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Water Conservation- Needs and Methods

Water is a simple liquid that is of great importance for human life and sustenance. Water is a very large part of our lives.  In fact, 57% to 75% of our body is made out of the liquid. Water is very important for everyone living in this world, and to imagine life without water is impossible. There are about 1.4 billion people who don’t have access to clean drinking water, in the world of 6.8 billion people, 20.59% don’t have clean drinking water.  Obviously, water is a huge part of our daily lives and without it, you cannot live. Our daily activities are so much dependent on water that we cannot even live without water for a single day. We use water for many purposes such as drinking, washing, bathing, cleaning and agricultural purposes. Water is essential for life and it is very important to save water.

It is simply impossible to imagine human life without water, if there are no ample sources of water left then it would be a matter of great concern. Without water the will be no harvesting, no drinking water, no washing, cleaning and cooking as well. Hence it is very important to use our present water sources judiciously and try to save as much water as possible. It is very important to realize water conservation benefits and also to implement those in our day to day life. Water conservation encompasses the policies, strategies and activities to manage fresh water as a sustainable resource, and efforts to protect the water environment while maintaining a balance between current and future human demand. Population, household size and growth and affluence all affect how much water is used. Factors such as climate change will increase pressures on natural water resources, especially in manufacturing and agricultural irrigation. It is very important to realize the need for water conservation in the community as well as personal level.

Over the past few years a rapid growth in populations, modernization, growing industrialization, and expanding agriculture has pushed up the demand for water in the urban as well as rural areas. Human demands are increasing day by day but the natural resources are in a limited quantity. Efforts have been made to collect water by building dams and reservoirs, practicing rainwater harvesting, digging wells; some countries have also tried to recycle and desalinate salty water to make it fit for drinking or washing. Water conservation has become a major need of the hour. The idea of groundwater recharging by harvesting rainwater is gaining importance in many parts of the world and has been practiced successfully in many parts of the world.

Needs and Importance of Water Conservation

Water is an essential part of human life and plays a major role in human sustenance. We use water for drinking purpose, cooking, washing, for producing electricity, for farming, for industrial purpose and many other purposes that support the human lifestyle. Earth is about 70% water, but there is only a small amount of groundwater source that is fit for drinking and cooking purpose. Ninety – seven per cent of all the water on the earth is salt water which is not suitable for drinking. Only three per cent of all the water is fresh water, and only one per cent is available for drinking water. The other two per cent is locked in ice caps and glaciers. About 70% of the water source that is from the sea and oceans the major part contains saline water that is the salt level of this water is so high that it cannot be used for drinking purpose and purification process for this water is really high. Our water supply is finite, which means that we do not have an endless supply.

We only have the water that we have now. The adult human uses on average about 100 gallons of water a day which may seem to be a small figure but with the rising population and depleting water sources there is a fear that one day there will not be enough water sources available to meet even drinking demands. Seawater that is highly salty as a result is not fit for human consumption and not even for industrial purpose or for producing electricity. Since this water contains a high amount of salts, therefore, using this water in industries and for producing electricity leads to salt deposition on the machinery and this at times can get really dangerous and lead to some major industrial disasters. Hence sea water is of no major use for humans.  

As we discussed earlier that water resources are finite and there is only 3% of freshwater sources, with all the people on Earth relying on such a small percentage of all the water on Earth, it only makes sense that we must preserve and conserve our water for our own survival otherwise a day will come when all the water sources will be extinguished. Besides conserving water it is also important that we must not pollute our water sources because it is the only water we will ever have. There are a lot of people who do not realize the importance of water, and they are continually wasting and polluting it. Only about ten per cent of wastewater is disposed of properly.

It is a high time that we must start saving water today so that it will be available to us in the future. We need to think of future generations, if we go on wasting our water resources recklessly then it is obvious that in future we will not have a sufficient supply of water unless we become more concerned with how we use our water today. There are many things that we can do to help preserve water. These are not things that are hard. All it takes is a little bit of extra effort, and soon it will be second nature. Save the water, that’s all we can do.

