Three Recent Water Conservation Studies

by admin on April 8, 2013

water-conservationDroughts have threatened human welfare since prehistoric times. But in today’s world of rapid population growth, increased demand for food and cash crops and rising urbanization, water scarcity is a growing problem even in non-arid regions. Water demand is expected to increase 40 percent in the next 20 years, and although water is a renewable resource, quantities of freshwater are limited. Several new studies, however, have identified new strategies to aid the imbalance of water usage to freshwater supply.

Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study

The results of a Congressional-authorized study, funded by the Bureau of Reclamation and seven Colorado River Basin states, were released Dec. 12, according to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. The study projects water supply and demand imbalances throughout the Colorado River Basin throughout the next 50 years, and includes a variety of strategies to address the imbalances.

The Colorado River Basin spans portions of seven states, and is one of the most important sources of water in the western United States. In addition to the 40 million people who receive municipal water from the Colorado River and its tributaries, the basin supplies water for 22 Native American tribes, seven national wildlife refuges, four national recreation areas, and 11 national parks. The water supply is also used to irrigate about four million acres of land, while the Colorado River provides more than 4,200 megawatts of electricity through hydro-power facilities.

“There’s no silver bullet to solve the imbalance between the demand for water and the supply in the Colorado River Basin over the next 50 years – rather, it’s going to take diligent planning and collaboration from all stakeholders to identify and move forward with practical solutions,” Salazar said. “Water is the lifeblood of our communities, and this study provides a solid platform to explore actions we can take toward a sustainable water future. Although not all of the proposals included in the study are feasible, they underscore the broad interest in finding a comprehensive set of solutions.”

The study found future imbalance in water supply and demand will average to more than 3.2 million-acre-feet by 2060, with one acre-foot of water equal to the amount used by a single household in one year. The study also projects the largest demand increase will originate from municipal and industrial users. Currently, the Colorado River Basin provides water to about 40 million people, but the study projects the number may increase to about 76.5 million residents by 2060.

The study, which began in January 2010, offers more than 150 proposals from study participants, as well as stakeholders and the public. Suggestions include increasing water supply importing water from neighboring rivers or desalinization or Pacific Ocean water; or reducing demand through increased industrial and agricultural water conservation and efficiency plans, as well as reducing evaporation from lakes and canals.

“This study is one of a number of ongoing basin studies that Reclamation is undertaking through Interior’s WaterSMART Program,” said Anne Castle, Assistant Sec. for Water and Science. “These analyses pave the way for stakeholders in each basin to come together and determine their own water destiny. This study is a call to action, and we look forward to continuing this collaborative approach as we discuss next steps.”

Humble Pie

The toilet is considered one of the most vital household fixtures, for obvious reasons. But it also accounts for about 30 percent of home water usage—more than showers, dishwashers or washing machines. Even water-efficient toilets use an average of more than 7,400 gallons of water per year, while traditional models can easily exceed 32,000 gallons of water-usage for an average US household of 3.2 people.

“It’s easy to think that we have this enormous indispensable water supply, that we do have about 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water right here at the Great Lakes,” Nancy Tuchman, an aquatic ecology researcher and director of the Institute of Urban Environmental Sustainability at Loyal University, recently told the Northwest Indiana Times. “We have the biggest supply on the continent, but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be there forever—and especially with global climate change and all this evaporation and little precipitation that could build the water back up. So we need to conserve.”

Chicago’s Nancy Klehm, founder of Social Ecologies, has devised an unorthodox solution to commode water consumption. Her “dry toilet” is nothing more than a bucket filled with a layer of carbon-rich material such as dried leaves, sawdust or newspaper. After depositing waste into a dry toilet, a user simply covers the matter with a new layer of carbon-rich material. When the bucket is full, the contents can be dumped out or composted.

“For five bucks, or if I find a bucket and have some carbon material, I can actually build out a solution really fast,” Klehm told the Times. “It takes hardly any capital; it just takes some ingenuity and knowing what to do with it.”

In 2008, Klehm organized a trial, called “Humble Pie,” with 22 Chicago residents who tested the dry toilet process. She collected participants’ waste over a three-month period, then composed it with carbon-rich material for two years. The compost is now as nutrient-rich as “fertilizer” found at municipal sewage plants.

“Good soil is so hard to have in the city. I’m concerned about the state of our soil—they’re affecting our health, they’re depleted, or they’re contaminated or poisonous,” Klehm told Arthur Magazine.

