Water Conservation Activities in the US
Water conservation activities in the United States most often include asking people to change their habits and behaviors in and around their houses. Activities like taking shorter showers and turning off the water when they brush their teeth – in other words, limiting tap water use – generally make up the majority of activities offered in water conservation programs. A new study shows that if conservation programs don’t also include agricultural water use, given how much water in this country goes toward agricultural purposes, then the programs may not be able to adequately address water stress during times of drought.
In the United States, nearly 40 percent of water withdrawals go to agricultural uses. That water primarily goes toward irrigating crops, much of which become animal feed. During droughts, however, most municipal water services promote conservation programs that address residential and/or commercial tap water use. These actions are typically easily achieved and the results can be easily measured.
The study evaluated whether such residential programs would be effective at reducing water stress at a county level and found that, if all such measures were fully implemented, they would alleviate water stress in only 6 percent of US counties. The study found that the programs were not enough to reduce water stress in the majority of counties in the country because they don’t address the primary water user in many counties – agriculture, which is a major water user in 50 percent of US counties.
The study found that larger gains could be achieved by programs that, for example, ask consumers to eat a diet with a lower water footprint, and could be substantially more effective at helping to relieve water stress in areas where agricultural water use dominates.
Sound familiar? That has been the message of Water Footprint Calculator for years. This website offers over 100 water saving tips which, in addition to using less water from the tap, include ways to save water by changing your food and consumer goods purchasing as well as the ways you use electricity and transportation fuels, which also take a lot of water to produce.