Major Uses of Water

We all enjoy many benefits of fresh water and use it for a majority of purpose like making electricity, cleaning, cooking, irrigating, etc. major uses of water are:

  • We use water for the daily household purpose like drinking, cleaning, washing and cooking etc.
  • Water is majorly used for agricultural activities.
  • Most widely used method of producing electricity requires water as a major source.
  • Water is used for many industrial purposes.
  • Commercial applications

Water Conservation

It is often a misconception that water conservation is the job of government departments and environmental analysts which is not true, in fact water conservation is not a job that is just for these technician, soil scientist, hydrologist, forester, wildlife manager, plant scientist, city planner, park manager, farmer, rancher, or mine owner alone but involves a collective effort at community as well as personal level by every household. It is a job for the everyday person who just likes to have access to the life-sustaining resource of water. It is very important that we must all recognize that water conservation is our personal responsibility and not just leave it up to other people. It has been observed that a lot of times we tend to think that my small effort would be of no use, but if we all start thinking the same way then everyone will become ignorant and there will be an effort in this field. A collection of small effort by many people makes a lot of difference.

We all enjoy benefits of water in many ways, so it becomes our moral duty to care about our water resource and take necessary steps towards conserving our water resources. There is no need of doing something big; instead, some small practices can bear some big results. We need to ensure that we do not waste our water resources and are really vigilant in case there are any running taps.

We must learn to save water now for the future. The quality of our water is very important. We have the same amount of water now as there was when the earth was created and it is very important to realize that this is the water we have, and we must preserve its quality. Each and every effort towards water conservation counts. Water is the foundation of food and life and it would not be wrong to say that next to air, water is the most precious resource for human life and it is impossible to live without water. Saving water helps to preserve our environment. Saving water now means having water available in the future for recreational purposes, too. Conserving the water minimizes the effects of water shortages and helps us to build a better defense against future drought years. If we save water now, we are helping to ensure a water supply adequate for future generations.

Water conservation programs are typically initiated at the local level or community level, by either municipal water utilities or regional governments. Common strategies for water conservation include public outreach campaigns, tiered water rates by charging progressively higher prices as water use increases, or restrictions on outdoor water use such as lawn watering and car washing during the summer season. It is important to realize benefits and also to practice water conservation techniques in our routine life.

Methods of Conserving Water

The most important step in the direction of finding solutions to issues of water and environmental conservation is to change people’s attitudes towards the fact and also changing habits which include each one of us to put in some sincere efforts. Conserve water because it is the right time to do so. We can follow some of the simple things that have been listed below and contribute to water conservation.

  • Every drop of water counts, so make sure you are not wasting clean drinking water and you are not leaving any running tap.
  • Remember to use only the amount you actually need and not wasting the water unnecessarily.
  • It has been found beneficial to form a group of water-conscious people at school, college or society level and encourage your friends and neighbors to be part of this group. Promote water conservation in community newsletters and on bulletin boards. Encourage your friends, neighbors and co-workers to also contribute.
  • Plant more and more trees to increase transpiration.
  • Encourage rainwater harvesting at the community level as well as municipal level.
  • Make sure that your home is leak-free and there are no leaking taps or tanks storing water. Many homes have leaking pipes that go unnoticed. Call a plumber as soon as you notice any leakage.
  • Do not leave the tap running while you are brushing your teeth or soaping your face.
  • When washing the car, use water from a bucket and not a hosepipe which helps to reduce about 50% of the water used for washing your car.
  • While watering your lawns do not waste water and use only the amount that is required.
  • Do not throw away water that has been used for washing vegetables and use it to water plants or to clean the floors, etc.

Some other technical methods may include rainwater harvesting at the major level which has following advantages:

  • Increases water availability
  • Checks the declining water table
  • Is environmentally friendly
  • Improves the quality of groundwater through the dilution of fluoride, nitrate, and salinity
  • Prevents soil erosion and flooding especially in urban areas

Water conservation is a big thing and involves using water sources judiciously, but every little bit helps, every drop that you save counts so don’t think that what you do doesn’t matter. A whole lot of people doing a little bit adds up to a big total. We must all make some little changes in our lifestyles that will change the course of our water. It takes just a small amount of motivation and willingness to bring about a change which brings in some great results and a huge amount of satisfaction. Water conservation needs to be a way of life, not just something we think about once in a while. If we all do our part in conserving water, we can make a huge difference for the environment.