The Environmental Protection Agency categorizes the sludge as a fertilizer, and it will now be used in Chicago gardens, including a 5,000-sqaure-foot greenhouse at a homeless shelter. Her study’s participants were not turned off by the process as one might presume, either.

“I was interested in this as an experiment,” Lora Lode, whose family placed a bucket in the bathroom and two storage drums on the back porch, told Arthur. Her 19-year-old son Charlie was eager to try the experiment. “I just think that if I didn’t have a house, this is what I would do,” he said.

Still, Klehm said a dry toilet must be done properly to be successful.

“Composting human waste should not be taken on unless someone is a very skilled composter,” Klehm told the Times.

Although the “yuck” factor will probably discourage most people from ever trying a dry toilet, water experts see it as an important innovation in water conservation.

“It’s a larger issue than just how much water we’re using,” sustainable water expert Wendy Pabich, who holds a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the Times. “When you buy a dry compost toilet, that’s all about recycling the nutrients and carbon in our waste, rather than sending them to rivers where the organic and nutrient load drive putrefaction – algal groves, fish kills and ecosystem changes.”


Researchers with Texas A&M’s AgriLife Research program are trying to promote water conservation for those who water their lawns. They are using the principle of evapo-transpiration—the amount of water a plant actively pulls from soil—to develop simple watering formulas.

AgriLife Research associates Charles Fontanier and Richard White are looking to history to determine if evapo-transpiration data can be used to predict watering needs in St. Augustine.

“The goal is to try to create a message that is easy to understand for both homeowners and landscape contractors that will also promote water conservation and healthy turf grasses,” Fontanier said in a Texas A&M release.

The researchers use various weather data to estimate daily evapo-transpiration, then relate that data to the grass or plant being grown.

“From the reference ET, we can adjust it to the different types of grasses we are growing, as well as perhaps a micro-climate: If it is a sunny spot or a shady spot,” Fontanier said. “So we can adjust the number accordingly. If the number for a warm-season turfgrass in Texas is 0.6, then 60 percent of the weather station output is what we should be applying to our grasses.”

The scientists used historical averages to set run times for a sprinkler system during the last two growing seasons. If, for example, St. Augustine grass has needed 4.25 inches of water each July during the past 45 years, they used that number to irrigate the grass in July.

“Ideally, we should be adjusting irrigation amounts based on what the weather station is telling us on a daily or weekly basis,” Fontanier said. “But keeping up with real-time ET data can be too time consuming. So our goal for this study was to demonstrate and quantify the effects of using historical average water needs as a predictor of actual plant water needs.”

The study examined four treatments, including: Reference evapo-transpiration from the weather station or 100 percent, which would equal an over-watering scenario; turf coefficient—the theorized amount of watering the turf grass actually needs; 40 percent of the turf coefficient and 60 percent of the coefficient.

“Looking at the two years we’ve had recently and comparing the differences, in 2011 when we really had severe conditions, our main goal with any irrigation was really just bud and crown survival,” Fontanier said. “If we kept enough plants alive, we could get regrowth once rains did come. In fact that is what we found. Even though we lost a tremendous amount of density in our deficit irrigation treatments, the grass survived and by March, we had close to 100 percent stands.”

At a glance, all of the study plots looked the same. Fontanier believes that shows grasses can survive seasonal reductions in irrigation.

“If you look at 2012, where we did get occasional rains, our water conservation treatments or deficit irrigation treatments not only survived, they actually look pretty good,” he said. “So what we did using historical ET, we were probably under-irrigating in 2011 by maybe 20 percent and over-irrigating in 2012 by about 10 percent.

“But if you look at the long haul, we think we will be right on the money or at least promoting some level of conservation utilizing historical ET as a base for irrigation,” Fontanier explained. “Historical and real-time ET data for locations across Texas are readily available online at the Texas ET Network. If these data are not available to your region, a general rule of thumb is that Texas lawns need about 1 inch of water a week from June through August. Sticking with these easy-to-remember strategies should, in the long run, help homeowners conserve water.

“And if you bring it down to a deficit from that, we can still have water conservation and the grass will stay alive,” Fontanier said. “The key is to make sure you have some moisture in the ground to maintain bud survival.”

seametrics-rain-waterGlobally, one out of every five people does not have access to clean water, and water demand is expected to rise 40 percent over the next 20 years. As water use continues to outweigh water resources, water conservation plays a vital role in everyday life. But new tools are available to assist consumers and communities in reducing water stress and conserving the valuable resource.

