. Coli are just a few examples of bacteria that more readily contaminate food and water bodies as a result of drought conditions. Water shortages cause farmers to use recycled water to irrigate their fields and process their yields, contaminating food shipped all over the world. That and the potential for water runoff to infiltrate farmlands are the two main causes for infectious diseases to permeate crops and cause potentially lethal situations for high risk groups. The last example of Disease occurrence as a result of drought conditions is that of disease transmission by plants and animals. When access to water dips far below where it should naturally be, wild animals and insects are more likely to migrate toward human inhabited areas, where water is more readily available and abundant. In doing so, these animals and insects bring with them a whole host of different diseases, for example, West Nile Virus brought in by Culex Pipiens, a certain species of mosquito. (ECDC.eu) Also, when water becomes so scarce that even humans must begin to rely upon rainwater, stagnant water can become a breeding ground for all sorts of insects and diseases with potential lethality toward the human race. (CDC.gov)

Conclusion

            Furthermore, drought can be as destructive as any natural disaster and more prolonged than you could ever imagine. There is hope, however, in every one of our actions. Any one person might think their actions are futile and worthless, but in the grand scheme ever drop counts and it’s our job to conserve. From low flow shower heads to the education of another, everyone can do their part to make sure this planet has continued access and everyone has their eyes on water.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

“17 Water Conservation Tips and Tricks.” The Water Project, thewaterproject.org/water_conservation_tips.

“A Guide to Water Conservation - Saving Water and the Earth.” The Berkey, theberkey.com/pages/a-guide-to-water-conservation.

Cart, Julie, and Rachel Becker. “Running out of Water and Time: How Unprepared Is California for 2021's Drought?” CalMatters, 18 May 2021, calmatters.org/environment/2021/05/unprepared-california-drought-2021-lessons-learned/.

“Culex Pipiens - Factsheet for Experts.” European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 1 June 2021, www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/all-topics-z/disease-vectors/facts/mosquito-factsh....

“Culex Pipiens - Factsheet for Experts.” European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 1 June 2021, www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/all-topics-z/disease-vectors/facts/mosquito-factsh....

Dryland Systems, drylandsystems.cgiar.org/content/worlds-dry-areas#:~:text=Roughly 2.5 billion people – 30,food production in these areas.

“Health Implications of Drought.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Jan. 2020, www.cdc.gov/nceh/drought/implications.htm#:~:text=Drought can also cause long,mosquitoes breeding in stagnant water.

Ruiz, Diana M, et al. “Turning off the Tap: Common Domestic Water Conservation Actions Insufficient to Alleviate Drought in the United States of America.” PloS One, Public Library of Science, 4 Mar. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7055883/.

“Water Conservation at EPA.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 24 Mar. 2021, www.epa.gov/greeningepa/water-conservation-epa.

What Are the Benefits of Water Conservation?, www.ecotechwater.com/Health/Water Consevation.html.

“What Is Water Conservation?” Constellation, www.constellation.com/energy-101/water-conservation-tips0.html#:~:text=W... conservation is the practice,well as a costly one.

www.browsermedia.com, BrowserMedia -. “Water.” NCAI, www.ncai.org/policy-issues/land-natural-resources/water.

 


 

 

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