How to conserve water

If we all do our part in conserving precious water supplies, we can make a huge difference for the environment.

The average person uses around 140 litres of water a day. But huge water deficits are on track to occur by the 2080s – so we need to start cutting down.

Water conservation means using water wisely and not contributing to unnecessary wastage.

Top reasons to conserve water:

  • Conserving water saves energy. Energy is needed to filter, heat and pump water to your home, so reducing your water use also reduces your carbon footprint.
  • Using less water keeps more in our ecosystems and helps to keep wetland habitats topped up for animals like otters, water voles, herons and fish. This is especially important during drought periods and in areas like South East England where there is a big demand on water supplies. 
  • Conserving water can save you money. If you have a water meter then the less water you use, the less you may be charged by your water company. 

Waiting for the tap to run cold can waste 10 litres of tap water a day!

 Save water in the kitchen

  • Put a large bottle of tap water in the fridge to save waiting for the tap to run cold. Waiting for the tap to run cold can waste 10 litres of water a day! 
  • Only fill the kettle with the amount of water needed.
  • Put lids on saucepans to reduce the amount of water lost during heating.
  • Put your dishwasher and washing machine on with full loads and on an eco-setting wherever possible.
  • Use a washing-up bowl in your sink to reduce the volume of water you use to fill the area.

Save water in the bathroom:

  • Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth. A running tap can waste more than 6 litres of water a minute!
  • Purchase a water-efficient toilet (one with a dual flush) or go by the old saying ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down!’
  • Get a cistern displacement device to save up to 5,000 litres of water every year. They are free from most water companies.
  • Shower instead of bathe. An average bath uses around 80 litres of water, but a shower typically uses between 6 and 45 litres.
  • Install water-efficient taps and showers to minimise heating water – this will save you money on your water and energy bills, as well as decreasing your carbon footprint.
  • Fix a dripping tap. A dripping tap can waste 15 litres of water a day!

Save water in the garden:

  • Sprinklers can use as much as 1,000 litres of water an hour! In truth, it’s okay for the lawn to go brown, it will recover the next time it rains.
  • Use a water butt to catch large amounts of rainwater and use this to water your plants, clean your car and wash your windows.
  • Use mulch and bark in your garden, it will help to reduce evaporation by up to 75%.
  • Plant drought-resistant plants that don’t require as much watering.

More useful tips and in-depth information can be found on the Friends of Waterbury Reservoir website.

Why Dams Won’t Solve Water Supply Needs

The era of widespread construction of large dams for the most part ended in the 1960s and ‘70s. But recently, proposals for new dams have emerged, mostly in the name of improving water supplies strained by urban growth, a desire to irrigate more cropland, or adapting to expected changes in precipitation patterns accompanying climate change.

These new dam proposals don’t have to signal a new dam building era – in the vast majority of cases, water supply alternatives, such as water efficiency and conservation, will prove less costly for taxpayers, rivers, and communities as a whole.

So You’ve Decided to Fight a Dam Proposal…

The era of widespread construction of large dams, for the most part, ended in the 1960s and ‘70s. Or so we thought. Recently, numerous proposals for new dams have emerged, mostly in the name of improving water supplies strained by urban growth, a desire to irrigate more cropland, or adapting to predicted` changes in precipitation patterns accompanying climate change. But new dam proposals don’t have to signal a new dam building era – in the vast majority of cases, water supply alternatives, such as water efficiency and conservation, will prove less costly for taxpayers, rivers, and communities as a whole.


Different Dams, Same Problems

Not all new dam proposals involve traditional dams blocking major rivers – many would dam side canyons or tributary creeks, relying on pumps from a larger river to store water for times of year (typically summer) when more water is desired. These off-channel dams share many of the environmental drawbacks associated with traditional dams: they may block fish migration, harm water quality and temperature, flood valuable riparian and terrestrial wildlife habitat, strain a river basin’s overall water budget, and reduce or alter river flows. And like traditional dams, off-channel dams can cost billions of taxpayer dollars to construct. Off-channel dams can also use a lot of electricity as water usually needs to be pumped uphill to fill their reservoirs. In dry years, the water needed to fill a reservoir may not be available, and if there is water available, much of it will evaporate (an increasingly serious issue as summers grow hotter).