Agricultural Radar and Scanning Techniques

A Texas AgriLife Research team is applying two tools to its small grains breeding program in order to identify drought-resistant traits in wheat. Researchers are attempting to use ground-penetrating radar and terrestrial laser-scanning to search for traits that give the wheat’s breeding line a drought-resistance advantage.

“What we are trying to do is apply technology that allows us to see further into characteristic traits than we have been able to with the human eye,” said Sean Thompson, a doctoral student at Texas A&M University working on the Texas AgriLife Research project.

In the past, ground-penetrating radar—designed for the construction industry to detect objects such as electrical lines and pipes below ground—has been used to look at crop-water availability, but never to examine plant populations. The research team hopes it can adapt the technology to look at the roots of wheat as it grows in the field.

The radar can estimate the biomass of roots and differentiate between root systems from various crops. Mapping roots at varying depths helps researchers detect plants with deeper roots or roots that spread further.

“We think these root systems will provide the plant with more water during a drought situation,” Thompson said. “Our idea is if we can identify those plants in a population or be able to characterize the roots below ground, we could adapt our varieties to make them more drought-resistant or drought-tolerant.”

Likewise, researchers plan to use a terrestrial laser scanner to take quick, accurate measurements in wheat fields.

“That’s a much more accurate measurement than we’ve had in the past using a yardstick or ruler,” Thompson said. “Typically we walk through our nurseries looking for characteristics or traits in a plant that give it an advantage over others. We take plant height measurements which can be related to yield or performance, or we take an overall agronomic score.”

Drought tolerant plants help conserve water during dry seasons because farmers can produce crops without relying on irrigation. They also aid farmers in coping with droughts such as the one that gripped much of the United States during the past growing season.

Rainwater Harvesting System

The Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center has also developed a project that might someday aid communities in conserving water used for landscape irrigation. In the project, researchers collect rainwater from roof space using an internal-pipe rain gutter system. The water is then forced into 3,600-gallon tanks through a gravity-flow system. The collected rainwater is later used to water various types of gardening plots and turf-grass demonstration plots.

“Ultimately, we want to develop a comprehensive small-acreage landowner system where we can show some fruit and nut trees and ways to manage all of that off the natural systems here,” Texas AgriLife irrigation specialist Nich Kenny said. “This year in the midst of a drought, we filled three of these tanks—approximately 9,000 gallons of water— on 6 inches of rainfall. That’s a pretty effective way to capture water.”

Kenny estimates that for every one-inch rainstorm, each square foot of rooftop can collect about .6 gallons of water.

“You can start to add that up on a standard house and basically what you end up with is a whole lot of water that can be stored,” he said. “Next you have to figure out what to do with it.”

Conservation Tools for the Home

Consumers who want to save money on their water bills and promote water conservation can save rainwater without an elaborate rooftop system. Rain barrels not only help conserve water, but promote healthier plants and soil, as well as reduce storm water runoff.

Catching and storing roof water for use in landscaping projects takes advantage of a free source of water while simultaneously reducing sewer overflows and flooding. It also helps recharge the groundwater supply with pure, unpolluted water. Plus, the water collected in the rain barrel provides non-chlorinated water for use lawns and gardens.

Consumers using rain barrels and other conservation methods at home can examine and compare their water usage using an online water calculator. The calculator allows users to compare their water use to a similar average and efficient homes in their regions. It also shows users which home water sources are efficient and which may be wasteful. Plus, it offers other simple conservation tips to help save water and energy.

Infographic: Where Does Water Come From?

by admin on January 15, 2013

Do you ever turn on the faucet and wonder where that water comes from? Turns out, freshwater is pretty hard to come by! Take a look at the world’s water supply to learn more.

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3 Top Water Conservation Stories from 2012

by admin on December 28, 2012

The need for innovations in water conservation has never been greater. According to the World Water Council, although the world’s population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources grew six-fold. The increased industrialization and the added demand for water will have somber consequences on water supply.

Still, an increasing awareness that freshwater resources need protected is prompting companies, individuals and communities to seek innovative solutions in water conservation. The US Environmental Protection Agency has endorsed a program called WaterSense which, since it began in 2006, aims to decrease nonagricultural water consumption through efficiency and innovation. The program claims to have saved over 46 billion gallons of water through its work with manufacturers, government and consumers.

