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Opinions: How You and Your Business Can Stop the Water Crisis

For some time there has been a constant stream of information about depletion of fossil fuels and rising energy costs. However, as valuable as fossil fuels are to modern life, we can certainly live without them, if we develop the right technologies. Water, on the other hand, is another story.

Image courtesy of Carnie Lewis

Even in the US, the water crisis is leading many to study water management and many schools are expanding their programs. Some universities are even offering a PhD degree online to encourage students who cannot make it to campus to specialize in water management. It is a dire concern, especially as the world continues to dry out.

This is hard to believe, considering how water is used with careless abandon in the US and many developed nations. Green, luscious lawns in the desert, backyard pools in every home and inefficient toilets are all examples of wasteful first world habits but globally, water is an extremely a precious commodity more valuable than a good credit score or getting into the university of your choice. In many cities around the world, those living in slums of often pay 5-10 times more per liter than wealthy people living in the same cities. And in other places, where people can’t pay for water, thousands die.

A sobering statistic from the 2006 United Nations Human Development Report on water states that an American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than a typical person in a developing country slum uses in a whole day. The silver-lining for individuals and businesses interested in moving towards sustainable usage of our most basic resource is that there are many ways to lessen water usage individually as well as on a broad scale.

One of the key ways to avoid wasting water in business is by ensuring all equipment and appliances are running at peak performance. Regularly monitoring equipment and updating elements that are falling behind is one of the best ways to make sure the time and money being poured into a business is going into the end product. When buying new appliances, strive to buy only the most efficient ones. Whether a business is involved in food processing, manufacturing, nurseries, textiles or really any sort of production, somewhere along the line water will be used for plant heating or cooling, product cleaning and preparation, even production of paints and dyes. When equipment and factories are running at peak efficiency, water will only be used in the areas it is needed.

Bathrooms and washrooms are areas with major potential for cutting down on water consumption. Low-flow restrictors or aerators can be installed on faucets that emit less than 1.5 gallons of water per minute. Compared to the average of 2.2 gallons emitted by normal faucets, and savings can add up. New, high efficiency toilets use 2 gallons of water per flush, compared to nearly 5 gallons for common models. Some urinals are even designed with waterless flushing, allowing gravity and small quantities of chemicals to dispose of human waste. A lot of water-efficient equipment comes with a higher upfront cost, but the savings from future water bills can make them a tremendous investment in a short period of time.

Where water usage is necessary, great savings can be found by recycling water for multiple uses. Water used to rinse fruits and vegetables, rain water collected from the roof and water from fish tanks can be used to water plants, or to dispose of sanitation. A rain-harvesting system collects water on site for landscape irrigation, and irrigation sensors can better control exterior water use.

Companies or even households that use large quantities of water regularly may want to invest in a water audit. A commercial water audit can give a detailed account of where opportunities lie for using less and in the long term, saving money. There are some water utilities that provide audits to commercial customers for free and even provide rebates for water-saving initiatives. Enquiring about any savings or resources your local water company offers to help individuals and businesses save water is another worthwhile step in limiting usage.

There is little doubt that water will become a hotly contested resource in the coming years. As the world’s population reaches 10 billion in the next fifty years, water shortages will be impossible to ignore. Implementing measures to save water today is one of the easiest ways to save money, and one of the most pragmatic investments in a sustainable future.

By Sofia Rasmussen

Sofia is a freelance writer and graduate student in journalism.  Her main writing interests are education and technology.  In addition to reading and writing, Sofia loves to travel and hike in her free time.

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