That said, there may be cases where a new off-channel dam makes sense, and could actually help improve seasonal flows for fish and recreation in a nearby river. More often than not, however, the environmental and economic costs of a new dam – whether on- or off-channel – will outweigh any benefits. That’s why the potential of demand reduction strategies and alternative sources of water supply must be thoroughly analyzed and, if there is potential to meet demand, implemented before a new dam proposal receives serious consideration.

So Many Dam Alternatives

Dams are hardly the only way to meet the demand for water, whether it’s new demand due to population growth or to adjust to altered precipitation or runoff patterns resulting from climate change.

The first step in fighting a new dam is to insist that a reasonable assessment of demand for water is made available.  Without knowledge of how much water is needed, discussion of tools to meet demand is premature.  Any credible demand assessment should assume future implementation of significant conservation and efficiency measures (for more on how to define demand, link to demand fact sheet).

Once demand is nailed down, communities should seek a thorough assessment of supply options to meet that demand.

Water efficiency = Water Supply

  • Water efficiency and conservation are the simple, proven, cost-effective, and immediate ways to secure new supply and should always be the first options examined. In the Southeast, on average water efficiency costs $0.46 – $250 per 1000 gallons saved while dams cost $4,000 per 1000 gallons. Communities can also avoid or defer significant infrastructure costs through investing a fraction of the money in water efficiency measures as Seattle did when, in the late 1980s it started investing in water efficiency as water supply and avoided $100 million in long-term water supply costs by investing $30 million in water efficiency. (for more on water efficiency, see American Rivers’ Hidden Reservoir report at

Other supply options may also include:

  • Reuse: Also known as water recycling or reclamation, water reuse refers to the use of treated sewage, graywater, or stormwater for non-potable purposes such as irrigation, industrial processes, fire protection, and toilet flushing, among others. There can be drawbacks to water reuse, environmentally and financially, which include costs associated with a municipal scale dual distribution system, and water that would have otherwise returned to the source river/water body once treated is now designated for a consumptive use, in the case of irrigation, that will not return to the river and may result in decreased flows.
  • Groundwater recharge: This involves recharging underground water sources during a wet year or a season (often winter) when water is available. Drawbacks of this option can include stormwater infiltration, costs associated with pumping and piping infrastructure, and the effect on instream flows when water is pumped from a river. Also, this is not an option everywhere: many areas have underlying geology that makes aquifer storage infeasible.
  • Re-operation of existing dams: Changing the way an existing dam is used is typically cheaper and less environmentally harmful than building a new dam, and in some cases re-operating a dam can provide water for cities, farms, and fish during critical times of year without major environmental, energy-production, or flood protection drawbacks.
  • Water markets: In the western U.S., systems that allow for the buying and selling of water rights can, along with conservation and efficiency, help extend the ability of existing water supplies to meet challenges presented by growth and climate change.

In most cases, these water supply tools, whether alone or in combination, will prove far less expensive than building a new dam.  These tools also tend to be more flexible than surface storage dams when it comes to adapting water supply systems to a changing climate.  For instance, unlike traditional surface storage solutions, conservation, efficiency, groundwater storage, and western water markets are not vulnerable to increased evaporation as temperatures rise.  In addition, conservation and efficiency can be implemented anywhere.  New storage projects, on the other hand, only benefit those located within a certain proximity.

Tools to Slow a Bad Dam Proposal’s Momentum

In addition to insisting on credible evaluations of water demand and water supply alternatives, communities should call for any studies of new dams to include ample opportunity for public input, ideally well before it goes through the official federal or state environmental review process. Ample opportunities for public input will allow the public to expose any faulty assumptions regarding demand and supply evaluations as well as any other environmental and economic problems.

Another thing citizens should insist on is that the beneficiaries of a dam pay for its benefits. Support for a dam can drop off considerably if local water users – who often envision new dams as pork barrel projects paid for by federal or state taxpayers – have to shoulder the burden of dam construction themselves. In some instances, such as when public utility is proposing a new project, the user pays principle will likely be followed out of necessity. But user-pays is a somewhat novel concept when it comes to large western water storage dams that are operated largely for the benefit of the irrigated agriculture industry, but paid for primarily by taxpayers.