Toto One-Gallon Double Cyclone Toilet

Consumers can make an impact in the water conservation effort by choosing efficient plumbing products. WaterSense has even set water conservation goals for various products, including toilets, shower heads and faucets. In fact, according to the American Water Works Association Research Foundation, if all US households installed water-saving features, water use could drop by as much as 30 percent, saving about 5.4 billion gallons of water each day

The largest household user of water each day is the toilet. In fact, the commode uses an average of 26.7 percent of the average American household’s daily indoor water. The WaterSense goal for toilets is a 20-percent reduction, to no more than 1.28 gallons-per-flush. Consumers have historically been hesitant to install water-saving toilets. Contractor Leigh Marymor says when the first generation of 1.6-gallon-per-flush toilets hit the market in 1994, people despised them. It often took two flushes instead of one, which defeated the purpose.

Now that WaterSense has recommended an even higher efficiency level, and states such as California and Texas have passed laws requiring the 1.28 gallons-per-flush efficiency-level beginning in 2014, manufacturers have rushed to market new toilet technology. According to Japanese toilet manufacturer Toto, if an average American household—consisting of 3.2 people—changed from a 5.5 gallons-per-flush toilet to a 1.28 gallons-per-flush model, it would save 24,665 gallons of water in one year.

In fact, it is Toto’s ultra-high-efficiency toilet, which uses only one gallon of water per flush that is being called a great achievement in terms of toilet-engineering evolution and water conservation efforts. Roto-Rooter Atlanta, one of the largest plumbing repair services in North America, called the Toto 1G impressive in a company statement.

“Less than 20 years ago, people were used to toilets that used 3.5 gallons per flush, while today’s Ultra-Efficient models only require 1.28 gallons per flush,” the Roto-Rooter statement said. “With the same innovation and problem solving that these Japanese engineers put forth, manufacturers were able to greatly improve flushing power using less water and show that research and development can lead to great improvements in the world, step by step.”

In fact, the new Toto toilet is said to be capable of shooting a soccer ball at 160 kilometers-per-hour. The toilet utilizes Toto’s Double Cyclone flushing system, which uses both water and gravity to create its powerful one-gallon flush.

North China Plain Water Conservation Project

Water scarcity is a growing problem in the North China Plain. One of the most densely-populated regions in the world – it encompasses Beijing – the area has fertile soil for farming but an arid climate. In fact, in many areas agricultural demands far exceed the availability of ground water and can no longer be met with additional hydraulic infrastructure. Likewise, water pollution from heavy urbanization and industrialization has compounded the water scarcity. But industry in China uses between 4 and 10 times the water as industry in more developed nations.

According to the New York Times, scientists say aquifers below the North China Plain may be drained within 30 years without change.

“There’s no uncertainty,” hydrologist Richard Evans, who has worked in China for the past two decades, told the Times. “The rate of decline is very clear, very well documented. They will run out of groundwater if the current rate continues.”

A major source of water depletion in China is its agriculture. The Community Party insists on feeding the country’s massive population with its own grain. But massive agricultural efforts require huge amounts of groundwater in the North China Plain, which produces half the country’s wheat, according to the Times.

The North China Plain Water Conservation Project — financed for $74 million by the World Bank — is directed at increasing the water efficiency of China’s agriculture. The project has already supported improvements to more than 257,000 farms on the North China Plain. The major components of the project include: Irrigation and drainage works, such as canal lining, low-pressure pipe, drains, wells and sprinklers; agricultural support including land leveling, tilling schedules, soil fertility improvements, crop pattern adjustments and mulching; forestry and environmental monitoring; and institutional development and capacity building for water and soil conservation.

Since the project’s implementation, agricultural productivity in the area has increased by 60 to 80 percent per unit of water. Agricultural production has tripled and the increase of farmer per capita has ranged from 10 to 554 percent.

The reduction of agricultural water consumption has had a huge impact on the North Plain’s groundwater reserves. In fact, across most of the project area, groundwater depletion has been reduced to negligible levels or eliminated entirely.

Furthermore, the project strengthened arrangements for irrigation system operation and maintenance. The project originally hoped to establish 100 water user associations, but ultimately more than 500 were created—the first time WUAs took large-scale responsibility for financing and operating irrigation systems in China. The existence of the WUAs promotes water measuring with corresponding water charges on a volumetric basis.

