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Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Such were the words of a sailor at sea as quoted in
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The poor thirsty seaman was surrounded by saltwater. But the point applies to any water shortage, not an insignificant problem around the world. Looking at a history of water conservation in America, it is less dramatic than it might be in Africa, for example, but it is still a vital enterprise.
Clean water has been in sort supply in certain areas due to pollution or lack of pipelines. People in remote places have to use wells. But, most of us have had little exposure to the issue. Nonetheless, I do remember experiencing a lack of water at a few music festivals. It became a dire situation when the bottled water vendor ran out. Fortunately, it started raining and people collected it in cups as in the olden days. People started to panic and horde their remaining supply. So I know what it is like to feel deprived.
Conservation is called for in the case of normal shortages, beyond the temporary venue of a music festival. If you prepare well, you can stay hydrated during a crisis. This may happen when the US population rises disproportionately in a short period of time. Futurists, crystal ball or not, predict that Americans will grow in number from 328 million people to 514 million people by 2100. Is it too early to worry? Maybe not, since our thirst for water has tripled.
It seems paltry to take a short shower or a shallow sitz bath. It seems perfunctory to stop washing dishes and buy paper goods. Then there is the problem of washing the car for hours on the weekend and soaking the front and back lawns. I can’t even fathom regularly filling a large swimming pool. What do we do about the massive use of irrigation water in farming and all the wasted water that goes out to see from our plumbing?
Converting and recycling water hasn’t been cost efficient and damming up melted snow is old hat. We need to keeping trying new things like water-efficient faucets and toilets and high-efficiency dishwashers and washing machines. It is our duty to take part in the conservation movement. Water purification seems a small gesture, but if millions do it, it will have a real impact on usage. The EPA is applauding every effort.