John Cline Reservoir defeated

John Cline Reservoir, a 1,200-acre reservoir, was proposed by Cleveland County Water in North Carolina on April 5, 2005, to provide a reliable water source for its growing population particularly in times of drought, attract new businesses, and maintain a healthy quality of life for the citizens in the service area. However, local proponents failed to consider the immense environmental impact of a run-of-river reservoir on the First Broad River which included the destruction of 24 miles of free-flowing river, six acres of wetland and 1,400 acres of forest, farms, homes, and parks. Community members, landowners and environmental organizations – including American Rivers – organized to stop the reservoir and the damage it would cause. In 2016, they succeeded in stopping the reservoir when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (USACE) released a letter denying the permit for the reservoir stating that there were substantial environmental impacts associated with the reservoir and advised Cleveland County Water to examine available alternatives that were less environmentally damaging and inexpensive. For now, the river runs free.

Bear Creek: Keeps Flowing

In 2000, a 1,242-acres Bear Creek Reservoir was proposed by Newton County, Georgia. As proposed, the reservoir would have provided 28 million gallons of water per day (MGD) to the area’s growing population of 400,000 individuals by 2050. However, the population projections released by Newton County in July 2015 showed Newton’s County’s population would only reach about 200,000 individuals by 2050. Then, the County had a difficult time justifying the need for the dam. Finally, on October 6, 2015, USACE denied the County’s appeal for reinstatement of their application and confirmed the administrative withdrawal of the permit stating that the County was not able to present requested documentation to support the application. And on October 20, 2015, the Newton County Board of Commissioners passed a motion to stop funding the project effectively defeating the dam. Advocacy by local community members and taxpayers, American Rivers and other environmental groups made them realize that there were alternatives available to meet the water demand.

Black Rock Dam – Wrong Dam, Wrong Approach: 

The Black Rock dam proposal, which would construct a 700 foot dam in an intermittent creek valley between the Yakima and Columbia rivers in south-central Washington State, is an example of how not to approach a dam proposal.  Here, the local congressman, at the behest of local irrigators and developers, succeeded in obtaining authorization for a federal study comparing building Black Rock dam to doing nothing – an artificially restrictive set of options that did not include a full examination of alternative supply tools.  On top of that, the federal agency that performed the study failed to include aggressive conservation in its demand projection.  Fortunately, the project died of its own weight, as it could cost over $7 billion and carry a risk of seeping into radioactive groundwater beneath the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, reducing the ability to contain that groundwater before it contaminates the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River.

Crab Creek Dam – Wrong Dam, Right Approach: 

Across the Columbia River from the Black Rock site lies Crab Creek, the longest creek in the United States, and a small but biologically important population of threatened steelhead trout.  A recent appraisal evaluation by the Bureau of Reclamation and the State of Washington identified the lower Crab Creek as a potential site for a new water storage dam. Thanks to the efforts of American Rivers and other conservation groups as well as the requirements of a state water management law, Washington State has agreed to provide a comprehensive analysis of water demand and water supply alternatives before deciding whether it makes sense to pursue the Crab Creek dam proposal further.  The Crab Creek proposal is not dead yet, but the process currently underway is likely to show decision-makers that there are cheaper, more environmentally friendly ways, including efficiency and re-operation of existing dams, to meet central Washington’s in- and out-of-stream water needs.

Connecticut River Dam — Back to the Future

In the mid-1980s Boston was faced with the question of how to secure its water supply for a growing city. They examined many options including damming the Connecticut River. After evaluating all their options, the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) decided in favor of aggressively pursuing water efficiency and against the damming of the river.

Shortly thereafter MWRA initiated its conservation program which included a leak detection and abatement program, system-wide residential retrofit programs, changing the state plumbing code from 3.5 gal/flush to 1.6 gal/flush, and industrial audits. Boston successfully secured its needed water supply by reducing its water consumption from 330 million gallons per day in the mid-80s to 205 million gallons per day in 2009, a 35 percent reduction. In fact, the metro area now uses less water than it did in 1911. And while they spent $40 million on these water efficiency measures, given that they were able to avoid the $500 million cost of the dam, overall water efficiency was by far more cost effective.