South Korea ‘s Rainwater Recycling System

The Chinese may have shown how redeveloping an area’s water system can help conserve water sources, but Korea is demonstrating innovative ways to conserve water by building an eco-friendly city from the ground up. A project that began 12 years ago, Songdo is built on an artificial island just west of Seoul and is set to cost about $35 billion. Media has labeled Songdo the city of the future. Cisco is wiring every inch of the city with fiber-optic broadband and, and TelePresence screens will be installed in all homes, offices, hospitals and shopping centers—allowing residents to place video calls from all over the city. Plus, the city’s streets and buildings will be equipped with sensors to monitor everything from temperature to road conditions—ensuring the city runs lightning-speed efficiency.

About 40 percent of Songdo will be dedicated to green space, such as rooftop vegetation that reduces storm water and takes advantage of sunshine on hot days—helping to cool the city. Rainwater traps will capture “grey water,” which will be recycled for use in sinks, toilets and dishwashers, dramatically decreasing the need for fresh water.

“We didn’t just look 10 years ahead, we looked at 50 years, a hundred years from now,” Sustainable Design Specialist Peter Lee said in a Cisco release. “And saving water is one of the key elements that we tried to pursue, in terms of sustainability.”

City designers found many uses for the grey water stored in containers after rainfalls. In addition to household fixtures, it is recycled for irrigation, as well as in parks and industrial facilities. The innovations help Songdo reach its goal of reducing commercial water use by 30 percent. The city also has a nearly two-mile canal which circulates millions of gallons in ocean water.

“We’re building an environmentally friendly system that is unique to any other in the world,” Incheon Free Economic Zone’s Commissioner Lee Jong-Cheol said in the Cisco release.

If you are looking for an alternative gift for a friend or family member who cares about conserving the world’s freshwater resources, you might consider a donation to a water conservation organization this holiday. According to the Nature Conservancy, two-thirds of the world’s population could face water shortages by 2025.

Here are five organizations that are doing great work to help the cause.

The Soil and Water Conservation Society
The Soil and Water Conservation Society has advocated science-based conservation since 1943. The nonprofit group organizes conservation forums and makes local recommendations on land and water conservation. Its more than 5,000 members include researchers, administrators, planners, policymakers, teachers, students, farmers, ranchers and administrators—all dedicated to preserving water as a natural resource. Its many activities are designed to develop state-of-the-art conservation systems, improve policy, and sustain ethics among conservationists through networking and mutual support.

Conservation Minnesota
Minnesota is known as the Land O’ Lakes, and Conservation Minnesota is dedicated to protecting the state’s invaluable lakes and rivers. After merging with Minnesota Waters earlier this year, the combined not-for-profit group is focused on helping citizen volunteers build grassroots networks of local lake, river and watershed associations to collect and use data for water policy advocacy. It provides water quality monitoring workshops, lake and river management training, funding resources, legislative forums, regional citizen summits and many other avenues of training and support. Conservation Minnesota also led a successful campaign to launch, which has informed Minnesotans that 40 percent of their lakes do not currently meet water standards. Based on its research, the organization played a major role in the passage of the state’s Legacy Amendment, which is the largest state conservation measure in US history.

The Meramec River Project (The Nature Conservancy)
The Meramec River is one of Missourians most-loved locations for floating, boating, fishing and swimming. The river is also an important tributary to the Mississippi River, supporting 31 species that hold global significance, including several species found nowhere else on Earth. The Meramec also supplies drinking water to about 250,000 Missourians. Unfortunately, decades of abuse have threatened the river’s wellbeing. Its water quality has diminished and important habitats have been destroyed. The Meramec River Project is focused on restoring the health of the river. It leads conservation projects to restore habitats, stream banks and flood plains. The Meramec River Project partners with 25 other organizations to develop a conservation plan that includes watershed conservation education, volunteer projects such as river clean ups and tree planting, and assistance in implementing sustainable ranching practices to not only keep cattle out of the river, but also dig wells to provide alternate water sources and build fence lines.

The Partnership for Water Conservation
The Partnership for Water Conservation is a nonprofit organization actively engaged in protecting watersheds through sustaining river and stream flows. Its current focus is promoting water resource efficiency in landscape irrigation, but it also works to educate residents in Washington’s Puget Sound area on water conservation. According to the partnership, the region ranks 56th of 100 major US cities in average rainfall, and some water suppliers are already predicting insufficient supply to meet demand as the area’s population increases in the next 10 years. In addition to publishing a variety of water conservation reports and other information for individuals, businesses and conservation specialists, the partnership holds forums to discuss water issues and advocate policy change, develop public education campaigns, and grant conservation awards to individuals who contribute toward water conservation efforts in the Puget Sound Region.

The Alliance for The Great Lakes
Not only are The Great Lakes a major geographic marker, but each year 65 million pounds of fish are harvested from their waters, more than 200 million tons of cargo are shipped through its waters. For years, however, Americans thought nothing of filling them with pollutants. That is, until 1969 when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire because of extreme pollution.

The Alliance for The Great Lakes is dedicated to conservation and restoration of the world’s largest freshwater lakes through policy, education, and citizen action. The Alliance is dedicated to protecting the health of the Great Lakes Basin’s people, fish, and other wildlife by reducing sewage overflows and other pollution. The group also works closely with scientists, citizens, government officials, and businesses on strategies to protect fresh water supplies and eliminate waste. Furthermore, it addresses the challenge of invasive species that have arrived via cargo ships from the Atlantic Ocean. Discovering ways to prevent future transfer of the invasive species into the lakes would save the area billions of dollars in damage and control costs.

Since its inception in 1970, the Alliance for The Great Lakes has enrolled 10,000 volunteers in six states in its Adopt-a-Beach program, received the American Bar Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Environmental Law and Policy, and lobbied for the historic Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, passed by Great Lakes state legislatures and the US Congress.

Unbeknownst to many of the millions who enjoy unfettered access to clean drinking water, much of the world’s population does not enjoy the same luxury.

Of course, having reliable access to clean water is not a luxury. It’s an absolute necessity, and according to the World Health Organization’s 2012 assessment there are 884 million people who have no regular access to clean water. Put another way, nearly 1 out of 8 people on the planet live without a reliable source of fresh water.

Bluntly speaking, though, they don’t live long. It’s a hard fact that deserves honest treatment, which the issue often does not get. There are many other facts tied to this global catastrophe that also do not get the attention they deserve, and so are listed below for your review.

1. Diarrhea Kills 1 Child Every 20 Seconds

A lack of clean drinking water is a severe problem, but thirst is hardly the most common cause of demise. Waterborne diseases are by far the most lethal killers on the planet, and illnesses like diarrhea, cholera, malaria and typhoid result in literally millions of deaths per year, with 1.6 million of them being children.

Sanitation rather than water availability is the issue when considering problems with waterborne illnesses. Standing water in populated areas is a drainage issue that creates breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry malaria, while the lack of proper waste disposal is responsible for a host of other ailments.

2. Most Wastewater Goes Untreated

People usually don’t think too much about what happens to water after it goes down the drain. The fact is that only a small fraction of U.S. municipalities recycle their water back into local supplies. The question is, if just 1% of one-tenth of America’s wastewater is treated and used to replenish reservoirs and groundwater, how much is this practiced elsewhere?

The answer is not much. A generous estimate is that only 10% of global wastewater gets treated at all, which means the majority of it is pushed back into natural bodies of water where it can be consumed downstream and make people sick.

3. U.S. Resources Are Not Immune

Five years ago U.S. news media reported that in five years many U.S. cities would be facing water shortages, and now that prediction has come to pass. In 2012 the U.S. experienced the worst drought in more than four decades and while resources dwindled it became apparent how scarce fresh water was in some areas of the country.

The next prediction is that states will begin to battle over water rights and that rationing will be the only solution. The frightening truth, though, is that these battles have already been raging and that the only thing left to follow is the restrictions placed on water use.

4. Women Spend Their Lives Carrying Water

Water scarcity creates drastic situations for survival, and in areas where a lack of water has become a part of life certain traditions have taken root that are damaging entire generations of women.

All across Africa and other developing nations, women spend their entire day – every day for much of their lives – carrying water to their families. The jerry cans commonly used for this task can hold up to 50 pounds of water and are carried on the head or the hips of countless African women for miles. This causes myriad health problems that often go untreated, and this is not to mention the time spent carrying water cannot be spent with family or learning new skills.

5. Toilets Can Be Dangerous

A recent study by the Bill & Melinda Foundation found that 2.5 billion people on the planet use unsafe toilets or don’t use a toilet. This problem, which ties into the wastewater treatment issue, is exacerbated by a lack of education about things like hand washing and knowing how to identify an unsafe source of drinking water.

Many of these hurdles are overcome by education and there are numerous nonprofit organizations that make it their aim to provide developing communities with the learning tools they need to make a difference – even if they can’t help get them more water (see our Top 50 Water Non-Profit Blogs).

Infographic: The Global Water Crisis

by admin on October 1, 2012

Despite the critical role that water has in our everyday lives, few people realize that the world’s freshwater supply is facing a major crisis in the near future. Spread the word by sharing this infographic on your blog, website, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to help increase awareness of this important issue. View Wide Version

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It is a perilous time for the world and its water resources, and a viable answer to the global water crisis will require the input of the greatest minds in the field as well as those who are passionate about water conservation.

Fortunately, the ability for professionals and volunteers to network around the world has never been greater thanks to the Internet and the growth of many fine associations dedicated to the water conservation cause, whether it be at the local, regional, state, national or international level. That associations exist on so many tiers is a testament in to the interconnected nature of the water crisis, and of the world’s fresh water itself.

Given that there are so many great water associations out there it may be difficult to decide which one (or ones) to join. Below we take a look at 5 excellent water associations that are worth consideration.

1. International Water Association
The International Water Association (IWA) has a holistic global focus when it comes to water. The network boasts 10,000 professionals in various fields associated with every aspect of the water cycle and its mission is to improve water and sanitation where that help is needed most.

The IWA bills itself as “the world’s leading international network of water professionals” and provides informational resources to people on the ground in areas where the water crisis is hitting communities the hardest. Africa, China, Latin America and the Caribbean are just a few places with active members who are doing what they can to help develop sustainable water resources.

2. American Water Works Association
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) was born in 1881 in St. Louis, Missouri, and today the organization is made up of more than 57,000 members in over 100 countries, although its roots are still firmly planted in the U.S.

The original founders all started in the water utilities business and believed there needed to be some kind of organizational hub to make sense of the rapid changes that were occurring at the time in water law, distribution and management. This body of information continues to grow and now it serves – and is served – by communities all over the world. The collected knowledge has helped redefine how water utilities companies operate and strives to make the process more efficient and affordable for end users.

3. Water Quality Association
The Water Quality Association (WQA) is a non-profit with a mission to keep water clean. While it does not do as much work in developing nations as some other associations it does contribute greatly to the safety and welfare of people in emerging markets and established nations by working to keep industrial contaminants out of drinking water.

The U.S. has come a long way since the Industrial Revolution with regard to how it keeps water clean, and has seen even more progress since the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1970. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of other areas and industrial growth threatens the clean water supplies of nations the world over. The WQA is committed to developing technologies to help maintain clean water resources at home and in these other countries through a network of international trade professionals.

4. Irrigation Association
The Irrigation Association (IA) may seem a little industry specific, but when one considers that the vast majority of freshwater used around the globe is for agricultural purposes – and particularly irrigation – it becomes more apparent why joining this organization may be a good idea.

IA is committed to the study and implementation of best practices in agricultural irrigation projects. Issues like water waste, runoff and downstream contamination continue to plague the agricultural industry and innovations in irrigation are one way to help attack the problem. Cleaner and more efficient irrigation operations mean less water used and fewer incidences of pollution, both of which are needed to protect fresh water resources.

5. American Water Resources Association
The American Water Resources Association (AWRA) is a multidisciplinary organization established to advance the science and technology of water resources in the U.S. Since its inception in 1964 it has grown to be an international player in the global water community and is a resource for thousands of professionals.

AWRA’s commitment to “community, conversation, [and] connections” is embodied in a series of annual conferences and publication releases designed to inform experts in all fiends of water management, from planning and development to education and implementation

water bucketWhile the world sinks deeper into the dry sands of a global water crisis, many conservationists and water warriors wonder what more they can do to help besides taking shorter showers and using low-flow fixtures.

Money and donations help, too, but sometimes a hands-on contribution is the only thing that will satisfy the desire to help. Since the water crisis is most deeply felt in places other than the U.S. that means those who really want to roll up their sleeves must travel overseas.

Below we take a look at five non-profit organizations that welcome volunteers who are willing to go the distance in an effort to bring hope to the millions who live without adequate access to a clean, sustainable water source. (Please keep in mind some of these organizations only facilitate access to the non-profit organization with a presence in country.)

1. Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad is a kind of one-stop shop for volunteers interested in working abroad on all kinds of projects, and many of those projects involve helping build reliable sources of water in developing countries.

There are currently water and sanitation projects that require volunteers in Bolivia and Tanzania, although new projects are added frequently so there is always a great deal of variety for anyone who has a preference on where they’d like to go. With so many places struggling for clean water, though, there are always opportunities to help.

2. Proworld

Proworld is similar to Projects Abroad in that it provides participants with a wide variety of projects from which to choose.

A highlighted initiative taking volunteers now called the Clean Water Project is sending people to the Urubamba area of Peru in the Andes Mountains in an effort to reduce the spread of waterborne illnesses. Those interested can volunteer from 1 to 26 weeks, and while there are program fees involved living expenses are managed while in country.

3. Global Vision International (GVI)

Global Vision International has been providing volunteer opportunities abroad since 1997. Again, GVI provides opportunities in areas from construction to wildlife and terrestrial conservation, and water projects are always on the list of opportunities.

Volunteers can sign up for as little as one week or as long as 2 years with GVI. One example of a current project involves water storage construction in Fiji. Program fees pay for things like training, orientation, meals and more.

4. Quest Overseas

Quest Overseas is currently supporting the WaterRelief program with community development efforts in Kenya that includes improving access to clean water.

One of the greatest things about Quest is that all costs are upfront and every expense is detailed, from standard items like meals and accommodation to all the extras including insurance and activities. This makes it easier to enjoy the volunteer experience as well as learn more about what the contribution means to the community.

5. Omprakash (Water Collective)

Some people would prefer not to pay to volunteer, and one alternative to those types of programs is Omprakash. Omprakash has an established network of international non-profit groups from which to choose that volunteers can work with for free, and Water Collective is one of them.

Water Collective is currently working to bring clean, sustainable water to the people of Cameroon. Volunteers are welcome to contact Omprakash or go directly to the partner – in this case Water Collective – to learn more about volunteering.


Money will always be an important component in the fight to bring clean water to those who need it most, but there is no substitute for your time. Think about volunteering. It will change your life as much as it changes the lives of those you help.

Summertime is the perfect time to get out on the open road and explore some of the world’s greatest water wonders. Whether you’re headed around the corner or around the globe, water wonders are everywhere.

Sometimes water wonders occur in nature and sometimes they’re man made. For this list, which will be in no particular order, we’re staying all-natural and going all over the planet to give you a glimpse of the best Earth has to offer.

1. Kerepakupai Meru (Angel Falls)

Angel Falls

The world’s tallest waterfall can be found in the Bolivar province of Venezuela – and it’s a doozey.

Angel Falls has been measured at 3,212 ft. although many have challenged the claim. As it happens, measuring waterfalls is not easy, especially when the drop is well over a half a mile from top to bottom. Tugela Falls in South Africa is also a contender, and arguably easier to access, but if you want to get off the beaten path and see truly wild water wonder, this is the waterfall of them all.

2. Lake Baikal

If you want to explore the deepest lake in the world, you’re going to have to book a flight to Siberia.

At 5,369 ft. Lake Baikal is just over a mile deep … and that’s deep. To give you a better idea, Lake Baikal contains more water by volume than all the Great Lakes combined and is ancient by comparison. It also contains hundreds of endemic species of animals – animals that only exist in the lake. If that wasn’t cool enough, legend has it that one of these rare creatures may be some kind of monster like that which lives in the famed Loch Ness, although of course no one has seen it.

3. Sistema Ox Bel Ha

Sistema Ox Bel Ha, Mayan for “three paths of water,” is the world’s longest underwater cave.

Although not the deepest underwater cave system, Sistema Ox Bel Ha in Tulum, Mexico, stretches just shy of 145 miles, but technically it’s still being surveyed. Similar cave systems located in the same area of Mexico approach this length, too, so it’s hard to know whether the record will remain considering Ox Bel Ha was just recently discovered in 1996. Exploring this system is possible, but it will take time, commitment and training.

4. Steamboat Geyser

Steamboat Geyser

Steamboat Geyser is the world’s highest active geyser and is located very near its more famous cousin, Old Faithful, in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

Steamboat’s record-breaking blasts (up to 390 ft.) are few and far between, which is one of the reasons why the more predictable Old Faithful gets all the attention. Interestingly, Steamboat has only recently (in geological time, anyway) earned the record-holding slot. Waimangu, in Iceland, had a banner run from 1900 to 1904, when the geyser was destroyed by a landslide.

5. Lake Assal

The Dead Sea often gets the honor of being the world’s saltiest body of water when in fact the award should go to Lake Assal, in Djibouti, Africa.

Lake Assal is 10 times saltier than any ocean and rests at the lowest point in Africa, 510 ft. below sea level. It may seem like a wasted trip to go see something so salty (and consequently deadly to any who go in unprepared), but the mineral content creates beautiful deposits around the rim of the lake, which is often the colored the purest blue.

Creative Commons Photo of Angel Falls by Paulo Capiotti and Steaboat Geyser by Rachel Voorhees